Because lately I have been writing too often about serious stuff, today I will share the result of another type of experiments: the recipe of my favorite pizza dough. I have been experimenting making my own pizza dough for the last three years and I believe I have now found a recipe which yields a good result. The recipe distills and combines the wisdom of three very positive influences, Dan Leppard, Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, and il cucchiaio d’argento.
First of all, I must warn that the procedure takes a bit of discipline but only because timing is always a sensitive matter when baking. However, the procedure in itself is simple and relatively fool proof, in the sense that it is easy to fix if something goes wrong: add a bit of flour or water depending on the thickness of the dough. Moreover, the ingredients are easy to find. I divided the procedure into three steps, each requiring (at least) an hour of waiting/rising time before moving to the next step. Usually, I start Sunday after lunch, say around 13 o’clock, and I take the first pizza out of the oven at 17:30.
- 350 ml water @ room temperature
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 200 g Bread/strong/hard flour (e.g. at least 14% gluten protein)
- 400 g all purpose flour
- 50 g polenta flour
- 20 g of lard (melted bacon fat)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Dissolve the yeast in the water. In a bowl mix all flours and salt, add to the water-yeast mixture and then include the lard. When all ingredients are homogeneously mixed cover the bowl and let rest for 10 minutes. Passed the ten minutes mix or knead for 10 seconds and cover again. After repeating this procedure three times, let the dough rest covered for 1 hour (or longer). For covering the bowl I like to use a plastic shower cap. A wet/humid cloth or lid will do as well. However, the dough will dry if the towel dries or if the lid lets air through. As a consequence a film/skin like layer will form on the surface of the dough, which is not very pleasant. Also, a perfect spot to place the dough to rise is the top of a drier, if you have a wash needing to get dry.
Optional kneading step
Since I love kneading the dough, at this stage but before letting the dough to rest for an hour, I knead it for a while. The amount of time I knead varies from 0 seconds to 15 minutes. If I do knead I spread a little olive oil on my palms and fingers and knead until it the dough absorbs it. I repeat this procedure 0 or 6 times depending on my ‘kneading mood’. I guarantee I cannot say I notice a difference in the elasticity of the dough from when I do the kneading or when I skip it. However, I do enjoy the feeling of handling the malleable dough with greasy hands. This kneading step does somehow improve your dough because by adding oil the pizza will become more crunchy when baked than when less or no (extra) oil (or fat) is added. However, skipping this step has fewer disastrous consequences than, for example, forgetting the salt.
Extract the dough from the bowl and cut it into four approximately equal parts (or into five parts if you like smaller pizzas). Roll the parts into balls and lay to rest on a top sprinkled with flour. Cover the balls with a humid cloth. The length of the interval I leave the dough to rest/rise depends on what I have to do and varies from one-half hour to two hours if, for example, I have to go and do the weekly groceries. Forming the balls before letting the dough rise at this step facilitates making the pizza in the shape of a circle later on when flattening the dough into a pizza.
I like the pizza best when it has a thick crust. Getting a thick crust is only a matter of flattening the dough in the right manner. I achieve the best result using this procedure: on a floured surface I flatten the balls of pizza dough starting from the center pushing toward the border using the tip of my fingers (i.e. the distal phalanges). Once I pressed down I rotate the ball a bit and I flatten the dough again. I keep rotating and flattening until the pizza has the desired size and thickness. This step takes a bit of practice, but if you fail miserably you can always renounce to the crust and use the rolling pin.
Garnish with your favorite toppings and bake for 10-15 at the maximum temperature your oven can do (I assume a maximum temperature of 300 degrees, if your oven can go higher the baking time is shorter). I usually put a pizza in the oven every 5 minutes so that we get a freshly baked pizza almost immediately after we finished eating the current one.
That is it. Of course there is room for variations but I will leave those for a later revision.