pizza primer

May 2nd, 2011

As a (very) young woman working full-time in Manhattan, I took advantage of the many baking classes offered at various cooking schools around the city. I loved immersing myself – at night and on the weekends – in baking projects and these classes helped fuel and support my growing repertoire of recipes.

As money was tight, I tried to limit myself to only pastry classes. But one day, as I was perusing a course catalogue, a class called “Pizza Making” caught my eye and I decided to make an exception to my “pastry-only” rule. I thought, if this class was a winner, it would be worth it to know how to make pizza dough from scratch.

And it was – I had a great teacher who demystified the process of making pizza dough and assembling and baking pizza. And I still use her same recipe and technique more than 20 years later.

Which I now share with you…….

New York Style Pizza Dough
makes 4 doughs

This dough uses bread flour in place of white flour, and goes through two rises instead of one. It also yields a dough that has a more complex, “toothsome” texture and flavor.

2 c. warm water
1 package active dry yeast
6 c. (5 oz. per cup) bread flour
1 t. salt

Coat a large bowl with olive oil or spray with a non-stick cooking spray (such as Pam) – put aside.

Place warm water in your mixer bowl – sprinkle yeast over and stir till dissolved. Add 2 c. of flour and the salt and mix with the flat beater till combined. Add remaining 4 c.  flour and mix till a soft mass has formed and all of the flour is just incorporated. Switch to a dough hook and beat dough until smooth and shiny. Remove dough from mixer and form into a ball. Place dough in prepared bowl, rolling around till evenly coated, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow dough to rise till approximately doubled in size (can be left overnight). Punch it down, re-form into a ball, cover and let rise again. Punch down and cut into 4 equal pieces. Place each piece in a plastic bag, seal tightly and freeze till ready to use.

Basic Pizza Recipe

Pizza is one of those foods that is infinitely adaptable – there is hardly an ingredient I can think of that wouldn’t taste even more delicious sitting on a pizza dough and topped with cheese before bubbling and browning in the oven. Cut your baked pizza into bite-sized squares to serve with drinks. Brush the dough with some olive oil, sprinkle with slivered garlic, fresh rosemary and sea salt and serve your “focaccia”  as a side with dinner. Or cut the dough in quarters, fill each circle as desired and fold and bake into calzones to serve with a salad for an easy weeknight meal.

Note: If you will be making pizza on a regular basis (which I have no doubt you will), I recommend investing in a pizza stone and wooden paddle. The heat of the stone creates a rugged, crispy crust that is the hallmark of an authentic pizza. And the paddle really facilitates the transfer of the pizza into your oven.

1 pizza dough, defrosted in the refrigerator and brought to room temperature
olive oil for brushing the dough
cornmeal for dusting the paddle
8 oz mozzarella, sliced
your favorite pizza or marinara sauce

Pre-heat your pizza stone in a 500 degree oven for 1 hour.

Your dough should be completely at room temperature – the warmer it is, the more “relaxed”  and easier to work with it will be. Sprinkle a work surface with flour and lightly coat both sides of the dough. Now start stretching – I do this by letting the dough drape over the backs of my hands, using my knuckles to gently stretch and shape. This is much easier than trying to roll it out – which I always find causes the dough to “snap” back rather than roll out. Continue stretching the dough from the center out till it is the desired shape and size. If you find that the dough is too tight or “seizing” up, place it on your work surface, cover it with a towel and let it rest for 10 or so minutes.

Next, place the dough on your cornmeal-dusted paddle. Make sure that the dough can move freely around at this point as you don’t want to discover that it is sticking to the paddle as you’re sliding it into the oven.  Brush the dough with some olive oil and pinch the edges to make a thicker border. Brush with some of your sauce,  leaving about 1/2-3/4″ border and place the cheese on top of the sauce.

Slide the pizza onto the stone and bake for 10 minutes, or till bubbling and brown. Let sit for 5 minutes, cut into wedges and serve.

2 Responses to “pizza primer”

  • This looks so delicious! I have a friend that makes this tart (really just an exquisite pizza) with heirloom tomatoes and what is the name of that cheese… there is some kind of cheese that blew my mind… Oh well, can’t think of it! Anyway, your photos are beautiful and I am loving reading your recipes!

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