Pizza Dough

I will never use frozen pizza dough again. (Not if I can help it, I mean)

My Kitchen Aid mixer came with a dough hook, they usually do, and usually the hook ends up living in the drawer or a bin downstairs because what the heck are you supposed to do with it? Duh, make dough, right, but who does that?

Well my friend Danny Krack did, in his Kitchen Aid, and posted about it on Facebook, and I thought well wait a minute, I have a Kitchen Aid, I have a dough hook. I can do this. I searched out a couple recipes and gave it a whirl.

(Forehead smack) I'm an idiot. Frozen dough has been pissing me off all these years and finally I figure out that making pizza dough is stupidly easy and results in a much better homemade pizza.

Easy. Stupid easy. Watch

Stupid Easy Pizza Dough

  • 1 1/4 oz package active dry yeast (and I can't believe I found some in my cabinets, and it expired in like 2009 so I can't believe it actually worked!)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups flour (could be more, just keep the flour nearby)

Put the warm water in the mixing bowl.  Add the yeast and sugar and let sit until foamy.  I got really anxious here because I was using such old yeast. But sure enough, it foamed up. I love when things work.

Fit the hook onto the mixer, add a cup of flour, lower the hook and mix. Keep adding flour a cup at a time, along with the salt and the olive oil. It will be a mess first, but then the dough will start to come together. Scrape down the sides with a spatula when you need to. The goal is to have it pull cleanly away from the bowl. In the end, I probably used closer to 5 cups flour.

By the way, you could also add some dried or fresh herbs to the dough for an extra-special pizza.

Empty the dough into an oiled mixing bowl (I just sprayed mine with Pam).  Cover with a dish towel and leave it to rise. How long? I don't know, I started this in the mixer around 1:00 and left it be until at least 4:00. It's supposed to double in bulk but I have to be honest, I can't say mine rose that much. Then again, I was using very old yeast.

Sprinkle flour on a cutting board. Dump the dough out and dust more flour on top.  Punch the dough down and knead it, just a little. You don't want to handle it too too much. Divide it into two pieces and form each piece into a ball, making it as smooth as possible by tucking all the "ends" underneath. Leave the two balls on the cutting board and cover with the towel again. Let rise another hour or so.

And then you are ready to make pizza!  Preheat your oven to 450. Stretch the dough out on an oiled baking tray (or a pizza stone if you have one). Add your sauce and cheese and herbs and whatnot, go to town. Bake for 10-15 minutes depending on your oven and your preferred doneness. I found 10 minutes too short, and 15 too long. 12 minutes was the magic number.

Slice, serve, and watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

Doing this brought back a lot of memories. Dough was life at the Alfred Sub Shop & Pizzeria. The downstairs dough room housed an industrial mixer, three huge refrigerators, and a thousand hotel-size baking trays. The dough was divided into small, medium and large portions, laid out on the well-oiled-and-floured trays and slid into racks within the refrigerators. During a typical eight hour shift on Friday or Saturday night, you'd lug up a dozen or more trays up the stairs, offloading the dough into drawers built into the side of the pizza table. The empty trays would be stacked by the sink along with all the other pots, pans, bowls and detritus of an evening's work, until someone could break free long enough to wash the Herculean load, then you'd bring the trays back downstairs and bring more dough up.

It was the pizza workers' job to make the 5-gallon buckets of sauce, according to a recipe contrived by the owner's mother and from which you did not deviate by so much as a quarter teaspoon. But a woman named Crystal made the dough, sometimes with her mother's help, but usually just herself, starting at four in the morning.  

If you were making your way home from an epic party, or engaging in some form of the Walk of Shame, you'd see light shining in the basement windows of the sub shop and you knew Crystal was at it. And if you were in a bad way, that light was a honing beacon to a safe place, a warm cave of flour, water and yeast. Not bread, but close enough. You could cut through the parking lot of Key Bank and tap on the back door, the workers' entrance, giving it a push to see if it was open. It usually was, and poking your head in you could hear the whine of the mixers, or the scrape of metal against metal, overlaid with a dim hum of music from a well-floured boom box that lived down there.  

"Crystal?" you would call, with an undertone of "Mom?"

"Down here," she'd call back, and, like your mother, never sounding surprised. You could go down and sit on a flour sack, sometimes there would be tea or she had a box of doughnuts or something. She wouldn't let you help; she was very particular about the dough. She wasn't a big talker but she liked company. So you could talk or not. If you talked she listened. If you wanted to have a cry or just sit without doing anything, until the rhythmic, rotating dance of the beaters hypnotized you into a state where you thought maybe you could sleep, that was fine with her.  t was nice down there in the dough room.  t was a good place to hide.

The things Crystal must have heard while she was making dough.

I wonder where she is...

I Heart Pizza

When did Valentine's Day become Halloween in February? I'm looking at the sugar loot the kids brought home from school today and feeling sort of depressed. The candy is all very carefully cataloged and bagged.  Any actual Valentines are crumpled up at the bottom of the backpack. This makes me sad. Why is it more about candy and less about the message?

Few years ago I decided to hell with Hallmark, I was taking February 14th in another direction. I made a Valentine for Jeeps (because I like to) and then I made Valentines for my circle of close girlfriends. And I've been doing it since.  I love it. I love making them, I love sending them, and I love that they get kept.

Blah blah blah. Rant over.

Being that Valentine's Day is a Monday this year, which is an easy day around here, I wanted to make something special for the kids. I thought individual pizzas would be fun, even more so if I could cut them into heart-shapes.

I think they came out well. They were made with love. And they got eaten.

Good Luck Salad

I couldn't think of anything for dinner tonight. I felt like I had to come up with something spectacular for the sake of the blog, but since this is a blog about real life, then those nights when I can't think of damn thing for dinner get included. Even take-out will be included. So there.

By the way, when do you decide what to make? Sometimes I have an idea in my head all day. Sometimes I don't get inspired until 5:00. Other times, like tonight, I got nothing. In which case there is nothing to do but surrender gracefully:

No shame in frozen pizza. And by the way, have you tried Trader Joe's Tarte d'Alsace? Actually, correction, it's not a Trader Joe's branded product, but they sell it there. It's made by Maitre Pierre but it is delicious—flatbread with gruyere cheese, ham and caramelized onions. Pandagirl will eat a whole one herself. So will I.

And speaking of Panda, she came up with the idea of making Good Luck Salad tonight, so we will be joined by my lovely sous-chef.  In her lovely panda hat.

My delicious friend Claudia taught me about Good Luck Salad, which is traditional New Year's fare in the south. We're pretty addicted to it up North here and eat it at any given opportunity, which is why my pantry is always stocked with black-eyed peas and hominy.

Good Luck Salad

Mix all. Serve. Die.

And voila, an excellent accompaniment to your frozen pizza on a night such as tonight, and a perfect dish for your aspiring young cook to put together.