The Simple Art Of Cooking: The Many Delights of Homemade Pizza Dough

To add to the July 4th weekend celebration, I’m thinking pizza on the grill. Some years ago I visited Al Forno’s restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island. Not only was the restaurant famous for their robust trattoria cooking, but for their pizza on the grill. The crust was thin and delicious, and the toppings were sparse but intensely flavorful. In their book Cucina Simpatica, authors Johanne Killeen and George Germon offer their recipe for grilling pizza. The crust is thin and delicious. Simplicity itself is their classic Pizza Margherita with tomatoes, basil and olive oil. Some weeks ago I included a recipe for sautéed red pepper strips with caramelized onions in these columns. This simple base over slices of mozzarella is another sure-fire hit for your basic pizza on the grill.

Now about the pizza dough—sure you could pick up prepared dough at your local supermarket or at your local pizza place, but honestly there’s nothing to making your own.

There are two basic rules in pizza making. Make it simple and make it with fresh ingredients. Whenever the mood strikes I toss flour into a bowl, dissolve a packet of yeast in water to add to the flour with a bit of salt and olive oil, transfer to a food processor and let that wondrous machine run for 60 seconds. Bingo you have just kneaded dough to make a pizza. Allow dough to rise as per recipe. Roll the dough briefly then gently stretch with your hands. I’ve included both Al Forno’s recipe for pizza dough as well as my basic pizza dough recipe. At the stage when ready to knead by all means use that wondrous machine!

 

BASIC PIZZA DOUGH IN THE FOOD PROCESSOR

Yield: dough for one round 10 to12-inch pizza

 

1 package active dry yeast

Scant 1 cup lukewarm water (85-105

degrees)

2 – 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Dissolve yeast with water in a Pyrex cup measure and stir to mix. Let stand about five minutes to proof.

2. Put flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in the dissolved yeast, salt and oil. With a wooden spoon, slowly work the liquid into the flour, stirring until you have a solid mass. If dough is wet add more by degrees until the dough is no longer sticking.

3. Transfer the dough to the workbowl of a food processor and process for 1 minute or until a ball of dough is formed. To knead the dough in an electric stand mixer, mix for 4 minutes with the dough hook on low speed until smooth and elastic. Transfer to a lightly-floured board and knead into a ball for just 30 seconds. Dough will be sticky. Use a pastry scraper and transfer to a lightly greased bowl: turn to coat. Cover with a clean towel and let rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

4. When ready to bake punch dough down in the bowl and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough from the center out then stretch with hands into a round. Transfer to a wood paddle or pizza pan and use as directed.

Note: For grilling pizza see technique beginning with step 3 for Grilled Pizza Margherita.

 

Al FORNO’S PIZZA DOUGH

To grill pizza successfully, you will need patience and a practice run or two, but do persevere, say Johanne Killeen and George Germon, authors of “Cucina Simpatica.” They prefer hot wood or charcoal fire and suggest you build your fire on one side of the grill for indirect cooking to have a cool area in order to add the toppings without burning the bottom
of the crust.

Enough dough for four 12 to 14 inch pizzas

 

For the pizza dough

1 envelope active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

Pinch sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 cup johnnycake or fine-ground white

cornmeal

3 tablespoons whole-wheat flour

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached flour

 

1. Dissolve yeast in warm water with sugar. After 5 minutes stir in the salt, meal, whole-wheat flour and oil. Gradually add the white flour, stirring with a wooden spoon until a stiff dough is formed.

2. Place the dough on a floured board, and knead it for several minutes, adding only enough additional flour to keep the dough from sticking.

3. When the dough is smooth and shiny, transfer it to a bowl that has been brushed with olive oil. To prevent a skin from forming, brush the top of the dough with additional olive oil, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, away from drafts, until double in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

4. Punch down the dough and knead once more. Let rise again for about 40 minutes. Punch down the dough. If it is sticky, knead in a bit more flour. Use 6 ounces of dough for one 12-inch pizza

Reprinted from “Cucina Simpatic,” Harper Collins, 1991

 

GRILLED PIZZA MARGARITA

The authors suggest that you may want to have different toppings on hand for a variety of pizzas. Use a judicious hand, and suppress the natural tendency to cover the entire surface of the dough.

Serves 2 to 4 as appetizer

 

6 ounces pizza dough

1/4 cup virgin olive oil for brushing and drizzling

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 cup loosely packed shredded fontina

2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano

6 tablespoons chopped canned tomatoes in heavy

pureé

8 basil leaves

 

1. Prepare a hot charcoal fire, setting the grill rack 3 to 4 inches above the coals.

2. On a large, oiled, inverted baking sheet, spread and flatten the pizza dough with your hands into a 10- to 12-inch free-form circle, 1/8 inch thick. Do not make a lip. You may end up with a rectangle rather than a circle; the shape is unimportant, but do take care to maintain an even thickness.

3. When the fire is hot (when you can hold your hand over the coals for 3 to 4 seconds at a distance of 5 inches), use your fingertips to lift the dough gently by the two corners closest to you, and drape it onto the grill. Catch the loose edge on the grill first and guide the remaining dough into place over the fire. Within a minute the dough will puff slightly, the underside will stiffen, and grill marks will appear.

4. Using tongs, immediately flip the crust over, onto the coolest part of the grill. Quickly brush the grilled surface with olive oil. Scatter the garlic and cheeses over the dough, and spoon dollops of tomato over the cheese. Do not cover the entire surface of the pizza with tomatoes. Finally, drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

5. Slide the pizza back toward the hot coals, but not directly over them, Using tongs, rotate the pizza frequently so that different sections receive high heat; check the underside often to see that it is not burning. The pizza is done when the top is bubbly and the cheese melted, about 6-8 minutes. Serve at once, topped with the basil leaves and additional olive oil, if desired.

Reprinted from “Cucina Simpatica,” Harper Collins, 1991.

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