Monday, November 03, 2008

Homemade Pizza Crust

Pizza, in my opinion, is the perfect food. You can keep your fancy little plates of highbrow food ordered off a menu where half the ingredients are unpronounceable or unidentifiable...I'll take my crust, sauce and cheese (toppings optional) any day. I think I could live on the stuff. What's not to love--it even, if you add pepperoni or sausage, has all four food groups. And the variety! Deep dish, thin and crispy, calzones, stromboli, stuffed crust, Chicago style, homemade, mini biscuit-pizzas...not to mention all the different places to buy it, each with their own twist...

A while back, I mentioned a homemade pizza crust in a Thankful Thursday list, and a couple of you asked for the recipe. I'm happy to oblige. Steve and I are blessed to be able to afford pizza from Papa John's (our favorite chain) every now and then, but we also like to make our own occasionally. We've tried refrigerated crust in a can, crust in a dry mix, and one or two from-scratch recipes. The dry mix, once doctored by Steve, makes an adequate deep-dish pizza, but rolled out on a stone, it's limp and soggy, barely recognizable under the sauce and cheese.

Not so with this recipe, which I got from a friend at church who's a wonderful cook. She uses a variation of a focaccia recipe. I'll copy her notes here, though we don't follow this exactly. I couldn't tell you what "we" do, because Steve is actually the bread man in our house (including pizza dough)--but I do know he uses our stand mixer, not a food processor. Without further ado:

3 cups of bread flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 pkg dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
parmesan cheese -- I just shake some in (1/2 cup?)
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup warm water
2 Tbs plus 1 tsp olive oil, divided
cooking spray
1 Tbs cornmeal

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with knife. Place flour, sugar, salt, yeast, cheese, garlic, and oregano in a food processor, and pulse 2 times or until blended. With processor on, slowly add warm water and 2 tablespoons oil through food chute; process until dough forms a ball. Process 1 additional minute. If dough is too sticky to roll into a ball, add a little more flour.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead lightly 4 or 5 times. Shape dough into a ball. Remove metal blade from processor bowl. Poke a hole through center of dough, and return dough to bowl. Coat top of dough with cooking spray; cover with heavy-duty plastic wrap.

Fill a 1-cup glass measure with water, and place in back of microwave. Place processor bowl in center of microwave. Microwave on LOW (10% power) 3 minutes; let stand, covered, in microwave 3 minutes. Repeat procedure 2 times, allowing 6 minutes for the last standing time.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead lightly 4 or 5 times. Divide into thirds*. Coat dough with cooking spray; cover and let rest 10 minutes. Working with 1 portion at a time, use roller or hands to shape into pizza crust. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Brush dough with 1 tsp oil.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 10+ minutes, or until crust just starts to brown. Remove from oven; add toppings and return to oven, baking until cheese melts and crust is browned on bottom ( 10 minutes?).

*I bake all three crusts about halfway even if I only plan to completely bake one pizza. The 2 leftover crusts I wrap in plastic wrap and put in freezer. It is so easy to pull one out and add toppings for a quick meal. I'm sure you could add toppings before freezing for your own version of frozen pizza. *For a thicker crust, divide the dough into 2 parts instead of three.

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