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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, April 19, 2014

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Homemade pizza crust before ...
Homemade pizza crust before ...
... and after!
... and after!

Let's talk about crust, baby

I think it is important to make your own pizza dough. I know you can purchase dough at various local grocery stores and bread shops, but if you're going to make homemade pizza you might as well try to keep everything you can "in house." It's even more personal this way.

From start to finish it takes me around 10 minutes to make enough dough for two, 13-inch pizzas. Sure, you have to let the dough rise for a couple of hours but so what, have you anything better to do with your time? Here's my method:

  • 1/4 cup plus 3/4 more warm water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 3 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

OK, so hang with me here, because it is not that hard to mix all of this stuff together. I use my food processor because I don't have a standing mixer with a dough hook, and I am too lazy to mix by hand.

Draw 1/4 cup or so warm water into a measuring glass. Warm water is around 105 degrees ... basically a nice and warm but not super hot shower. Add the honey (or other type of sugar) and yeast. I prefer honey because it is important to support our bees. Mix this together with a fork and let it stand for a few minutes. You'll know you did a good job in gauging the water temperature when the mixture starts to foam and froth a little bit.

You have activated your yeast, congrats! While waiting for this to happen, combine the flour and salt in the food processor. After your yeast mixture has started to foam add another 3/4 cup warm water to the glass and mix again. It is important to make sure that the water line and not the foam line is at 1 cup.

You'll know what I'm talking about once you get started and do this. While pulsing the flour, slowly add the water until a rough dough ball has formed. It won't form until the very last drop of water has been added, so don't get nervous and think you're doing it wrong. After the ball has formed let the mixer run for 10 seconds or so. Turn the dough ball onto a slightly floured cutting board and knead it for around a minute.

You've just made pizza dough! Put the dough ball into a lightly oiled salad bowl and turn it around and over so that it is evenly covered with oil. Cover and let it rise for a couple of hours.

The rising time will vary based on the temperature of your house, but at most it will take two hours for the dough to double (or triple) in size. You want to make sure the salad bowl you're using is large enough. Once this point is reached just turn the risen dough out onto the same floured cutting board, cut it in half, and gently roll each portion around the board until it is just slightly tacky. Your sixth sense (your "Pizza Sense") will let you know when you are done.

All you need to do now is roll out the dough ball into a roughly round shape, about 12 inches in diameter. Out of all the various platforms for cooking pizza (like a pizza stone or cookie sheet, etc.) I prefer my grill pan. I l heat it in the oven while the oven gets to temperature, which for me is 450 degrees. I drizzle some olive oil on the rolled out dough and brush the oil so it evenly covers the dough. This then is flipped over onto the screaming hot grill pan so the combination of the heat and oil immediately starts making a crust.

Using my fingers (and this is the really fun part) I spread the dough and form a nice edge to the crust. At the same time you can press down on the dough to achieve whatever thickness of crust you are after. I always dock the dough all over using the tines of a fork so heat can release and big bubbles don't bake up. Now just top and into the oven the pizza goes.

Most of what of I've just written is hard to screw up. Humankind has been doing this for thousands of years; it's battle tested. Don't be timid and let making pizza dough scare you off.

By the time you're on batch number three you will have a very good handle on it. Then you can start experimenting with types of flour, adding different seasonings to the flour, or even white wine to the yeast slurry way at the beginning. But you'll never get to this point if you never get started.

Just do it! (Sorry for ripping you off, Nike.)

Talkbacks

danno | April 29, 2012 at 11:24 a.m. (report)

I like basting extra virgin cold pressed olive oil on the sauce-side dough to form a water barrier; if this is not done the pizza sauce water can quickly sodden the crust. I am surprised how many pizza places do not do this. If you have never tried this technique you will be surprised how crispy your crust stays even in the refrigerator.

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