Monday, March 1, 2010

Awesome pizza crust

I think it's safe to say that most people love pizza. I do! And I have had mixed results with my attempts to make decent homemade pizza dough... usually because I don't quite follow the directions. Heh...

But I had success this time, and I'll tell you what I did. I dusted off the pizza stone we got for our wedding 7 1/2 years ago, and I used a combination of sourdough, soaked dough, and a little bit of commercial yeast. It just required a bit of advance planning, but boy, was it worth it. It also helped to have my parents here, so that, when I smoked up the house heating up the pizza stone, Grandma Linda was able to take Judah outside to play in the snow. I think it got so smoky because I washed off the stone right before I put it in the oven to heat up. Bad idea.

The dough recipe came from "Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads"--thanks to Kristin F. for recommending the book! It took me a while to get going with it, but what I've tried so far has turned out well! There are a few steps involved, but it's really not that time consuming... it's just a lot of waiting, during which time, you can be multi-tasking! It takes about an entire 24 hour period.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Makes two medium sized pizzas (or they could be large if you stretched out the crust more)
Three parts: Soaker, Sourdough, Final Dough

Part One: Soaker
1. Make the Soaker 12-24 hours before you want to use it. Mix the following ingredients in a bowl for about one minute, until the flour is hydrated and the ingredients form a ball:
  • 1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour, preferably fine grind
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 2 T. whey -- (This is my personal change. It actually calls for 3/4 c. + 2 T. water, but I substitute in the whey to give an acidic medium for help in breaking down the flour to make it more digestible. It also calls for 1/2 t. salt, but I don't add that in until the final mixing since salt inhibits the fermentation process... since fermenting is what I'm actually doing with this soaker. Peter Reinhart makes the soaker for flavor, which is great, but I also look at this soaker to help with breaking down the phytic acid in the flour... in case I haven't mentioned this before, the phytic acid binds with other minerals in the body and doesn't allow the body to absorb them! That's why I'm so anal about soaking things...)
2. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature 12-24 hours. If want to have it ready by the next afternoon, I'll usually mix it up in the early evening.

Part Two: Sourdough Starter
1. Make the sourdough starter dough. In Peter Reinhart's book, he gives you a choice of using either a "biga" (a slowly fermented dough with added commercial yeast) or you can substitute in a wild yeast starter dough, which is what I did.
  • 5 T. wild yeast starter (aka sourdough)
  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. + 2 T. water
Mix these ingredients to form a ball of dough. Using wet hands, knead dough for about two minutes in the bowl. The dough should feel very tacky. Let dough rest five minutes, then knead again with wet hands for one minute. The dough will be smoother, but still tacky.

2. Place starter dough in oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap, leaving at room temp. for 4-8 hours, until doubled in size. What I did was I made this dough in the morning about 8:30 then put the bowl in the oven with the light on. It keeps the oven between 80-85 degrees Farenheit, and helps with the rising, especially in this colder weather.

3. When the starter has developed, knead it for a few seconds to degas it. I use it immediately, but you could refrigerate it at this point to use at a later date, within 3-4 days. If you do put in fridge, make sure you take it out two hours before you use it to take off the chill.

Part Three: Final Dough
1. About 3:00 in the afternoon, I mixed up the final dough. Cut the sourdough and soaker together. In the book, it says to cut it up into 12 pieces, sprinkle with flour so they don't stick together, and mix together. What I do is stack them on top of each other and cut with a kitchen scissors, and then sprinkle these ingredients on top:
  • 7 T. whole wheat flour (I used sprouted flour)
  • 1 1/8 t. sea salt
  • 1 1/2 t. instant yeast
  • 2 1/4 t of honey (this is optional, I didn't use it)
  • 2 T. olive oil (I used coconut oil)
Knead these all together for about 2 minutes, until all ingredients are mixed evenly. Dough sould be soft and slightly sticky, if not add more flour.

2. Knead for an additional 3-4 minutes so dough is very tacky, verging on sticky. Form into ball and let rest on counter for 5 minutes. In the mean time, I got two pieces of parchment paper ready with some oil spread on them.

3. Knead for another minute to strengthen the gluten, then separate the dough into two balls.

4. Shape the dough. I form it into a disc and let gravity help me out, as I hang onto the edge and just move around the circle as the dough pulls down until it gets to the right size. Lay each circle on your parchment paper, and top with desired toppings.

5. Slide pizza onto the preheated stone (It should have been preheating for an hour at 500 degrees). I used a flat airbake cookie sheet to slide my parchment paper and pizza onto the stone. After 2 minutes check if pizza needs to be rotated for even baking. The pizza should take 5-8 minutes to bake. It's so awesome to see how the crust puffs up! Practice some self restraint--it's hard, I know-- but wait 3-5 minutes before cutting to let the cheese set, and so you won't burn your tastebuds off.

Those are the basic instructions. You may want to check this book out from the library, or buy it to get really specific instructions and lots of great helpful pictures. Also, I am going to try not using instant yeast next time I make this. I just tried baking a loaf of bread with a soaker and a sourdough starter, and mixed the two together without any commercial yeast, and it raised most awesomely, just took a little more time than with commercial yeast. And tasted awesome. So... I'll probably post about that later... too many ideas, so little time!

Sorry my photo skills are lacking, but this gives you an idea what it looked like before we devoured it. The parchment paper got crispy, but it sure made the whole sliding thing easier.

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