Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pizza Dough

As much as I love the long-storage method for bread dough that is our winter staple, I find the dough too wet to make pizza crust easily. Instead, I turn to one of my favorite cookbook authors, Patricia Wells, for her recipe found in her Trattoria cookbook. I've been making this pizza dough for years, pairing it with her pizza sauce and a variety of toppings.

With parenthood, I haven't found as much time for pizza-making as I once did. However, I was inspired by Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to consider planning ahead to make a weekly pizza night for the family. It just took me a year to do anything about it.

Being the (over)conscientious parent that I am, I've been concerned about using canned goods in our family meals because most can linings have BPA in them. So, I've been trawling the farmers' market looking for tomato seconds and roasting them up to use in the pizza sauce recipe with good results. I buy as many tomatoes as I can each week and freeze the sauce we don't use in baby cubes (which are about the right portion size). I bought some shredded mozzarella and divided that into packets, as well. The goal is to be able to reach into the freezer and pull out exactly what we'll need for pizza night and expend minimal effort.

To that end, I made a triple batch of pizza dough, let it rise overnight, punched it down and divided it into individual pizza-sized lumps. I then wrapped up the lumps in waxed paper (since I'm trying to avoid as much throwaway plastic as possible-you could use plastic wrap) and froze them. Some Internet sources suggested doubling the yeast for frozen dough, but the dough I defrosted didn't need any more oomph. It turns out that our daughter doesn't need a full portion of dough to herself, so I just pull out two lumps of dough and steal a bit from each for her little pizza.

Though I normally like kneading dough by hand, because I was making such a big quantity, I pulled out the dough hook and the stand mixer. A double batch fit perfectly in the bowl--it would have been pushing it to do all three batches in one go.

My recipe only differs from Wells' in that I use a large proportion of whole wheat bread flour instead of only white bread flour. I find that I don't need to add extra gluten to achieve a nice texture as long as I don't go above about 2/3 whole wheat to 1/3 white.

The below recipe is for one batch, enough for four adult-sized individual pizzas.

1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/3 c (330 ml) lukewarm water
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP olive oil
2-3 c. whole wheat bread flour
1- 1 3/4 white bread flour

  1. Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook). Stir or mix until dissolved. Let sit for 5 or so minutes until it gets foamy (if it doesn't, the yeast may not be at its best)
  2. Add the salt and the olive oil and stir or mix to combine
  3. Add the flour, one cup at a time, starting with the whole wheat. Do not add the next cup until the previous has been well absorbed. If using a mixer, the stir setting works well
  4. Continue adding flour until the dough forms a ball, at least 3 cups
  5. Either transfer the dough to a clean counter or board to knead for 4-5 minutes or turn the mixer to a higher setting and let it go for a similar amount of time. Add flour as needed if it gets to sticky (you may end up adding all of the remaining 3/4 c. flour)
  6. If using a mixer, turn the dough out at the end of the kneading cycle and knead a few times by hand to get a sense of the texture. The dough may be a little sticky, but if you have wet or oiled hands it should be quite easy to work with. If it's not, you might need a bit more flour
  7. Wells' suggests transferring dough to a clean bowl, but I tend to re-use the mixing bowl unless it's really icky
  8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, a lid or a tea towel and let rise in the refrigerator 8-12 hours until it has doubled or tripled in volume
  9. The dough will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge. If you wish to do that, just punch it down every 8-12 hours as it doubles or triples
  10. Use to make pizza or freeze as desired
  1. Divide dough evenly into four pieces
  2. Wrap well in plastic wrap or waxed paper (I do a light coating of oil on the dough if using waxed paper), then put the bundles in a larger freezer bag or container
  3. Freeze well (we use our outside freezer for storage)
  1. The night before you want to have the pizza, remove the appropriate number of dough bundles from the freezer and put in the refrigerator to thaw. If you don't have that much notice, just defrost the dough all at room temperature.
  2. The next morning or sometime the next day, bring the dough out and let rise again at room temperature. Punch down if it gets really fluffy
  3. Proceed with pizza recipe as normal