I really enjoyed reading Peter Reinhart's "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza" - I love pizza, and have began to learn how to prepare it pretty darn well. Mr. Reinhart is best known, I think, for his amazing breadmaking book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, which I keep meaning to pick up at the library. The book is split into three distinct sections, the first being "The Hunt,"where he travels to discover what makes for great pizza. I skipped right over that, and went straight to part two, the Recipes. I finally got a chance to try one of those recipes out recently, and I was pretty pleased.
I didn't realize that the dough is somewhat slow-rising, so I was awfully concerned about it turning out right, but it sure did taste good. He calls this dough a strong dough that can withstand heavy toppings, with a breadlike crust that's filling and tasty in its own right.
Pizza Americana Dough
makes four 10-ounce dough balls
5 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
3 tbsp sugar or honey
2 tsp table salt or 3 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil or solid vegetable shortening
1 cup whole or low-fat milk
3/4 cup room-temperature water (70 degrees)
1. With a large metal spoon, stir together all the ingredients in a 4-qt bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer until combined. If mixing with an electric mixer, fit it with the dough hook and mix on low speed for about 4 minutes, or until all the flour gathers to form a coarse ball. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then mix again on medium-low speed for an additional 2 minutes or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and sticks just a little to the bottom. If the dough is too soft and sticky to hold its shape, mix in more flour by the tablespoonful; if it is too stiff or dry, mix in more water by the tablespoonful; it if is too stiff or dry, mix in more water by the tablespoonful. The dough should pass the windowpane test. If mixing by hand, repeatedly dip one of your hands or the spoon into room-temperature water and use it much like a dough hook, working the dough vigorously into a coarse ball as you rotate the bowl with your other hand. As all the flour is incorporated into the ball, about 4 minutes, the dough will begin to strengthen; when this occurs, let the dough rest for 5 minutes and then resume mixing for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until the dough is slightly sticky, soft and supple. If the dough is too soft and sticky to hold its shape, mix in more flour by the tablespoonful; if it is too stiff or dry, mix in more water by the tablespoonful. The dough should pass the windowpane test.
2. Immediately divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Round each piece into a ball and brush or rub each ball with olive or vegetable oil. Place each ball inside its own zippered freezer bag. Let the balls sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, then put them in the fridge overnight or freeze any pieces you will not be using the next day. (Or, if you are making the pizzas on the same day, let the dough balls sit at room temperature in the bags for 1 hour, then remove them from the bags, punch them down, reshape them into balls, reutrn them to the bags, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.)
3. The next day (or later the same day if refrigerated for only 2 hours), remove the balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to roll them out to take off the chill and to relax the gluten. At this point, you can hold any balls you don't want to use right away in the refrigerator for another day or you can freeze them for up to 3 months.
4. Preheat your oven to 450 with a baking stone on the bottom shelf for at least 30 minutes. Roll out your pizza on a piece of parchment, and then add your sauce and toppings. Brush the crust with olive oil. Slide the parchment onto your pizza peel, and slide onto the baking stone. Bake for 8-12 minutes, or to desired doneness.