03 March 2011

Double Take: Food o' del Mundo's Perfect Pizza Crust

Homemade pizza fresh from the oven. Does it get any better than this?

Welcome to Week 3 of the New Double Take Series! This week we feature something that should be a staple in every house: pizza crust! As you’ve seen before, I’m prone to buying the premade pizza crust because, well, I’m just a bit afraid of working with yeast. I’m fascinated by it, but I don’t have that much experience and haven’t gotten a ton of positive feedback on what I have attempted. So I haven’t been practicing. Somewhere, out of the blue a couple months ago, I got a tiny bit of confidence and decided to go for it. My first attempt was a bit, well, horrid. The dough tasted okay, but seemed to have the wrong texture. For some reason I had it in my head that I needed to knead the dough after it rose and before I put rolled it out. And of course, I didn't figure out that was what I had done wrong until Tabitha convinced me to try making pizza dough again.

Sometimes I read the recipe eight billion times and still miss things. Luckily, Food o’ del Mondo included step by step pictures, and I actually go to see the yeasty, freshly risen dough divided in half and stretched out on a pizza pan. It was a revelation for me! Armed with this new information, I had the confidence I needed to attempt pizza crust once again. The day I was going to make this dough, I let it slip to Bender that I’d really like a pizza pan. Bender decided it was a great idea and we actually got two! Now, Alton Brown recommends a pizza stone: but don’t think Pampered Chef, think unglazed travertine tiles readily available for a few bucks at your favorite building supply store. However, my nearest building supply store is a bit far away, inaccessible by public transportation, and I didn’t want to walk over there in the cold on the off chance that I’d be able to find the right thing with a the language barrier just to lug them back the whole way, or worse, walk back empty handed. So, I took the easy route and just got perforated pizza pans at M├╝ller (the store that reminds me of Target on a very small scale).

It's so small and unassuming at first. 

The dough came together in about fifteen minutes, including clean-up. I started when Bender got in the shower and was almost done when he came out, dressed and ready to go. He saw me working and assumed it would take a while, so he sat down to play computer games. Five minutes later I announced I was done, and the kitchen was clean, and he looked at me in shock. He assumed he’d have at least half an hour to play. Yay for quick recipes.

It's amazing what can happen in four hours! 
I find dough rises best when covered with your favorite kitchen towel! ;)

That evening I checked the dough. It was absolutely perfect! So, I set about chopping veggies and making sausage for my pizza, leaving the dough to rise a little bit longer. Once prepped, I got out my new pizza pans, divided the dough, and fit it to the pans. On went the sauce, cheese, and toppings, and then into the oven! Yummy, delicious, completely homemade pizza. And I made it. Woot!

Perfect Pizza Crust
Makes two 14″ crusts

In a large mixing bowl sift to combine:
3 ½ cups bread flour*
2 teaspoons sugar
1 envelope instant yeast**
2 teaspoons salt

Make a well in the center and add:
1 ½ cups 110°F water
2 tablespoons olive oil

*I used a combination of all-purpose (1.5c), spelt (1c), and whole wheat flour (1c).

**If you don’t have access to instant yeast, combine yeast and warm water. Let sit 5 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly. Proceed as directed, adding the mixture when you would normally add the water rather than the yeast.

Stir to combine. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and start kneading.  If the dough is too sticky, be sure to add additional flour as needed.  Continue to knead for five minutes; dough should form into a smooth ball.

Spray or grease a bowl and set dough ball in the bowl and cover with a damp towel.  Let rise until double in size.  It should take about an hour depending on how warm your kitchen is. 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, divide in two equal pieces, cover with a towel, and let rest for ten minutes, then you’re ready to stretch your dough out.  (I found this video incredibly helpful.)

When your dough is ready, place it on a pizza screen, prick several holes in the crust with a dinner fork, then top your pizza and bake at 425-450° F for 25 minutes or until your center is HOT and the cheese is nicely browned.  It took me awhile to learn to LEAVE IT IN THE OVEN to make sure the crust bakes all the way through.  Five minutes can make a world of difference! (I have had to learn the same lesson too!)

Note from Mary of Food o’ del Mondo: You will notice that there’s a baking temperature range, the reason:  My oven can go as much as 25 degrees above what I set it too.  So I have baked many pizzas as low as 425° as high as 450° and often times somewhere in the middle.  They always turn out well, but leave a little guess work (and oven-sitting) for me each time.  Find a good time/temperature ratio for your perfect pizza and stick to it.

Note from me: I like to turn my oven as high as it will go and just watch the pizza.  

And of course, you can top your pizza however you’d like. I have now found the perfect pizza sauce for us: Ultimate Pizza Sauce. It’s thick like Domino’s, but actually tastes good. If you prefer more of a Papa John’s sauce, add more sugar and trade out the tomato paste with another can of tomato sauce. I like to puree mine before using it, and occasionally I’ll add some frozen spinach to up the veggie content. But you don't have to take just my word for it! Noble Pig posted this Ultimate Pizza Sauce last week, too!

Here are our pizzas of choice, layered as written below

Pizza 1 (Bender's pizza)
Ultimate Pizza Sauce (cooked and pureed)
Mozzarella Cheese
Parmesan Cheese
Hot Italian Sausage (crumbled, browned, and drained)
Bell Pepper (browned in the pan the sausage was cooked in)
Mozzarella Cheese
Parmesan Cheese

Pizza 2 (my pizza)
Ultimate Pizza Sauce (cooked and pureed)
Mozzarella Cheese
Parmesan Cheese
Mushrooms (sliced, raw or cooked in a crazy-hot skillet)
Onions (thin sliced and soaked in water for at least 10 minutes before adding to the pizza)
Eggs (cracked directly on the pizza immediately before it goes in the oven)
Mozzarella Cheese
Parmesan Cheese
Chives (sprinkled on when the pizza comes out of the oven) 

My crust was really puffy. My pizza pans don’t work quite as well as a hot pizza stone, but they’ll do for now. If you’ve got a car and want to make pizza, find the tiles rather than paying more for a cheap pizza pan.

 Unfortunately, I added the eggs about 20 minutes before I put the pizza in the oven instead of immediately before the pizza went in the oven. So it was a little soggy in the middle. Also, I somehow managed to turn off the oven after Pizza 2 went in… big mistake. Make sure you keep your oven on and HOT. 

Is it the perfect pizza crust? Maybe. It worked well enough for me but it definitely doesn't compare to Mellow Mushroom's pizza crust. All the cheats for Mellow Mushroom crust say to add molasses instead of sugar and use spring water instead of tap. I've tried that a couple times, but haven't been happy with the results because I wasn't making the dough correctly to begin with. So, I'll be taking my new pizza crust skills and going back into the kitchen! 


I’m-now-willing-to-say-yes-to-homemade-pizza: 1 vote!
I’m-finally-gaining-confidence-with-yeast-recipes: 1 vote!

For Tabitha's take on Food o' del Mondo's Perfect Pizza Crust, head on over to Double the Garlic!

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