Pizza Pointers

For the past several years (at least three), I’ve been using a pizza dough modeled after the lazy pizza dough from Smitten Kitchen.  I say modeled because I use whole wheat flour, adjusted it some , and think of it as a ratio in bakers’ math, rather than a recipe.  The genius of her recipe is in the varying levels of yeast.  I haven’t quite gotten that pinned down to something 100 percent reliable, but do have it close enough for my purposes.

The basic formula is:

100% whole wheat flour

66% water

3% yeast (for a 5-6 hour rise; for a longer rise, this drops to about 2%; for a shorter rise, this goes up to about 4%)

3% salt (for a 5-6 hour rise; for a longer rise, this can stay the same; for a shorter rise, this drops to about 2%)

So, to translate the bakers’ math into the real world, I usually use:

750g whole wheat flour

500g water

20g yeast

20g salt.

Mix together until it forms a ball (should take no more than five minutes), then cover and let rise until you need it.  Time does all the work of developing the gluten for you.  The good news is this is really flexible–if you let this basic amount go for more than six hours, you’re fine (I’ve never let it go more than 12, though–I usually don’t plan that far in advance).  This gets me four good sized pizzas (about 10 inch, depending on how thick I make the crust).

Forming the crust is a bit of an adventure, or can be.  If you’re in a rush, you can divide up the dough (I use about 330g for each crust, based on the 750g flour weight), roll the crust with a rolling pin, and toss it in the oven (at least 500 degrees; hotter is better if you can get it) for about 10-12 minutes, and have dinner.  If you want to be a little more artsy about it, you can form disks, let the gluten relax some, then start hand-tossing.  I find I get the best results when I use a rolling pin to make sure the disks are an even thickness.  If I try to eyeball it, I usually wind up with holes somewhere.  The adventure comes when you let the gluten relax too much–then the dough starts drooping like a Dali clock when you try to toss it, and you wind up with holes.  Just patch the holes and go for it–it’s still really, really tasty.

Around here, broccoli and olive (individually and together) are very popular.  Yellow cherry tomatoes cut in half are also a hit, as are sun-dried tomatoes.  A recent big favorite is a “Salad pizza”, which the crust, no sauce, and a layer of cheese covered with mixed salad greens (a light dusting of cheese on the greens gets really, really crispy and good).  Bake for about 11 minutes, again at 500 (or more), and, after it comes out, hit it with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  I tried it out a few weeks ago to see if the kids would like it, and now they look forward to it every time.  Go figure.