Rod and I swapped a few emails yesterday about the perfect pizza dough. We've been talking about different flours, additives and techniques to achieve the perfect crust.
It was a great conversation, because the only thing I love more than pizza is getting all geeky about flour and fermentation. But then I realized that, of all the things I've done to perfect my pizza process over the years, 85% of the awesomeness comes from one thing.
The secret? Relaxation.
A relaxed pizza dough is easy to spread out or toss. You can make a paper thin crust with little effort, but still get a great spring in the oven.
If made well, your relaxed pizza dough can bring incredible flavour to the party as well.
The good news is that making a relaxed, delicious pizza dough takes very little effort. All it takes is time.
Here's what I do:
For a 450g dough ball, enough for a 13" pizza, combine:
- 260g Unbleached White Flour
- 5g Salt
- 1g Instant Yeast (a small pinch)
- 13g Olive Oil
- 190g lukewarm water (70F - 75F)
Make sure everything is very well mixed. You don't necessarily have to knead it, but you want a consistently wet, loose, sticky dough with no lumps.
Then transfer the shaggy dough ball to a large, lightly greased bowl (I use cooking spray) and cover with plastic wrap.
Leave the dough on the counter for 90 minutes. Every 30 minutes, take the dough out of the bowl, give it a fold and place it back in the bowl.
The first two times you fold the dough, it will be rough and sticky, so lube your hands up a bit. After the final fold, you should notice that the dough is much smoother and stronger than when you started.
After the 90 minutes, place the bowl in your refrigerator overnight. Or freeze it until the day you want to make pizza (just take it out and place in the fridge in the morning and it'll be thawed by supper time.)
While the dough is resting, both on your counter and then in the refrigerator, amazing things are happening. Enzymes in the flour are breaking down the starch into sugars, which taste great and will brown your crust. Gluten proteins are forming long chains which give your dough strength and tenacity, but the long rest times are also allowing these chains to untangle themselves so the dough ball will also be loose and extensible when you spread it out.
When you're ready to eat, preheat your oven to as hot it will go and get your toppings ready. Let the dough ball warm up to room temperature for 20 minutes then either spread it on a pan or toss and place on a peel if you have a baking stone. Top and bake for 15-20 minutes.
Pizza dough is easy to make -- all it takes is time -- but if you're in a hurry we have frozen dough balls at the bakery. Pick up a few for your freezer and you'll never be far from great homemade pizza.
Photo by British Mum