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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Blogger Kat said...

I don't have a problem with 3 risings....tho sometimes my third one might be a little quick!

Technical question: I signed up for A Year in Bread but the updates don't come to my mailbox. I have to go and click on the website to get them. Is this the way it's supposed to work?

3/23/2007 5:56 PM  
Blogger a year said...

"my third one might be a little quick!"

Turn on your oven and give it an hour to heat. Make the pizza, when the oven's hot cook it.

"I signed up for A Year in Bread but the updates don't come to my mailbox."

We've got a number of "sign-up" options. Which did you click on?

3/23/2007 6:16 PM  
Blogger lucette said...

I got a pizza stone for Xmas, and have been wanting to try it out. This nicely detailed post is a good excuse. I'll report back if it goes well.

3/23/2007 7:39 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

If you hang around here it will end up as ugly and discolored and beloved as mine. I regard it as an essential bread-baking tool.

3/23/2007 8:10 PM  
Blogger oopsydeb said...

I love the idea of being able to post photos on Flickr. I wish I would have taken a picture of last night's pizza, though it wasn't as pretty as it was tasty.

We really loved the crust. Kevin, your description of it under "too hard?" is perfect. Absolutely great. We've got some in the freezer for Sunday or Monday dinner.

I also did not get anything via email, though I subscribed with my email address.

3/23/2007 8:55 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

One of the cool things about AYIB is that it will force me to go back and revisit earlier recipes, as this post did. That really is a great dough.

And I'll investigate the mailing stuff this weekend.

3/23/2007 9:27 PM  
Blogger oopsydeb said...

Your new posts also are not showing up in my google reader subscription, so you might want to check into that as well.

3/24/2007 9:43 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...


I'll check into it. Thanks for the heads-up.

3/24/2007 9:55 AM  
Anonymous Kyle said...

I just joined in linking from a friends blog.

I was hoping you could speak a bit about baking stones. Certainly there are ones out there that are better than others. When purchasing, what characteristics are important to look for? Do you have a favorite you can recommend? why is it your favorite.

It sounds like they are important, I would like to get a good one.

3/24/2007 2:53 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Great question. Any markings my stone might have had have long since cooked off (it's about 15 years old) but it's a rectangular stone 16.5 x 14.5. It accomodates a large pizza or two loaves of bread.

I checked Cooks Illustrated and they did a review in 2003. They tested seven stones and found little difference in their performance. However they noted that a lip gets in the way of a peel, and also recommended a stone the size of mine as ideal.

3/24/2007 5:04 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Susan just pointed this stone out to me. She recommends it and it looks exactly like my stone.

3/24/2007 6:02 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

We have been making homemade pizza for a while now, not really following exact recipes, just flour, yeast & water with whatever additives we had seen most recently like honey, wine, or olive oil. Tried your recipe yesterday as was pretty pleased although it wasn't as crispy as some of previous versions. I think I am going to continue to experiment. Great site though, I hope to tag along all year.

3/25/2007 2:51 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Please tag along, we're going to be doing a lot of baking.

3/25/2007 7:24 PM  
Blogger s'kat said...


New oven was installed this morning, but now we have a gas-leak and can't use it at all.

Of course, the repair man will be coming tomorrow for this 'emergency' call... between the hours of 8 a.m.- 5 p.m.

I am dying to make some pizza!!!!!

3/26/2007 2:33 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Poor lass, I really feel for you.

3/26/2007 3:10 PM  
Blogger Chel said...

mmm, yummy! ours had canadian bacon, salami, onion, roma tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh baby spinach, and Kevin's mixture of cheese. One had a pesto base (thawed a pesto cube from the freezer), the other a tomato sauce base. I still have half the cheese and meat packages in the freezer as a "pizza kit" for later. Also froze the extra sauce in my muffin pans to I can pop those out later, too. Seems that 3 of them is perfect for 2 pizzas. I'll put pix on the flicker page.

3/26/2007 3:31 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Thanks for the feedback! And for posting the photos.

3/26/2007 3:38 PM  
Blogger oopsydeb said...

We're having our 2nd pizza tonight. We had frozen the second half of dough, wrapped twice in cling wrap and then put in a freezer bag. We took it out this morning to thaw. We forgot to unwrap it. Late afternoon I noticed that it was rising again, and had actually busted a seam of the freezer bag. I took it out of the bag but wasn't thinking clearly, kept it wrapped, and didn't put it in the fridge. Fast forward five hours when my partner returns home (I was at work). The dough had busted through the double layer of saran wrap, oozing out in several places, crawling across the counter a bit. I scolded him for not taking photos.

We topped it tonight with tomato sauce (more of it than we used last time), sauteed spinach and mushrooms, carmelized onions, green olives, fresh mozarella cheese, and grated parmesan. I know--probably a weird combo for some of you but we like it.

Verdict? WOW! Excellent. One thing we like about this crust is that it stands up so well to being loaded up. You still get that wonderful crispy bottom. This batch wasn't as "bready" as the last (I'm guessing because of all the rising on the counter during the day). We like it both ways. If we weren't expecting another recipe later this week, we'd be making another batch of this for the freezer.

3/26/2007 9:52 PM  
Blogger a year said...

"The dough had busted through the double layer of saran wrap"

I warned you.{G} A photo would heve been great.

"Verdict? WOW! Excellent."

It does freeze well. I need to experiment a bit (if I can manage to find space in my freezer) and see if I can make and freeze a whole pizza. My clients would love it.

3/27/2007 7:49 AM  
Anonymous Robin Medici said...

Kevin - The dough made two nice size pizzas Friday evening and I really like this dough - and the third rising is a must since I ended up with a nice 1/2 inch crust all around without any thin spots, or soggy from sauce issues. Sauce was a nice change from simple tomato and we topped ours with pepperoni, mushrooms, onions and peppers. I froze the second pizza (fully cooked) and am looking forward to an indulgent lunch today. This recipe is difinitely a keeper! Robin

3/27/2007 10:19 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I agree abou the third, short rise. And it also makes the dough taste better.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Beth ans Susan offer.

3/27/2007 11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made my two pizzas on Thursday, and we ate all but 1/2 of one. I reheated that on Sunday night in the oven on the pizza stone, and it was really good, the dough was crisp on the bottom and it tasted as good as when I first made it. The pizza dough recipe is a keeper. judyinknoxville

3/27/2007 2:20 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I like that the crsut does develope a crisp crackling base and yet isn't creacker-like in character.

I'm looking forward to trying out Beth and Susan's recipes.

3/27/2007 3:26 PM  
Blogger Darlene said...

I can't see the recipe for the pizza dough at the website. Anyone else having the same problem? Everyone's comments makes it sound yummy! Can't wait.

3/27/2007 7:09 PM  
Blogger kitchenmage said...

Darlene, the recipe is in this post:

Kevin: Pizza Dough

If you can't get there for some reason, drop me a note (kitchenMage(at)gMail(dot)com) and I'll mail it to you.

3/27/2007 7:16 PM  
Blogger kitchenmage said...

s'kat, is your oven working yet? my recipe is up tomorrow and I'm hoping you're back in the game...

3/28/2007 7:33 PM  
Anonymous expat said...

Good morning, y'all.

I just got an email alerting me to the new post of Beth's pizza dough, but when I clicked on the link it doesn't seem to be there.

Did I do something wrong or is there a bug in the system?

Thanks for any help!

3/29/2007 2:17 AM  
Blogger kitchenmage said...


That's just Kevin getting ahead of me. My article is brushing its hair in preparation for posting. Give me just a bit and it will be here!

3/29/2007 3:11 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Sorry about that. I'll adjust the mailing time in the future.

3/29/2007 9:03 AM  
Blogger alamobecky said...

While possibly not as good as four freshly grated cheeses, Trader Joe's offers up a four-cheese Mediterranean blend that is absolutely delicious on my pizzas . . .

3/30/2007 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW! It is soooo good!! I made three, two regular crust and one thin. I also use 100% whole wheat berries that I grind myself. I used my scale to measure weight and it seemed to work out great. I am sure it is lovely with white flour but we just don't usually have it on hand. I am very impressed! I have been trying to find just the right crust so this month of pizza dough is fabulous! I have a question, do you usually measure or weigh your ingredients? I weighed mine this time but I usually don't and was wondering if I should start. Thanks so very much!

3/30/2007 7:58 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

"I also use 100% whole wheat berries that I grind myself."

Good to know. We've been debating about whole wheat dough, and are generally doubtful.

As for measurements. Personally I don't care -- cups or ounces. I judge the hydration level by feel. I'm not looking for an absolutely dependable process when I make bread, I'm looking for an instinctual understanding of bread.

3/30/2007 8:43 PM  
Blogger winedeb said...

You are the MAN! It well I could not believe it! At first I was worried becuase the dough seemed so tough and hard. But after the risings and kneadings, it was such a wonderful dough to play with and I made a complete round pizza!!!! And... the pizza stone worked as well. I let that dude heat up at 450 for an hour and no sticking. You have one happy camper in Key West. Now going to tackle Beth's. I will post a photo or so when I figure out flicker. Thanks!

4/02/2007 9:07 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I'm glad it worked.

4/02/2007 9:35 AM  

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