Thursday, January 28, 2010

Recipe request: How to make good pizza dough

So I got an e-mail from Paul.  Paul lives in L.A.  Paul used to live in Chicago, and I used to live with him, and when we lived together I used to make pizza once, sometimes twice a week.  Paul, BTW, is an awesome chef who has worked with Roland Liccioni at Chicago's Le Fracais and Old Town Brasserie.  He currently caters parties for the ultra-rich and famous.  Anyway, here's our e-mail exchange:

this is what your dough ball should look like before you let it rise: smooth n round

> Date: Wed, 20 Jan 2010 15:18:18 -0800
> From: Paul@xxx
> Subject: pizza
> To: Jono@xxx

> what's up my friend? i just made a couple pizzas for [earl parker] and i and they sucked. still. i've tried several recipes and going recipeless and using my soul and nothing works. will you please tell me the instructions i should follow in order to emulate your beautiful doughs? my pizza stone only "unbrowns" the crust and i get better results on a baking sheet. i have an old gas oven that gets nice and hot, no convection option though. yo joe.


This is what you do:

First, my new habit is to proof the yeast.  That means I mix the warm water with the yeast and a touch of sugar, and then I let it stand in a warm place, like on top of the oven that's heating up, for about ten minutes or until it foams.  There is nothing more annoying that thinking you're gonna eat pizza and then discovering that you've made dough with dead yeast.  When that happens, I call my local pizza shop and beg them to sell me dough balls.  Anyway, avoid that.  OK, here's the recipe I use; it makes two dough balls that turn into two 12" pizzas or bigger, depending on how big you stretch them:

about 1 TBS yeast (if you get your yeast in packets, use one packet)
1 cup warm water (for a while I figured hot water would be better, but it's actually worse because it can stunt the yeast, I think)
1.5 tsp sugar

2.5 cups AP flour
2 TBS olive oil
1 tsp salt or one good pinch

So you proof the yeast (yeast, water, sugar in a measuring cup) and then, once it foams, you stir in the salt and the EVO.  Then you dump that mixture in your bowl of flour and mix it until it's ready to knead.  Then you knead it a bit, divide it into two balls, if that's what you want to do, and then you knead it until it's really smooth and hard.  Then you have two options:

Option 1: let the dough proof up a lot in a warm place, like near the oven, then punch it back down, let it relax enough so you can work it, i.e. toss it out, then you toss it out onto a surface (I still use those flat-rate US Mail boxes) dusted with cornmeal.  Then top it quickly, just in case your dough is a bit sticky, though it shouldn't be, and slide it into a hot ass oven, ON THE STONE.

Option 2 (and this is the better option): once you have made the dough and formed the balls, pop them directly into the refrigerator overnight.  This means you need to plan pizza one day in advance (or eat one dough ball on the day you make it, and then use the other the next day).  Resting the dough in the fridge will give you a better flavor because the yeast will develop more.  Dough that does not rest a day or two turns into really bland crust--even if you brush the edges with EVO.  IMPORTANT: if you choose this option, make sure you tightly wrap (double wrap) your dough in plastic wrap (or in a strong freezer bag with the air all sucked out) before putting it into the fridge.  It happens that I made dough yesterday for pizza today, and so, this afternoon, when I came home from the dentist--eight cavities--and looked in the fridge, I saw that my dough had proofed so much that one of the balls burst a hole in the cheap-o freezer bag, and so there was this crusty, puffy nub on the outside of the bag.  It looked like a wart. 

Anyway, that's what you do.  Some other important tips:

Spend the money on good mozz.  I buy fresh, hand-pulled mozz and I pay about 8 bucks for one ball, which is enough for two pizzas.  And I don't shred the mozz.  I cut the ball in half, and then I slice (rather thickly) the halves into half-moon-ish shapes; then I lay the cheese down (some people put the cheese down first and then sauce around it), so that the pieces of mozz are near each other but not overlapping.  And naturally, I put an ample amount of shredded parm on there for salt purposes.  I also make the sauce a touch on the salty side.  And use your stone!  Pre-heat the oven with the stone in it for at least 45 minutes at 475 degrees.  You want that stone wicked hot. 

Later dude, send me a postcard from L.A.




spirals are... said...


As a die hard(er-ist) follower of this blog, i would recommend buying frozen pizzas from the local grocer. it's too much of a hassle for 1 or 2 people to make a pizza.


Anonymous said...

paul's "attempted" pizzas made me ill. I had to go to the doctor the next day, though i didn't tell him. She stuck a tube down my throat and cleaned out my stomache.

Anonymous said...

why did you put my stupid pen name in blocked out shit or whatever that was? is it so they know who I am. why isn't paul's name in blockades like that. I'm sorry i'm being a son of a bitch. I am down with homemade pizza and am willing to flip for the ingredients but we don't seem to have it mastered. at any rate paul makes top o the line quesadillas. master.