We've gone through a lot of pizza styles and recipes here at The Pizza Lab, but I still often get asked "what's the best pizza crust recipe you know?" When I'm in the mood to fire up the grill or heat up the broiler, I might take my time and make a Neapolitan-style lean dough. If I want to relive my childhood without stepping out my apartment door, it's a New York-style. Company coming over and I want to feed a crowd without messing up the kitchen? It's Sicilian-style square pie all the way. Here's a brief run-down on the three recipes that every home pie-maker should have in their arsenal to tackle all manner of pizza-centric circumstances.
'dough' on Serious Eats
Pop quiz: what do whipped cream, Nerf footballs, Pizza, and Tempur-Pedic mattresses have in common? That's right — they're all foams. Wait, huh? Pizzas are foams? You mean those annoying, piddly things that chefs were goofing around with in the mid 2000's? That's right, as are hot dog buns, Wonderbread, Pane di Genzano, Portuguese rolls, Naan, pancakes, and pretty much every other leavened batter or dough-based product in the world.
Working with a dough that wet has its challenges, particularly if you're used to handling more typical doughs. Mixing a wet dough is easy. Baking a wet dough, well, the oven does all the work. Kneading a wet dough is where many bakers go astray. For most doughs, the kneading is done on a floured surface to keep the dough from sticking. But if you knead a very wet dough that way, that dough is going to gather up a lot of flour along the way.
Fresh yeast imparts a flavor that isn't present in breads or pizzas made with dried yeast. It's not the same as sourdough, but it has a distinct flavor of its own. Here's how to buy it, proof it, store it, and revive it.
I recently started a Talk thread asking Serious Eaters if there were dough-related tips and techniques they wanted to hear about. There were quite a few "troubleshooting" questions—not so much "how do I?" but more like "Uh oh, it's gone wrong...now what?" So let's get answering!
A high altitudes, the boiling point of water is lower, the air is thinner, and generally the air is also drier. Two of those three things affect your dough significantly. Here are a few ways the baker and pizzamaker can adapt.
If you've found an intriguing recipe that requires a food processor or stand mixer, you can convert that recipe to hand kneading without too much trouble. The first thing that changes is the amount of time it will take to knead the dough enough to properly develop the gluten. You'll also need the change the order in which you incorporate ingredients.
Most dough recipes don't give you options for kneading. But most dough recipes can be converted from one kneading method to another; it's just a matter of changing a few things: the amount of time you need to knead and the order you add ingredients.
Can a food processor or mixer replace kneading by hand? Using a machine to do your kneading changes the final product. While a food processor or a stand mixture does a fine job of developing the gluten in dough, neither one of them perfectly mimics the motion of hand-kneading. There are a few other differences as well.
While pizza purists among us might say that adding anything except the basic ingredients to pizza dough is wrong, sometimes the urge to experiment gets in the way of tradition. If you're going to start flinging things into your pizza dough, you might as well do it armed with a little bit of knowledge about what might happen.
While some bags of flour contain nothing but wheat, many are enriched or processed in some way. Have you ever wondered how bleached or bromated flour is different? More importantly, do these processes affect your baking? Here are the answers you've been looking for.
In baking, as with much of cooking, the actual amounts of an ingredient don't matter much—it's the ratio of ingredients that matters. Think of bakers' percentages this way: The flour is equal to 100 percent. Every other ingredient is then expressed in terms of its ratio to the amount of flour. If, for example, you had a dough with 16 ounces of flour and 8 ounces of water and 0.32 ounces of salt, you'd say that the dough contains 50% water because the water weighs 50% of what the flour weighs. In baker's talk, that's called 50% hydration.
Most recipes for pizza dough tell you to keep kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic. That's simple enough, right? The dough goes from being a clumpy, lumpy mass to something that is cohesive and, well, smooth. And instead of tearing off in ragged chunks, it begins to stretch. The more you knead, (or the longer it rests, for long-fermented doughs) the stretchier it gets. But when do you stop kneading? How elastic does it need to be? Oh, if only there was a simple test for checking the elasticity of the dough! But wait! There is! It's the Windowpane Test!
Fermentation is a fascinating thing. It's what gives a great pizza crust (and all yeast-leavened breads, for that matter) its light, airy structure and distinctive complex, slightly sour taste. But what's the best way to ferment dough? This week, I try to find out.
The pizzas at both the Brooklyn and Manhattan locations of Motorino are known for their puffy outer edge (what the Italians call the cornicione). We wondered how Motorino owner and head pieman Mathieu Palombino achieved this effect. So we visited with videocam in hand and captured it here.
On Monday, SE pizza blog Slice had a chance to tour a Domino's dough-production factory outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Regardless of how you feel about the end product, it's fascinating to see something so commonplace produced on such a mass scale. Slideshow and video ahead!
The best and worst thing about this dough is that it's wet and sticky: Water develops the gluten proteins in the flour, causing the dough to stretch beautifully when the yeast produces a high volume of gas in the heat of the oven. It's undeniably hard to roll out, but considering that rolling out the dough is the only difficult step in the entire process, this strikes me as an eminently fair trade-off.
[Photograph: pizzacrustyeast.com] Fleischmann's has introduced a new pizza crust yeast. Have any pizza-makers out there tried it yet? The breadheads over at The Fresh Loaf seem to like it. Fleischmann's product site for the new yeast makes it clear that it's aimed at people who want to make pizza quickly. You simply stir it in (no need to proof), knead, and stretch it out. It contains dough relaxers so you don't have to let it rest before shaping. Have you used it? Let us know what you think....
Over on Serious Eats Talk, Cary asks: I finally managed to make a double batch of my current favorite pizza dough (new KA 600 mixer, replacing old worn down KA) and I want to freeze half. It's been doing the cold rise for several days. So, do I punch it down before freezing, and how and how long do I thaw it when I'm ready? I don't expect to freeze dough often, but I'd like it to work when I do! If you want to take or leave intel, click on through »...