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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Anonymous expat said...


Thanks for keeping it real! Thanks, too for the metric measurements!!

Stuff like that happens to me all the time; although I tend to go into a tizzy about it. It's reassuring to know I'm not the only one who is time/dough temperature challenged in this way sometimes!

Great explainations of process and trouble-shooting!!

By the way -- dumb question, but what, exactly, is baking spray?

3/22/2007 3:54 AM  
Blogger Joanna said...

WONDERFUL to have all the alternative weights and measures, that will make this website a real resource for bakers everywhere ... THANK YOU


3/22/2007 5:52 AM  
Blogger Joufknister said...

Looks beautiful. So nice to hear what can go wrong!! This is on my agenda Friday! Thanks so much! By the way I found you again by chance the other day searching for potato skins!

3/22/2007 8:16 AM  
Blogger DM said...

Great article and I'm liking the blog in general. However, your RSS feeds seem to not be updating....

3/22/2007 8:38 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I had this piece written last Sunday, and then, as they say, shit happened, so I rewrote it last night before posting.

Pizza dough is particularly forgiving, but all yeast doughs can be cajoled.

One our earliest discussions back in January was about the need to provide weights and volumes in US and metric measurements.

Bread really isn't hard, but it can be intimidating at first. This seemed like a perfect "teaching moment." And for the next year you all have three bakers ready to answer questions.

DM, thannks for the heads-up, I'll check into it.

3/22/2007 9:28 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

My house was temperature challenged all winter. And it wasn't really possible to get my dough near the stove and feel that it was safe from critters. I keep a heating pad under the bowl during the rise, with a floursack towl draped over the top of it all to keep the heat in (plastic wrap on the dough). When I tried the damp towel method it stayed too cold. I keep my little thermometer poked in the dough so I can watch the temp. Summer will be a completely opposite story, I'm sure. I'll probably have to use the damp towel to keep the dough from rising too fast!

3/22/2007 9:48 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I've heard of the heating pad trick, but haven't used it myself. I ran across and article somewhere about calculations you can make to determine rising times based on dough temperature, ambient temperature, and the specific yeast you're using -- but I've never bothered.

3/22/2007 10:33 AM  
Anonymous JayP said...


I was happy to see you chose pizza dough for your first bread. I've been working on getting a "just right" recipe for a while now - my current one is pretty close to what you posted.

I'll show my bread baking ignorance with this question, though. Is instant yeast different from active dry yeast?

Thanks for this blog - I'm really looking forward to all the yummy breads!

3/22/2007 11:47 AM  
Blogger bee ( said...

what a fabulous blog. i have you on my blogroll.

3/22/2007 11:49 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Instant yeast (also called bread machine yeast) is more vigorous than active yeast. It is bred specifically to be added to the dry ingredients, skipping the stage of dissolving the yeast in warm water -- also known as "proofing" the yeast.

However, two things are going on in proofing, first you're dissolving and waking up the yeast do that it's evenly distributed in the dough, but proofing also involves waiting for the yeast to start bubbling, which "proves" it's alive. Unless your yeast is old there's no need to proof it these days.


3/22/2007 12:16 PM  
Anonymous oopsydeb said...

So happy to see the first recipe. We haven't made pizza dough for ages, so we'll try this over the weekend.

I just started baking bread in January. We keep our house between 62 and 65 in the winter, so I've been using the oven light trick for most of my breads. I'll now be grateful that mine gives off some warmth.

3/22/2007 12:32 PM  
Blogger oopsydeb said...

Oops--I meant to ask this question in my first comment.

I have a spiral dough hook on my KA stand mixer, and I've read some reports that kneading times should be shorter with the spiral hook compared to the C hook. Can you tell us which type of hook you are using? Should we be doing the window pane test, or checking a temperature, to know if we have sufficiently kneaded? (sorry for what may be terribly basic Qs--novice here!).


3/22/2007 12:57 PM  
Blogger Helene said...

Just found out about your project and I am loving the idea!
Can't wait to bake along with you and read more.

3/22/2007 1:13 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I have a C hook, in fact I didn't know KA offered a spiral hook.

According to Jeffrey Hamelman in Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes a spiral hook is more efficient and so you shouldn't knead as long. Hamelman offers factors for calculating temperture and friction, but I don't bother with it because I find the feel of the dough is a better determiner of whetheer or not the dough is ready to rise.

At a guess, I would reduce the kneading time by half and finish kneading by hand. After you've made several loaves you'll get a better feel for how long to use the mixer for kneading.


3/22/2007 1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pizza dough emergency. In scanning the recipe to see if I needed to purchase anything, I thought it only made one 12" pizza; soooooo, I decided to double the recipe. We like leftovers, and I was thinking of inviting the neighbors for a piece. It looks like I have enough dough to start a pizzeria. ha At what stage can I freeze this, or can I? judy

3/22/2007 2:02 PM  
Blogger oopsydeb said...

Thanks for the quick response Kevin. I actually have done my last few loaves completely by hand in hopes that it will help me understand the doughs a bit better. But, I want to get back to the KA for at least some dough making.

I think the spiral hook is relatively new for KA mixers. It comes standard with the Pro 5 Plus and Pro 600 models but not with the Artisan and Classic models.

3/22/2007 2:05 PM  
Blogger Monkey Wrangler said...

Nice post Kevin. I deeply appreciate the use of mistake in your cooking lesson. It speaks to the average home cook (me) about the everyday kitchen blunders. But more, thanks for the lesson in learning from those mistakes. Like knowing your oven. (i've learned it the hard way, mine runs 86-ish degrees with the pilot light alone when closed for a while)

Looks like we're havin' peet-za tonight!

btw: Sweet metric usage too!

3/22/2007 2:10 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Freeze it after the 2nd rise. It freezes beautifully, but wrap it tightly in a couple of layers of plastic wrap and then put it in a ziplock bag and squeeze the air out.

To thaw it, I unwrap it and put it in a lightly greased bowl covered with plastic on the counter-top. It will take most of the day to thaw completely.

Even though I use the KA for 95% of the kneading, I still always finish by hand.

"mine runs 86-ish degrees with the pilot light alone

And that's hotter than you want for fermentation, so you need to play around with adjusting the resting temperature downwards.

3/22/2007 2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Kevin. It's about through the first rise, I was hoping I didn't need to freeze before it rose. I'm putting half in the freezer for another day. yippee, I don't have to go begging pizza crust at the Fresh Market anymore. They weren't all that good anyway. judyinknoxville

3/22/2007 2:33 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

Alternative to Oven Light Trick

I have an electric range/oven. The back right burner/eye (depend on where you're from) acts as the oven vent. I place my bowl of dough with a towel on top to rise on that spot and turn the oven on Warm for maybe 20 minutes or so then shut it off and let it coast. The heat rises and vents out of that opening under the bowl. Lately, I've been putting a plate under the bowl to dissipate some of the heat. This seems to work well since my house is around 67 F during the winter.

Paul the Pizza Eatin' Monster in Athens, GA USA

3/22/2007 2:37 PM  
Blogger winedeb said...

OK, my turn. I am going to try this on Sat. No problem with the heat issue as I am in Key West. Maybe I am jumping the gun here but previously I have had trouble with my dough shrinking as I am rolling it out, even though I am patient. Next, it always sticks to my stone, even though I have tried cornmeal, no cornmeal, flour etc. Any help in that area would be greatly appreciated. Your site is great and you are explaining things which is what I need. Cool!

3/22/2007 2:49 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

The honey gives it just a touch of sweetness which plays nicely against savory ingredients, and the double rise makes it taste even more bready.

"Lately, I've been putting a plate under the bowl to dissipate some of the heat."

That's a good idea. I've tried the trick (years ago) and didn't like the direct heat against the base of the bowl

3/22/2007 3:08 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

My guess is your stone isn't hot enough. A stone takes a good hour to get hot all the way through. My biggest sticking problem has been the pizza not sliding smoothly off the peel. My solution has been to put a piece of parchment paper on the peel, then slide the paper and pizza onto the stone. This would also solve your problem if the problem happens to be with your stone and not with getting the stone hot enough.

3/22/2007 3:14 PM  
Blogger oopsydeb said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/22/2007 6:29 PM  
Blogger oopsydeb said...

Well we just had a wonderful carmelized onion, mushroom, and goat cheese pizza. The crust was great! Thanks for getting us out of our lazy store bought tortilla as crust slump!

3/22/2007 6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Put two in the freezer, and made two; they were delicious, but I want a slice of the carmelized onion, mushroom, and goat cheese one too. Doing a little whining here because my husband does not like to try different things. Sooooo, we had tomato, sweet peppers, mushroom, pepperoni, with a good mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Then I did 1/2 with just tomato and cheese for my neighbor (per her request). She loved it. Interested in how others topped their's, and what order they put them on the pizza. I'm looking for something I can sneak in on my hubby. ha judyinknoxville

3/22/2007 7:07 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Sounds excellent. Thanks for the feedback from you and Judi.

3/22/2007 8:05 PM  
Blogger kitchenmage said...

Kevin, although I'm thrilled everyone is loving your crust, this is one tough act to follow! This has been an amazing thread and I'm jazzed some folks are making it today. They are hungry for pizza!

3/23/2007 2:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I make pizza all the time using the instant yeast. I turn on my oven for about a minute or two to warm it up, then turn it off. I put the dough in there to rise. Don't know what temperature it is, but it works.

3/23/2007 7:24 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Who knew so many people were feeling pizza-deprived?

I've done that as well.

You still don't have an oven? I'd be going crazy by now.

3/23/2007 9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kevin-
Re: 830 ml of water--that's nearly 4 cups I think!

3/23/2007 9:21 AM  
Anonymous srhcb said...

An oven makes a good "proofing box" but the light alone won't ever warm it up.

You need to turn the oven on for a short period of time (45-60 sec for most electric ovens) and then the light will be able to maintain a good rising temperature of 80-85 F.

3/23/2007 11:55 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

"An oven makes a good "proofing box" but the light alone won't ever warm it up."

As I said, in most electric ovens the light will bump the temperature to around 72F (22C). According to Jeffrey Hamelman the ideal temperature for fermenting a wheat dough is between 75 and 78F (24 - 26C). Dan Leader prefers 80F, but notes that lower temperatures promote greater flavor depth, as does Rose Bernenbaum.

Bread will rise in a 40F (4C) refrigerator -- but very slowly. My experience, and the consensus among authorities, is that a slower rise produces a better bread. Be patient, you'll be glad you were.

3/23/2007 2:36 PM  
Anonymous zorra said...

I preheat my electric oven for 1 minute, turn it off (also the light). So it has the right temperture for my doughs to rise.

3/26/2007 7:54 AM  
Anonymous Carol said...

I couldn't find where you answered expat's question about baking spray. My remaining can of what I think you're talking about labels itself as "cooking spray" (which is generic PAM - oil, water, lecithin, +/- alcohol; in an aerosol can).

I've had a problem over the years with this type of product leaving a nasty, brown film on bakeware that seems impossible to remove. I've switched to the pump sprayers available at cooking stores. I keep two in my pantry - one filled with regular oil and one with olive oil (I love it for spraying a thin layer of olive oil over a pizza crust when making a white pizza).

3/26/2007 1:05 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Carol & Expat,
Yes, "ccoking spray" -- oil in an arerisol can is what I meant by "baking spray." My apologies.

3/26/2007 3:12 PM  
Blogger kitchenmage said...

anon, yes! the conversion on the water is off... it's closer to 360-375ml, I think.

3/28/2007 4:08 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Anon & Beth,
Thanks for catching that, I mistyped at some point. It should be 240 ml. It's corrected now.

3/28/2007 8:29 AM  
Blogger ktgin said...

Is this freezable? If so, how would you do it? We made this the other night and my husband loved it and wondered if I could make extra dough and freeze it for easy access to make more pizza.

3/29/2007 5:36 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Absolutely. Form it into a ball, wrap the ball in palstic, then put the ball in a ziplock freezer bag. To thaw it, unwrap it at least 12 hours in advance, and thaw it in a large, covered bowl in the refrigerator.

3/30/2007 10:34 AM  
Blogger Ms. Jan said...

I love the recipe! I've been weighing my dry ingredients (in metrics) lately and was wondering if the liquids listed in grams is a weight as well. It just seems so much more accurate to me. Thanks!!

3/31/2007 8:03 PM  
Blogger kitchenmage said...

Ms. Jan, I can say that in my recipe, this is the case - liquids measured in grams are by weight. I'm guessing this is the case with Kevin's too. Weighing is so much easier!

4/01/2007 12:34 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Ms Jan,
Yes, grams and ounces are always weight in our recipes -- including for liquids.

4/01/2007 9:30 AM  
Anonymous Artemis said...

Finally I had a chance to make dough yesterday and just have to say I love the elasticity of your dough Kevin! It was a joy to roll out.

It was a rainy day here so I weighed everything out and then just for satisfying curiosity I measured the flour by volume. Big difference!

I also used traditional dry yeast and proofed it in 1/4 cup water with a little bit of the honey to feed it.

I topped the first pizza with a mix of crushed tomatoes and bottled chili garlic sauce, roasted garlic, and then sauteed mushrooms, sweet onions and chorizo (OK I admit I had that in the fridge from something else, I used up the leftovers) and parmesan and mozzarella. I call it My Baby Likes It Hot!

4/17/2007 2:40 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I'm really glad it worked for you, and the toppings sound excellent.

4/17/2007 3:30 PM  
Blogger BreadBox said...

I am curious about your comment on the salt and the yeast: unless I am fermenting the dough without the salt for any time, I always distribute the salt into the flour so that *it* is not concentrated before adding the yeast -- although usually I start with a poolish or a biga first, so this isn't an issue, is there a good reason to mix the yeast with the flour, then the salt rather than the other way around?


9/05/2007 10:12 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I don't think the order matters: yeast first or salt first, the result is the same.

9/05/2007 12:18 PM  
Blogger terminals-blocks said...

tq for ur's very interesting Metal zipper.....

5/13/2008 4:37 AM  
Anonymous Suzanne said...

I made this pizza dough tonight. One pepperoni and cheese, one caramelized onions, brown beech mushrooms and cheese. They were tremendous. I added 2 TB of ground flax seed to the dough, and after the punch down stage, I stored it in the fridge till an hour before I needed it. I preheated the stone in that hour as well. I have to mix my doughs in the morning while my baby sleeps, so this refrigerator rise step is a familiar one to me.

7/10/2009 8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"(Beth is particularly fond of retarded dough)." Lol!

5/05/2010 2:42 PM  

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