Before I left home for the first time, I sat down with my mother’s recipe box and wrote down my favorite dishes. When I made my savory beef muffins I used my mother’s recipe for pizza dough. However I realized that is had also used my mother’s minimalist instructions.
My mother’s instruction for making pizza dough is a perfect example. Cooks who have been making the same dish in the same way for years frequently leave a lot out when they write it down. They already know all of the steps involved and it is simply too obvious to them to think about including the details. My mother simply says, “Combine dough ingredients, knead for 5 minutes and set to rise.”
One thing I am trying to do in this blog is make clear each step of the processes involved in each dish that I write about. Everyone was once a first time cook for every dish that they make. My goal is that the first time for making one of my dishes is as easy as possible, assuming little prior knowledge.
Claudia’s Pizza Dough
1 pkg. yeast
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup olive oil
2 cups warm water
1 cup 1% milk
2 tsp. salt
6+ cups flour, to make a medium dough
1. Proof the yeast in ¼ cup of lukewarm water and a pinch of sugar.
Tip: After 5 minutes the surface of the yeast water should be starting to foam. Poofing tells you if your yeast is still active. This is a good thing to know before you start adding the flour.
2. Stir together all of the ingredients, but add only half of the flour.
Tip: The dough will be the consistency of pancake batter at this point.
3. When the dough is smooth, start adding the rest of the flour a cup at a time until it is too thick to stir.
4. Spread out a cup of flour on a clean smooth surface (I use a pastry marble) and scrape the dough into the center.
Tip: You will have some dry flour and lots of lumps in your dough at this point.
5. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes.
To knead dough: Flatten the dough ball slightly. Take the edge of the dough that farthest from you and pull it over the rest of the dough. Place you floured palm on the dough and push and press away from you. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat. Add more flour to your hands and bread board as necessary. Only practice will teach you when you have kneaded enough and the dough is ready. It will feel “right,” smooth and slightly springy.
6. Clean the bread bowl and add a little olive oil. Put the dough in and coat the bottom with the oil. Turn the ball over and cover the bowl with a damp cloth.
7. Let the dough rise in a warm room temperature place for 1 hour.
Tip: if the dough is starting to rise over the edges of the bowl “punch” it down. Flour your fist and press it into the dough to release the gasses that have built up in the dough.
8. If you are in a hurry, the dough is ready to use.
Tip: If I have time, I like to knead the dough a second time and to give it a second rise. This makes for a more elastic dough and a better pizza.