Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Pizza Part I: The Dough
Pizza may be one of the greatest inventions of all time. And vegan pizza? HOLY CRAP IT'S GOOD. Our humble household is graced by the appearance of pizza at least once a week, though sometimes twice, and paired with a glass of beer and good conversation? I seriously look forward to it all week long.
But here's the deal: If you want your pizza to be the best it could be (and if you want to keep your tummy, ass, and thighs in check), ya gotta make it at home. Once you get the hang of it, homemade pizza will outwin whatever 4,000-calorie garbage is brought to your door...that nasty thick crust and all that jiggly-ass-causing, constipation-inducing cheese will gross you out. Blech. The awesome part is that homemade pizza is a cinch, and it all starts will the dough.
I jive on a thin-ish crust pizza, so I divide my batch of dough into thirds (if you want it a bit thicker, go ahead and divide it in half). I make this stuff every 2 weeks or so, using one portion right away and freezing the other two. Then, when you want to use the frozen stuff, simply toss one on your counter in the morning...the dough will be warm and nice by the time you get home, ready to use.
In a mixing bowl or the bowl of your Kitchen Aid mixer, combine:
1 1/2 cups warm water (bathtub water temp, NOT TOO HOT)
2 tsp active dry yeast
Stir the yeast into the warm water for a just a sec, only enough to get the yeast moist (it will float initially). Don't stir it too much and for heaven's sake, don't "dissolve" it like so many recipes say. Once the yeast touches the water it needs a calm environment to activate.
Leave the yeast and water for about 10 minutes, or until it foams (this is called "blooming" the yeast). A foam bubble should erupt out of the center of the water and leave a bubbly film on the surface...that's when you know it's ready. If the yeast seems like it's hangin' out on the bottom, tap the side of the bowl to slightly agitate the water. You should see your foam bubble arise from the depths, like this:
Once you've got nice activated yeast, dump the rest of the ingredients right over the top IN THIS ORDER:
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbs olive or canola oil
1 1/2 tsp salt (be SURE you add the salt last)*
If you are lucky enough to have a Kitchen Aid mixer, now is where you get to add the dough hook attachment, turn it on low, and walk away. The rest of use get to bust out a spoon. If you're doing it by hand, stir up the ingredients until a shaggy dough comes together. Dump the whole thing out onto your floured countertop and knead the dough until it's smooth, adding more flour as needed to keep it from sticking. This process takes about 5 minutes of solid hand-and-arm action (how do ya think bakers get those bangin' forearms?).
Being sure to coat the inside of your mixing bowl with cooking spray, put your nice smooth dough ball back in the bottom of it. Spray the surface of the dough ball, too. Now, to RISE! I like to put the mixing bowl into a cold oven, which has a more consistent air temperature than the outside world. Let it hang out in there for 45 minutes, or until it's doubled in size.
When it's ready, dump the dough out of the bowl and divide it into 2 or 3 portions, depending on your desired crust thickness. Shape these hunks into balls and set them on your counter, like this:
Cover them with plastic wrap and let them rise again, this time for about 20 minutes. They'll poof up fast!
Now, after all that babying, the dough is ready and waiting for your pizza mastery. Take the portions you won't be using immediately and jam them into individual sandwich bags. Push the air out and toss 'em in the freezer for later. For the one who's time has come, roll it out on your floured counter. We use a big cookie sheet for our pizzas because 1) I'm too cheap to buy a real pizza pan that wouldn't fit in our oven anyway and 2)Because I find it difficult to roll dough out into a circle. Why? No idea. The rolling-out process may take you a few time to get the hang of, but fear not. It doesn't have to be perfect! Here's what ours ends up looking like:
Look at that. It's just begging for toppings, but will have to wait till tomorrow.
*Salt kills yeast. You need to keep them as far away from eachother as possible.