It’s All in the Crust
Editors’ Note: We can’t very well tell ya’ll about pizza and forget about the dough, now can we? Thankfully, our newest contributor, Lyndsey, is here to chime in with some thoughts on getting that crispy, crackly exterior just right.
A few years ago, my husband (then boyfriend) and I decided it was time to start inching towards healthy eating. But one of the things we were not willing to sacrifice was pizza. So instead of going to our local pizza shop and picking up a few soggy, greasy slices, we decided to start making our own pizzas from scratch. This way, we could pick and choose whatever we wanted to put on the pizza, and limit the size of the pie we made.
I’m sure many of you have had the same experience: we figured out the basics of the sauce and toppings pretty quickly, but the dough was a different story.
We started off by buying pre-made doughs from a variety of sources, including pizzerias and the
supermarket. But these were really hit or miss: sometimes the texture would be spot-on, and sometimes they would be so tough that it was almost impossible to spread the dough out into a pie shape. Here’s one of our first pizzas:
It was tasty enough, but as you can see, there was definitely something missing. The dough didn’t have that golden brown color, it didn’t come to a crisp on the ends, and it was just too thick. So I started working on making our own pizza dough, my first real entrée into dough-making. After a good three years of experimentation, I finally figured out the ratio that would produce that perfect, golden crispy crunch.
Perfect Pizza Dough
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon yeast (any kind)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
Mix half of the flour with the yeast, salt, and sugar.
Add the water, honey, olive oil, and mix.
Slowly add in the bread flour. The dough will eventually get too sticky to use a spoon, so at this point you can get in there and use your hands. Mix and knead until the dough forms together into a ball – if it’s still too sticky, add a bit more flour. Knead by hand for a few minutes, then put into an oiled bowl, cover with saran wrap, and let rise for at least 4 hours.
This dough works great in a super hot (550) oven, with a pizza stone, but baking it on a metal sheet will also do just fine.
Suffice it to say, we rarely go to a pizzeria anymore. Making this dough comes pretty naturally to me now, but the whole process has made me realize how nervous people are about making breads and dough that use yeast. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say to me that they just can’t make bread because the yeast process is a mystery to them, or that it’s too scientific and too exact to ever work out right. While I’m not a chemist or food scientist by any stretch of the imagination, for some reason working with yeast dough makes more sense to me than anything else in the kitchen. I’m not saying that it always works out (and I’ve certainly had to throw out some dough in my day) but in general, something just clicks between me and that crazy microscopic fungus.
I gave my brother our pizza dough recipe recently, and he was so excited to make pizza from scratch. He called in the afternoon of the pizza-making day and was a little worried about the enormous size of the dough – it was a hot day and it had risen quite a bit. I learned later on that he got so angry at the dough that he almost threw it across the kitchen while he was pushing it out into pizza shape. I think he must have pushed it too much, and worked it too hard until it got a hole in it. I told him he should go to a pizzeria and check out how they work with the dough. If only we could all work our dough like that pizza master on the Visa commercial.
Don’t be too intimidated if you can’t work it like this guy. After all, he is a world champions pizza tosser (yes, there is such a thing).