Thursday, March 29, 2007

Beth: Pizza Dough

theKid's favorite pizza: Canadian bacon and pineapple...

Anyone who has been reading my writing for long probably knows that, while I think recipes have their place, I tend towards a somewhat improvisational approach to much of my cooking, including bread. After three decades, I possess a certain confidence when it comes to judging dough by feel. While this makes it simple for me to adjust, or even create, recipes on the fly, it means I am starting from a disadvantage here since I haven't written a lot of recipes down.

When I realized this had to change, I started by writing up what I knew of my pizza dough off the top of my head:

"Measure" 3/4 cup of water into bowl, pour about ~1/2 tsp yeast in my palm to measure it, toss that into water, stir. Add a couple of scoops of flour (~1 1/2 cups) and mix. Add more flour a little at a time until it feels right.Let it rest for a few minutes. Drizzle in some olive oil and sprinkle on some salt. Then knead it for a couple of minutes adding enough flour to make a very soft dough. Walk away again for a few minutes, come back and knead a few more minutes. Fridge. Bake.
Not very useful, is it?

My next thought was to reverse engineer some directions for what I normally do by feel. I made a few batches of crust, weighing as I went along and came up with something that resembled a pizza crust. Then I read Kevin's recipe and started wondering about what I'd come up with.

Dough: rest and motion

How would you like a simple technique that gives you better bread with less work?

Here it is: Step away from the dough.

Not forever mind you, just for a bit. After mixing the dough, but before kneading it, put your feet up and have a cup of tea. Come back in half an hour. (I know it has been long enough when my arms feel rested enough to knead the dough.)

This resting period, called an autolyse (aut-oh-lees), gives the flour time to fully hydrate. During this time, glutenin and gliadin - the two proteins in flour that combine to form gluten molecules—bond. Kneading time is reduced substantially because the flour is fully hydrated before you start, and gluten bonding has already begun. Kneading flour also causes oxidation, resulting in bleaching, along with loss of beta-carotene and a bit of flavor, so this improves the flavor of your bread as well.

Salt, which inhibits hydration and gluten development is often left out until after an autolyse, as is any old dough. These ingredients are incorporated while kneading the dough after the autolyse.

Less work for better bread—this is truly a transformative addition to any bread baker's bag of tricks. Some might call it magical.

See, my dough is wet. Not just a little wet, really wet.

To grab an example, Kevin's pizza crust uses ~10 oz of liquid to ~18 oz of flour, whereas I use 13 oz of liquid to roughly the same amount of flour. Like I said, it's wet.

Don't let that scare you away, though. While this dough is a bit sloppy to work with and requires a bit of faith the first time you bake it, it's not as slack as the infamous no-knead bread everyone—maybe even you—is baking. Because this dough is so wet, it is more extensible (stretchy) and tolerant (resistant to breaking down) than a lot of other recipes. Better yet, and a critical payoff to this approach, is that it is incredibly tolerant of delay, which you can plan to fit your schedule.

This dough also employs cold fermentation, which is when a bit of magic happens. During the first fermentation of any bread dough, enzymes are broken out of the flour, releasing sugars and flavor. Normally, with bread rising at room temperature or warmer, these sugars are gobbled up by the yeast so you only get a hint of those flavors in the resulting bread.

Not so with this technique. Cold dough means the yeast is sleeping (shhhhh) and can't eat a darned thing! All those lovely sugars that give bread its flavor and beautiful caramelized crust. are yours to enjoy when the bread is baked. Keeping the dough cold also makes it a bit easier to work with, as I wrote about while experimenting with the very wet no-knead bread. (and it even rises slowly, as you can see from this picture of dough that was refrigerated for about 36 hours)

pizza dough after ~36 hours in the refrigerator

I usually make this dough the night before I want to bake it. It takes about 10-15 minutes (spread out over an hour or two) after which the dough is refrigerated until shortly before baking. The dough needs at least half a dozen hours to ferment after mixing, and can tolerate up to 3 days before baking. Unused dough freezes well too, (see my notes on freezing at the end of this article)

Finishing the pizza takes an hour or so from when you hit the front door after work. This is mostly determined by the time it takes to heat your pizza stone. If you freeze your crust as I describe below, you can even defrost a frozen crust in that same hour. That makes this a great crust for people who are juggling work, kids, blogging, and a social life.
kitchenMage's Overnight Pizza Crust
ice water 1 1/2 c | 355 ml | 12 oz | 340 g
bread flour 4 c | 0.95 l | 18 oz | 500 g
instant yeast 1 tsp | 11 ml | 1/8 oz | 3+ g
olive oil 2 tablespoons | 30 ml | 1 oz | 28 g
salt 1 tsp | 5 ml | 1/4 oz | 8 g

(These directions are for mixing by wand, err, I mean hand. Parenthetical directions are for those of you who are using a stand mixer.)

Mixing the dough

Important: Water temperature matters—the colder, the better. About 15 minutes before starting, combine 1 1/2 cups of water and add a handful of ice cubes. By the time you are ready for it, there will be very cold ice water waiting. Remember to remove any remaining ice before measuring. If you have room in the freezer, you can put the measured flour in it to chill for that same 15 minutes.

shaped pizza crust

In mixing bowl, stir flour and yeast together just to distribute yeast. Add ice water and mix to combine into wet dough, about 1 minute. (mixer: use paddle attachment on low for 30-60 seconds) It will look like sort of like thick, lumpy pancake batter. Cover and stick back in refrigerator for 10 minutes.

Remove from refrigerator, drizzle oil on one corner of dough, drop salt on top of the oil, and stir to combine. Turn dough out on well-floured counter and knead for a couple of minutes. (You can add more flour if you need, or want a substantially thicker crust—I do at times—but this is better with less so give it a shot.) Place dough in clean bowl, cover and return to refrigerator for at least 5-6 hours, preferably overnight. (The dough can stay refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

Baking the pizza

When you get home from work, turn on the oven as high as it goes to get the stone really hot. Make sure the stone is in the oven (or is that just me who forgets?) It takes about an hour to thoroughly heat the stone. Fortunately, this is about the same amount of time it takes to finish preparing the crust, toppings and assembling the pizza—even allowing for interruptions from the small people. You can even toss a salad together.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and turn out on floured counter. Divide dough in half (or thirds for smaller pizzas) and refrigerate the portion you will not be using.

With well-floured hands, shape each portion of dough into a flat disc as large as possible without tearing the dough. When the dough starts to shrink back immediately after stretching, let it rest on counter for five minutes before continuing with shaping it.

With a bit of tweaking, this is a fairly versatile crust. If you like cracker-thin pizza, use less dough and stretch it thinner. (Amusingly enough, this is one of the few doughs I make that I can get a good windowpane from.) For thicker, breadier pizza, use a little more dough and stretch it less. (If you like your crust even thicker, go ahead an use more flour, starting with an extra 1/4 cup.)

When the crust is about the right size, place it on a parchment sheet, cover and let rise until you are ready to top it. If you turned on the oven when you took the dough out of the refrigerator, this should be another 30-45 minutes. It will not rise substantially, but it should warm to room temp and poof just a bit in spots.

In honor of theKid, my toppings for this pizza are Canadian bacon and pineapple. She usually adds black olives but I was out. Oh well. I'd say a 12" inch pizza takes 6 ounces of Canadian bacon, 2/3 of a can of pineapple, and a handful of olives. (feed the rest of the pineapple and olives to the kids who are helping you make it)

crust with fresh basil and lobs of sauce

My standard marinara, which I make in my largest stockpot using cans of crushed tomatoes and herbs from the garden, goes on first. (Sorry there's no recipe for this, but Kevin's tomato sauce looks like it would work just fine if you need one.) Next, I put on the pineapple and olives so they will be underneath the meat and cheese. Half the cheese is next. If I have parmesan, I might grate some over the pizza at this point. Otherwise, I am a mozzarella purist. Following the first part of the cheese is the meat. By leaving the meat partially exposed amongst the cheese, you promote browning on the edges, which is both pretty and flavorful. Finish off with more mozzarella.

(Kevin and I are going to have a throwdown one day about the relative unholiness of each other's pizza toppings. He has been known to snark about pineapple, while I simply can't fathom cheddar cheese on pizza!)

Carefully slide pizza (still on parchment) onto the hot stone. Bake at 500-550 degrees (hotter if your oven does it) for 3-4 minutes then check to see if the pizza needs rotating for even baking. Continue baking until cheese is melted and bottom of crust is brown and of desired crispiness, usually another 4-5 minutes, depending on how carried away you got with the toppings.
Freezing dough

This dough freezes nicely, although I don't know what is up with forming them into little balls first. I shape dough into 5 inch disks so they thaw quickly, leaving you with just a bit of stretching before your crust is ready to top and bake.

When I am in a hurry to thaw a crust, I take advantage of the preheating oven to kick-start my dough by placing a wooden rack over the burner where the heat vents, and putting the peel with the crust on it on top. Once the peel is warmed a bit (about 10-15 minutes), you can move it to a counter to finish it's mini-rise while the oven finishes heating.

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(my apologies for the wonky image formatting, i don't usually use Blogger and Kevin has this spiffy custom template and I am confused! with any luck, Kevin will come along and fix it before I wake up...and this will all have been a dream...)

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Kevin: Pizza II

This is gonna be quick 'cause I've a got a column to write, but I promised a follow-on to yesterday's pizza dough recipe and some addition tips. So…

Too hard?
Susan (she's A Year in Bread's self-appointed, pointy-haired manager — bless her heart) expressed some concern with the amount of time my dough recipe takes. Two rises and a partial third one seemed a bit long (and possibly intimidating to new bakers) for a pizza supper. She may well be right, but this recipe, to me, really conveys the essential breadiness of pizza dough. It has a very thin, but crackling layer on the bottom, it's thick enough to provide real bread flavor, it's chewy like a good rustic loaf, and the honey offers a light sweetness that again brings out the breadiness but also compliments savory toppings.

And it freezes well — so make a double batch and freeze part of it to make a quick pizza later on.

Too mechanical?
Susan also raised the issue of mixing by hand, which I'd promised to cover. Easy enough:

Kneading Dough

Kneading bread is a serious upper-body workout. You'll burn off your first hot slice of bread slathered with butter before you even bake the bread. The process is the same whether you're doing the entire dough by hand or using a stand mixer and only finishing up by hand (something I highly recommend). Here's how I knead dough, if Beth or Susan has a different approach they'll chime in.

Place the dough on a floured surface, use lots of flour at first if you're doing the entire job by hand or only a little bit of flour if you're finishing a dough made in a stand mixer.

Press the dough flat with the heal of your hand. Fold the dough in half, top-to-bottom, and press again with your palm heals four or five times. Put your whole upper body in it.

Rotate the dough a quarter turn, fold in half, and press again.

Repeat until the dough feels as firm as an athletes' butt and as smooth as a powdered baby's butt. If you're doing the whole thing by hand, this will take 10 to 15 minutes. If you used a stand mixer for most of the kneading you may only do it once or twice or for as long as 5 more minutes.

Combine the honey, warm water, and oil, in another large bowl, stirring to mix. The water should be about 95 to 115° F. It should feel very warm, but not uncomfortably hot. Then whisk in the yeast.

Add 2 cups of flour and mix thoroughly with a mixing spoon. Add another 1/2 cup of flour in 1/4 cup increments. Then turn out onto a well floured counter, board, or pad. And beginning kneading (see the sidebar) Initially the dough will be very sticky and absorb flour quickly — use more as needed — but will require progressively less flour as you knead. Continue kneading for 10 minutes.

Form into a ball by holding the dough in the palms of your hands and squeezing your fingers inward to shape it, forming a seam. Pinch the edges of the seam together.

Spray a large bowl with baking spray, add dough, seam-side down, and lightly mist top of dough with baking spray. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise (ferment) in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size — 45 minutes to an hour.

Punch the dough down and transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead for about half a minute, then reshape into a ball. Respray bowl lightly, return dough to bowl, spray, recover, and allow to rise again until doubled in bulk — an hour to an hour and a half.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two equal portions. Set 1 aside and cover with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. Shape the other portion into a round by hand.

Place the rolling pin in the center of the round and push outward. Rotate the dough 1/4 turn and repeat. Continue until dough is about 12 inches across.

Where to Knead

When I baked croissants for a living I worked the dough on a heavy farm table. Using the table killed my back, but was my only option. Before I bought my KA I kneaded bread on a kitchen counter (and still do the last bits there) and it killed my shoulders.

I'm 5'7" and a table (at 30 inches) is too low for me, while a counter (at 36 inches) is too high. I think 33 1/2 inches would be perfect for my height and build. Since having a custom baking work area installed in each of the seven homes I've lived in during the past 12 years would have been either impossible or prohibitively expensive, a KA was an excellent investment.

Nevertheless, I still complete my kneading by hand. Some years ago I purchased a bread board from King Arthur Flour and absolutely loved it. Unfortunately, my current kitchen is too small to accommodate it easily. Then I found this large Silpat. It's not as great a surface because it tends to be either too slick or too sticky — often during the same session of kneading. However, it's cheaper than a board, easier to clean up, and rolls up into something that fits in a drawer.

For this first pizza in the series I decided to do a traditional American take: Tomato sauce, cheese, sausage, green pepper, onion, salami, and olives. But it's not quite that simple. After all, if you’re going to the trouble of making your own dough you want to be sure the ingredients are worthy of the dough.

You can find my standard tomato sauce here. It's a rich flavorful sauce and I usually have some in the freezer.

Next I added the four cheeses. I've played around a lot with this to get the right balance and what I arrived at over the years was this for two 10 to 12 inch pizzas:

shredded mozzarella 4 oz | 115 g | 1/2 c | 60 ml
shredded provolone 4 oz | 115g | 1/4 c | 30 ml
shredded sharp cheddar 2 oz | 57 g | 1/4 c | 30 ml
shredded Parmigiano 1.5 oz | 40 g | 1/4 c | 30 ml

Choose a low-fat mozzarella, and an assertive provolone. The cheddar isn't traditional but adds a nice flavor spike. I mix these three cheeses together and sprinkle them over the sauce. Then I add the other toppings and sprinkle the Parmigiano over them because I like the way it looks.

For the other toppings, I used small red and yellow onions that I cut in quarters and then into quarter rounds. I cored the bell pepper, cut half of it into 3/8 inch strips, and then cut each strip in thirds. I like the flavor burst with larger pieces of onion and pepper. The salami was a good one from a deli, and I used my own Italian sausage.
Beth will be posting her pizza dough recipe next Thursday (3/29) and Susan will follow a week later. And for any incipient food photographers out there, we have a Flickr group and would love to see your photos of pizza and other breads as we spend A Year in Bread.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Kevin: Pizza Dough

Settle down folks, settle down. I've never seen so many eager pizza bakers in my life — and my first job was at a Shakey’s Pizza Parlor.

This is real world baking so let's get straight to my screw-up. I planned on making my pizza Tuesday evening, but first I got distracted tweaking this blog's template for the Wednesday launch, and, when I finally got around to making the dough my house was cooler than it should have been (probably around 65F).

In general, this is fine, the dough rises more slowly than it would if the temperature were 72 - 75F, but the slower fermentation (rise) simply imparts greater flavor to the dough. In fact, we'll get into deliberately "retarding" the dough in future recipes (Beth is particularly fond of retarded dough). However, I'd planned on having pizza for supper that night.

Again, no problem. Place the dough in the oven and turn on the oven light. The oven light is typically a 40 watt bulb and generates enough heat in the enclosed oven to promote a fairly quick rise — at least in most ovens, but not in mine, apparently. I've only been here a year and hadn't had a reason until Tuesday to speed up fermentation. Another option is to put a 40 watt bulb in a standard socket attached to an electrical cord and plug into the oven — but I couldn't find mine (not having needed it since moving in here).

At 7:00 pm the first rise wasn't complete and the dough needed another rise before making the pizza. I ate leftovers for supper, and at 8:30 when the dough had finally doubled in size, I punched it down, briefly kneaded it again (to distribute the gluten and eliminate large bubbles), and stuck it in the refrigerator.

Yesterday afternoon at 1:00 I pulled the dough out of the refrigerator and left it sitting on the counter. The dough had, as I expected, risen slightly in the fridge —

Using a Pizza Stone

A pizza stone serves as a heat bank. It's slow to warm up, holds a lot of heat, and is slow to cool down. It's the business of storing a lot of heat that makes a stone so great for pizza and hand-formed loaves of bread. The bottom of the pizza (or bread) gets a huge blast of initial heat and yet, unlike a pan, the stone isn't cooled significantly by the much cooler dough so the heat keeps on cooking. However, you should give the stone at least an hour to heat up fully before baking on it.

A stone is one of the best investments a baker can make — and far cheaper than a Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

before the yeast slowed down in the cold — but not much. Three hours later (at 4:00) the dough and bowl were at room temperature (about 70F, yesterday) and the dough was again rising. By 6:00 it had again doubled in size and was ready to make pizza with.

So, lessons? Making yeast bread of any sort requires patience. Bread is a living, breathing, breeding thing and although you can speed it up (with heat) and slow it down (with cold) it takes time for it to react to the new environment. If you want bread ready at a specific time then you need to plan and control all the factors — this is what I failed to do. You also need to know your options. In this case I didn't know my oven light wouldn't have much effect. I need to find that socket with a plug and know where it is the next time this situation occurs. Knowing what to do is half the battle, but the other half is being able to do it.

I did get my pizza made. The dough has a nicely sweet lilt that accentuates the other ingredients and is wonderfully chewy, but with a nice crack in the base. I ate too much.

Pizza Dough
Adapted from a recipe by Mitch Mandell of Fabulous Foods.

bread flour 3 1/2 c | 0.8 l | 18 oz | 500 g
warm water (between 95 and 115 F/35 and 46C) 1 c | 240 ml | 8.5 oz | 240 g
instant yeast 2 1/4 tsp (1 US pkg) | 11 ml | 1/4 oz | 8 g
honey 2 tbsp | 30 ml | 1 1/4 oz | 36 g
olive oil 1/4 c | 60 ml | 1 1/2 oz | 48 g
salt 1/2 tsp | 8 ml | 1/8 oz | 4 g

Combine the honey, warm water, and oil, stirring to mix. The water should be about 95 to 115° F. It should feel very warm, but not uncomfortably hot.

Put the 3 cups of flour and yeast in the bowl and, using the paddle attachment, mix on low for about 20 seconds. Add the salt and mix on low for another 20 seconds. Note: salt is poisonous to yeast, so you want the yeast well-distributed before adding the salt.

With the motor running on low, pour in the liquids. Continue mixing until a shaggy dough begins to form. Clean off paddle and switch to dough hook. Continue mixing on low until the dough comes together.

Increase speed to medium and knead for eight minutes. The dough should completely clear the sides and bottom within 2 minutes if it is too sticky, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing in thoroughly before determining if more flour is needed. If the dough seems too dry, spritz with water from a spray bottle a couple of times, mixing in thoroughly before determining if more water is needed. continue kneading for 6 minutes. You'll find the dough wraps itself around the hook, so every 2 minutes, stop the machine, scrape the dough off the hook, and then continue kneading.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a few more times by hand to be sure it's tight and elastic. Form the dough into a tight ball.

Wash and dry your mixing bowl then mist it with oil. Place the dough, seam-side down, in the bowl and lightly mist top of dough with baking spray. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise (ferment) in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size — 45 minutes to an hour.

Punch the dough down and transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead for about half a minute, then reshape into a ball. Respray bowl lightly, return dough to bowl, spray, recover, and allow to rise again until doubled in bulk — an hour to an hour and a half.

Heat the oven to 450F (230C).

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two equal portions. Set 1 aside and cover with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. Shape the other portion into a round by hand.

Place the rolling pin in the center of the round and push outward. Rotate the dough 1/4 turn and repeat. Continue until dough is about 12 inches across. Alternatively, you can stretch the dough by hand, which I do. The dough is quite elastic and will want to shrink, so don't rush it. Pause every now and then while shaping (whether by hand or with a rolling pen) to allow the dough to relax.

Coat with sauce, cheese, and toppings. Then, ideally, let the pizzas stand, covered with plastic wrap, for about 30 minutes before baking. This delay highlights the bready character of the dough. Before baking, use a knife to poke holes in any noticable bubbles.
Check back tomorrow for my recipes for sauce and cheese as well as some additional tips.

Updated at 11:12am EST.

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Break bread with us...

Beth: What the heck is the great plot? Susan sent me like two lines: "…baking bread… the three of us" And then she went away.

Kevin: The plot is a joint project between the three of us.

Susan: This was the original message I sent Kevin:

I had an idea yesterday about doing a bread baking thing/ongoing project/whatever with you and maybe Beth if she's interested, but then I realized I was already over my head with commitments, so I didn't tell you about it. Oops.

Beth: That does sound interesting. We have so much fun talking about bread, we really should let others join in. But I actually need to jump offline right now and make pizza to go on the 500 degree baking stone in my oven. Send me mail and we can talk about this's a very cool idea!

Susan: Oh sure, now you leave.

An hour passes...the pizza was excellent.

Kevin: While you were eating pizza, we decided that we could create a blog called "A Year in Bread." One type of bread a month, we each do a recipe, then we discuss our efforts online. It should be very focused, and yet very personal.

Beth: This could be so much fun! Remember when you started baking bread and how nice it was to have someone to talk to about bread?

Kevin: I was about 14 the first time I baked bread. It was a 100% whole wheat brick.

Beth: Ouch.

Kevin: You could have built a house if you had enough of them.

Beth: Hey, I need raised beds built for my garden—you could bake me some. My first bread was challah.

Susan: Was it brick challah? I baked croissant bricks when I was in high school. That seven hour disappointing experience made me terrified of yeast for 10 years.

Beth: No, but then challah is very forgiving. I also stuck with 50% whole wheat for the first few years, until I had a clue what the heck I was doing.

Kevin: Ahem. Back to business. So every month we pick one kind of bread and each of us makes it in turn.

Beth: Do we all use the same recipe, or do we each use our own?

Susan: Doing the same recipe might be interesting…but if we each do our own, then people can try three different approaches to the same thing and see how different recipes actually work.

Beth: Yeah—it will be like having a series of intensives on a dozen kinds of bread.

Kevin: We can still bake each others' recipes if we want. Kind of as extra credit--and as a basis for explaining why our own recipe is superior of course. So...which breads?

A lot has happened since those first chats. Suddenly 12 months seems short. There are so many breads to bake—and so much more to bread than just recipes and baking.

We've had discussions about yeast and flour and how to measure them. We declared whose bread baking books we love and whose we don't like much, followed by a round of confessions of cookbook neglect. (I'm sure that each of us said "Oh! I have a copy of that…but I never use it" at least once. Hopefully we can do something about that.)

We argued the merits of mixing dough by hand or machine, organic ingredients vs. not, whether it's better to try a dozen different recipes or make the same recipe a dozen times—and quickly realized our blog will need to have a special rant section (as well as some serious bread porn).

We all agreed that we should cover sandwich breads, hamburger buns, and rolls that are good for summer barbeques. Then there are sweet rolls, as well as more rustic breads such as a pain a la ancienne and foccacia. Sourdough is a must, as are fancier breads such as challah, baguettes, and brioche. Baking with whole grains will definitely need
to be covered.

Some months we'll do three different recipes, and other months we'll take a pass at the same recipe, such as that now infamous NY Times No-knead bread. But where to start?

Susan: Pizza!

Beth: Hey! I already said pizza—forever ago in a chat.

Kevin: And I was about to.

Susan: That's why we should do pizza first—because it's simple and not as intimidating as bread. Plus everybody loves pizza.

Kevin: Yeah, and when you think of pizza as bread, you get the best pizza.

Three passionate bakers, 12 months, 36 recipes--and more fun than should probably be allowed in the kitchen. Come bake bread with us.


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