Friday, February 1, 2008

The Perfect Crust

Our winter inspired white pizza fresh from the oven

Pizza has become a weekly occurrence in our house and slowly over time I have revised my recipe, to what I finally consider the perfect crust. It gets nice and crispy but still is a little chewy and full of flavor. It's hard to make a whole wheat crust that's not dense and flat. I guess it's not just the recipe that has been revised, but also the cooking technique to achieve the perfect pizza. I realize this recipe may not be user friendly to some given the weight measurements instead of cups and teaspoons. Next time I make my crust I will try to remember to measure it out for you. But I would also recommend that if you don't have a kitchen scale already, to invest in one, if you cook a lot. Its very handy and makes measuring out this crust so easy.... everything goes right into one bowl so you can put the bowl on the scale and keep taring it to zero with each new ingredient (or do the math). Using a scale is not only more accurate, but also takes a lot less brain power and usually prevents measuring errors. I am also pretty sure that not everyone has durum (semolina flour), or vital wheat gluten hanging out in their cabinets but you can work around that if you don't want to buy it. The vital wheat gluten is added to help with the addition of the whole wheat flour (to develop more gluten). The durum helps make the crust a little chewier. You can par this down to a more basic recipe using 300 grams of flour (all white bread flour if you wish) and leave out the durum and vital wheat gluten.

Ready to put into the oven

Pizza Crust

150 g whole wheat flour
100 g bread flour
50 g durum
2 g instant yeast
6 g salt
190 g water
6 g oil
9 g honey
1 tbs vital wheat gluten

You can scale everything into one bowl, starting with your dry ingredients. If using active dry yeast you will need to bloom it in the water ( warm it up first) and then mix everything else in. Mix the dough either using a mixer or by hand until all the ingredients have been completely incorporated. I find my hand to be the most efficient tool. After you get everything mixed let the dough sit about 5 minutes to let the liquid hydrate the flour. Then you want to knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. If it looks like the dough is getting too tight, let it rest for five minutes (giving the gluten a chance to relax) and then go back to it. The dough will be more supple and easier to knead. Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover it and let it double. For maximum flavor it's best to let is sit overnight in the refrigerator, and it can sit for up to three days*. Pull it out of the refrigerator about 2 hours (depending on how warm the room is) before using it, to give the dough a chance to warm up. While it is warming up you can prepare your toppings- usually when I make my pizza's I will put a thin layer of sauce and then I like to put dollops of ricotta cheese before putting my toppings down and then finishing with a sprinkle of cheese. I don't like a pizza that's over loaded with cheese (we try to keep it on the healthy side) so that's why we put the ricotta on the bottom to give that creamy effect and then a sprinkling of cheese on top maximizes it's flavor. This pizza I have posted is a winter inspired pizza with no sauce ( a thin layer of garlic infused hazelnut oil takes it's place), ricotta, roasted cauliflower, caramelized onions, pears and smoked blue cheese which was awesome!
The key to a successful pizza, is baking in a hot oven directly on a hot pizza stone. I turn my oven up to 500 degrees (but this may be too hot for different ovens I think ours runs a little cool it will be slight trial and error) with the pizza stone already in the oven.
Now with the oven and stone heating, and the dough at room temp, toppings ready, it's time to build the pizza. Depending on how thick you like your crust will depend on this next step. You can use a small amount of flour if you find your dough sticking.
For a thicker crust the best way is to gently start stretching the dough out. This takes some practice to not stretch the dough too thin in places you can cheat by starting with a rolling pin and then from there you want hold the dough on one end and let it hang in the air (so gravity can help) and slowly rotate the dough so you work your way around the entire edge. This dough will make about a 15 inch pizza. So by the time you're done, what you want is for the edges to be a little thicker than the center. If the dough is too thick underneath the toppings, it won't get crispy enough.
For a thinner crust you can just keep using the rolling pin and keep everything the same thickness, rolling the dough out to about 1/4 inch.
Now that the dough is rolled out your going to need a piece of parchment paper (NOT wax paper, this is going in the oven) a little bigger than the size of the dough, and you will need another flat sheet pan and a little bit of semolina or cornmeal. If the sheet pan has sides turn it over so you are using the back. Sprinkle some of the cornmeal on the sheet pan (this is going to make sure the parchment slides right off the pan) and then place the parchment on top and sprinkle some more cornmeal (so the dough doesn't stick to the parchment). Place the dough onto the parchment and smooth it out so it's fully stretched out. (This is where it gets tricky- you need to make sure the dough is the size of the sheet pan so it doesn't hang over the edge. After the dough is on the parchment, build your pizza and then pick up the pan and give it a slight shake to make sure the parchment will slide off the pan. Open the door and put the pan in the oven and angle the back down close to the stone. This should cause the pizza to slide as well. In one sweeping motion you want to gently push the pizza to the edge so it's almost touching the stone and as you lower it down, pull the sheet pan quickly away. What you should end up with is the pizza nice and flat on the pizza stone! (this move can take a little practice) From there the pizza usually takes about 10 minutes to bake (depending on the temperature). You want to make sure you see that the crust is a dark golden brown (don't be afraid of some color) and that the cheese is bubbling and is taking on a little color, this will assure that the bottom is also cooked. If you pull it out too soon , the top may look nice and done but the bottom will be soft and not hold up well. To remove from the oven the easiest way is to pull on the parchment and slide the pizza back onto the sheet pan you used to put it in the oven. That way you don't have to deal with taking the hot stone out of the oven. Good luck, let me know how it goes! (or if you have any questions)

*You also have the option of freezing the dough at this point. To do that, you want to gently deflate the dough and then, to freeze it, wrap the dough well and immediately place in the freezer. To use after frozen, let it thaw completely (either in the refrigerator overnight or at room temp for a few hours) and continue as normal.


Annina said...

Hey! How are you?
My name is Annina (also called Ann) and I saw your blog on daring bakers and like it very much! I'm also a newbie there... and ya.. I added your blog to my link on my one:
Have a good evening!
Greetings from Switzerland, Annina

Emily said...

Mmm...I love pizza. I've never seen cauliflower on pizza, but I think it's a good idea.
I've put apples on pizza before, and enjoyed it.

dailydelicious said...

Hi, Emma
I see your comment on Ann's blog, so I just come to take a look. Your pizza look great (and I like the color of your blog). Ps. I've never take a photo of something with the smoke before, your pizza must be very hot.

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

Hi, Came across your blog at DB. I joined last month. Glad to have you with us.
Just a question, when you say semolina, is it stuff that is "crumby" in texture?

Chibog in Chief said...

what a gorgeous pizza!! all i just need is good film , a slice of your pizza and my friday night is complete :-)

Suzana said...

Emma, that's a rather delicious pizza! Welcome to DB - I'm sure you'll have great fun. :)

Anonymous said...

This looks fantastic! I saw your post on the DB blog - I am new this month, as well. My husband and I both like to cook and are into photography...your pictures are beautiful! Good luck with this month's challenge!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Well, I do have semolina "hanging around" but don't have a scale in my kitchen. I am starting to make more pizza and look forward to trying this crust out one of those times. I look forward to reading more of your blog!