Monday, February 28, 2011

Pizza Night!!

This pizza was fantastic and that was largely in part to using Annie's pizza crust. The crust was SO easy to make. When you make a batch there is enough for two pizzas so you can freeze one like I did or use this recipe when you want to make enough pizza for a game night or when you're feeding a larger crowd.
I was really scared to make my own dough, I've never really made anything with yeast and didn't want it to flop. I was pleasantly surprised! Annie's instructions are so easy to follow. I've copy and pasted her exact instructions below and have put my notes in italics.

I've tried homemade pizza before using Trader Joe's prepackaged pizza crusts but it didn't turn out. The crust was too thin and it didn't hold up to the toppings on the pizza. This crust is the opposite of that. The bottom of the crust is crisp and sturdy but also soft and chewy, exactly like pizza crust should taste. It held up to the pizza toppings nicely and provided a huge sense of satisfaction as we ate it. I don't know about you but when I make something that tastes really good, I feel like a Chef in a world-renowned restaurant. I did it. I am a good cook.
As far as pizza toppings, that's up to you! There are so many possibilities, just think of the pizzas that you like. Spinach and Mushroom? Veggie? Alfredo pizza? Cheese? Sausage? Yum! The one pictured above is a take off of Annie's Chicken Ranch Pizza. I knew I had most the ingredients, but I wanted to add some bacon to ours. I also drizzled a bit of BBQ sauce on our pizza before baking.

Basic Pizza Dough

½ cup warm water (about 110°)
1 envelope (2 ¼ tsp.) instant yeast
1 ¼ cups water, at room temperature
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups (22 oz.) bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 ½ tsp. salt
olive oil or non-stick cooking spray for greasing the bowl

Directions: (don't be scared. It seems like a lengthy process, but it's not that bad, honest)
Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room temperature water and oil and stir to combine.

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Briefly combine the dry ingredients at low speed. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until a cohesive mass forms. Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate it. I think I put a little too much oil in my bowl, there was always a 'layer' sort of of oil. I would suggest dabbing some oil onto a paper towel and rubbing the paper towel on the inside of the bowl to oil it.

Measure a piece of parchment paper to fit your pizza stone. I tried to roll out my dough without knowing how big my stone was and as it turned out, I could have made a bit larger of a pizza. I would have rather had that happen than to find out that I made my pizza too big for my stone. To bake, place a pizza stone in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Form both pieces of dough into smooth, round balls and cover with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.

If you're only going to make one pizza, now is the time to freeze the other. Wrap the portion you're not using tightly into plastic wrap and store inside a freezer-safe bag. The double layer is important because the dough will continue to rise for a bit and will pop out of the plastic wrap, so by putting it in a plastic bag as well, you'll keep the dough contained. Working with one piece of dough and keeping the other covered, shape the dough and transfer to a pizza peel or round of parchment dusted with semolina or cornmeal. Top as desired. Slide the dough onto the pizza stone. Bake until the crust edges brown and cheese is golden brown in spots, about 8 to 12 minutes. Repeat with remaining ball of dough or freeze for later use.

Thawing instructions for frozen dough:
Freeze the dough until it is ready to be used. The day you plan to use the dough, transfer it to the refrigerator in the morning to thaw in time for dinner that evening. (If using the dough for lunch, transfer to the refrigerator the night before.) The dough that has been frozen tastes every bit as good as fresh, so it is incredibly convenient to have available for a quick, throw-together meal.

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