Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tight A$$ Tuesdays: Homemade Pizza Dough and Pizza Bianca

Homemade pizza dough is one of those things - once you try it - no other pizza will do, and once you learn how easy it is - you'll be doing it with your eyes shut. When someone suggests ordering pizza for dinner, I dive for the bread flour and rolling pin just to spare myself from the soggy bases, and over-salted, plastic cheese toppings from the local pizzeria. Some people, in childish bouts of spite, will even challenge unsuspecting family members to get their soggy shop made pizza before the pretty homemade pizza is out of the oven. Trust me, they'll lose. I just know these things...

So, with the mercury dropping, get in there and knead some dough. Between the bingo wings workout and a roaring hot oven, you'll be as warm as toast in no time. The lower temperatures are also great for slow yeast development - you'll get so much more flavour if you can let the dough rise slowly. If you don't have the hours required for that, plonk the dough in a warm spot and watch it rise.

The smell of pizza dough is immediately soothing. A sprinkle of dried oregano combined with the fermenting yeast gives off an aroma to ease the mind. If you have the energy, make a double batch and freeze some of the dough before rising, or par-bake the rolled out base for a super quick meal or snack. If you freeze the dough, thaw it out in the fridge overnight in a greased bowl, letting it rise as it thaws.

The understated pizza above is the beauty known as Pizza Bianca. The toppings are nothing more than extra virgin olive oil, a good sea salt and fresh rosemary massaged into the base. I know, I know, it sounds so boring and plain, but think of pretzels, plain potato chips, or fresh focaccia. You can't argue with how those snacks rate in the moreish stakes.

The second pizza is as simple as smearing some fresh pesto over the base, layering some super thinly sliced potatos and some good streaky bacon. I got to use the last of my King Valley Free Range bacon. A quick flourish of grated parmesan and into the oven to crisp and brown. Seriously, that's about 2 minutes worth of effort.

Homemade Pizza Dough
(Makes 2 large pizzas)

3 cups plain flour (bread flour if you have it)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp yeast
1 cup water, at blood temp
1 tab dried oregano (optional)

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and bring together into a loose mass. If you have a mixer with a dough hook attachment, get it going on a low speed for about 7-10 minutes. If kneading by hand, you'll need to knead for about 10 minutes. If the dough doesn't come together, add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Dough should form a smooth, elastic ball, leaving the sides of the bowl clean. Press the dough with your finger to see if its ready. It will spring back quickly when it's done.

Take dough out of the bowl and drizzle in a little olive oil. Put the dough back in and turn to coat the ball evenly. Cover with cling wrap and leave in a warm spot for 2 hours or so, until doubled in size. The time it takes will depend on the temperature of your room.

Heat oven to highest heat setting. Punch the dough down and roll out to about 5mm. (It's proper to try to stretch the dough, rather than roll it - I usually roll it to the basic shape and then push it out with my fingertips to reach the edges of the tray.) At this point you can let it rise again (another hour), for a fuller flavoured dough, or you can put your toppings on and cook right away.

Cook for 5 minutes at full heat, then reduce to 190c for remainder of cooking time. About 12 minutes, or until browned and dough is cooked through in the centre.

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