Pizza dough, dough & doh! - a love story

[Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells... there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.
— M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating: 50th Anniversary Edition

Since many of you are new friends (welcome, friends!!!), I have a bit of a confession to make. I. LOVE. PIZZA. I could eat pizza every day. The cheesier the better. I've made many a pizza in the past and have turned out some pretty decent pies. White dough, whole wheat dough, doesn't matter but I have always been in awe of (read: salivated over) those delicious pizza doughs full of air bubbles and charred crust, topped with super bubbly cheese. I have always wanted wood oven-esque pizza to come out of my home oven and while I was sure it was possible I had no idea how to achieve it.

One glorious afternoon a weeks ago, as if a sign from the pizza gods, I received an e-mail from the wonderful people at King Arthur Flour with a link to their blog post titled: The Best Pizza You’ll Ever Make: Artisan Perfection in your Home Oven. I eagerly clicked the link right away and devoured their post. They truly make the process of making incredible pizza dough seem not only easy but totally achievable and dare I say slightly romantic? Now, before you go clicking away from this post of some psycho saying that making pizza dough can be romantic, hear me out. Bread doughs in general are magical. You mix a few simple ingredients (that you probably already have in your cupboards) and the end result is something that has risen, is full of life and delicious. Not to mention, have you ever touched freshly risen dough? It is so supple and gorgeous that no matter how many times I make my own dough, it literally takes my breath away! There is a definite element of romance that comes out of making your own dough, regardless of how simple or complex the recipe is. Back on topic now!

I will be honest and say that I read the article a few times over because I really couldn't believe that it was this simple to make incredible pizzas like this at home. When a recipe looks this easy, the only thing I could do was try it out for myself. The only thing is... the dough needs a substantial amount of time to rise. The recipe calls for up to 72 hours! Yup, you read that right.... 72 HOURS! Now, I did not have 72 hours between reading the article and when I had intended on consuming the delicious pie. I had 48 hours and damn it, I was convinced it would still be amazing.

I set to work with my kitchen scale and some flour, yeast, salt, sugar and water. That is it. This recipe, as with most quality recipes, gives you your measurements in weights as opposed to cup measurements. This really does point you in the direction that baking is truly a science and using a kitchen scale to measure will give you much more accuracy than using measuring cups. Accuracy is science's friend!  My dough came together with a few stirs with a wooden spoon (I mixed mine until the dough came away from the sides of the bowl) and was ready to begin rising within about 5 minutes after being covered in plastic wrap. All I had left to do was let it sit at room temp to hang out for the next few days.

 
 

Living in a basement apartment, there are sometimes drafts that come in through various spots in my home, so I actually let the dough rise in my oven for 2 days... this point will become very important a week or so after the initial recipe attempt. Keep reading for more on that disaster!

When I got home from work the next day, I was very eager to see what my little dough ball had turned into. Well, the little dough ball had grown (I was such a proud mama!) into this...

 
 

Note how chill and relaxed the dough looks? That's because the yeast and sugar are becoming friends and are discovering their feelings for each other. Believe me friends, they have feelings for each other! The dough, at this point, had a much more wet texture than when I originally mixed it. Back into the cold oven for one more day of rising.

Again, I came home and eagerly pulled the dough out to see what it looked like. Here is what I found:

 
 

Look at all of those air bubbles... Those bubbles were going to turn into pockets in my dough and I squealed with anticipation. I turned the dough out onto my floured counter and followed the recipe's instructions for a few simple turns of the dough (there is actually a gif in the article that shows you how to properly achieve this technique which was sooooo helpful!). I then put the dough (now 2 balls) back into individual bowls to rest for a 40 minutes longer while I preheated my oven. The recipe calls for your oven to be preheated to 550F however my darling KitchenAid only reaches 500F and that's what I used. My Pampered Chef pizza stone (LOVE my stoneware) also preheated in the oven as I prepped my toppings. I decided for my first attempt at this lovely dough that I was going to keep my toppings simple: tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

When the oven was scorching hot and the dough was ready, I gingerly placed my dough back on a floured surface to shape it. The key here is to make sure that you DO NOT touch the outer edges of the dough. If you do, the pizza fairy will come and deflate your dough and put a hex on you that will have no future dough work out properly ever again! This is a fact and it happened to a friend of a friend of mine. When the dough has been shaped, transfer it to a sheet of parchment paper. Parchment is especially recommended if you don't have a pizza peel or if you are new to working with pizza dough. Sadly, I do not have a pizza peel so parchment and I are great friends. I loaded my parchment on to a large cutting board which helped me transfer it into the oven later. Now back to the toppings.

 
 

Notice the untouched edges? I fear the pizza fairy!! Make sure to cut your parchment down to size as it may burn because the pizza actually bakes on broil. After a few short minutes, this is what comes out of your oven, friends. Remember the relationship that was developing between the yeast and sugar? Well this is what happens when they finally hook up and have a baby!!!

Look at that crust! It's perfectly crusty and chewy and full of air!! After seeing and eating this pizza, I was hooked, so much so that I made the dough twice more that week. That's right... 3 times of making dough that takes days to rise. I cannot tell you how worth every single second of time this dough is. It has the air pockets just like sourdough bread and because it rises for quite some time, it develops flavours that you will NEVER find in a quick dough recipe nor a grocery store dough. Dare I say, this is the best pizza dough of my life. The article didn't lie! As a side note, the recipe is also great to double and triple. I have done both and had no issues whatsoever!

I also tried a barbecue chicken pizza - bbq sauce, cooked chicken breast, quickly sautéed red onions and cilantro - which was also life changing!!!

 

Are you drooling? I definitely was.

But now, not every story has a happy ending. Pizza making has taught me 2 very valuable life lessons in these last few weeks. Lesson #1 - Remember a few paragraphs ago I mentioned that I let the pizza rise in the cold oven? Well, it's a funny thing when you do that but then in a rush to get an appetizer ready for your dinner guests who are set to arrive any second and you turn on the oven to 400F so you can bake a brie.... It's funny until you smell something burning and then realize that the dough that was rising in a nice cold oven is now sitting somewhere that is about 375F. You yank the bowl out of the oven to discover that not only has the dough started cooking but the plastic wrap on top of it has now baked INTO the dough and is making awkward snapping sounds like an elastic band. This was my first DOH moment!

Lesson #2 - The oven preheats at 500F for 40 minutes and THEN sits on broil while the pizza bakes. Needless to say, your oven is HOT AS SIN! This also includes the inside of the oven door.... Life Lesson #2 - Do NOT, under any circumstances, let your knuckle touch the oven door while trying to pull out a pizza. The burn will be painful, will turn a gross shade a brown and then will scar. Also, do not partake in the hot tub after aquafit right after having burned yourself.... It will hurt like the dickens!

And there you have it folks, my love story of some simple ingredients that came out of the cupboard to make some delicious pizza. Go make this dough, go make this dough, go make this dough! You will not regret it (so long as you don't piss off the pizza fairy or forget about my life lessons learned!

Hope you all had a wonderful weekend and a relatively painless Monday!

xoxo

T