I have been on a quest to find the perfect homemade pizza dough recipe ever since I first tried my hand at it when we got in New Zealand a few months ago.
At the time, we were doing Helpex in a beautiful 1912 mansion, that got majorly damaged during the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. The hosts (Dale and Leanne) were amazing, and so was the work we were doing for accommodation: helping finish the foundation stone walls, for my lovely Wyliam, and cooking, cleaning and a bit of finish on the wall for myself. Along with us, there was another couple doing Helpex at the Castle, a lovely couple of Italians, Mauro and Elizabetha.
Therefore when it came to make the dough for the Friday Pizza of the whole house, I knew I was in good hands with Elizabetha. Leanne gave us their go-to pizza dough recipe and off we went to do the dough.
Elizabetha showed be each steps with patience, perfect for learning how the dough should look like while mixing, kneading, rising and proving. When all these steps were done, and we were finally ready to put the pizza with their toppings in the oven, Mauro cooked the pizzas with the eye of an expert. He took care of all the eight pizzas that went in the oven that night, and they all came with a crispy bottom and golden melted cheese. The dough itself ended up being a bit too thin for me, but the taste was in there tought. We spent a fabulous evening and not a crumble of pizza was left uneaten.
And… that’s when I fell in love with making my own pizza dough. I could see a spherium of possibility in front of me: dough-y crust, pan fried, filled crust, and sooooo much more.
Therefore, two weeks after my first dough experience ( I would have done it earlier, but my stomach had to relax a bit from all the pizza… thinking of it I should have run it off. Next tiiiime!), I tried my hand at it again. This time I went on a hunt for the perfect recipe on Pinterest. Recipe after recipes were calling for numerous ingredients, and to tell the truth I wanted to use only flour, olive oil, water, sugar and yeast like I did the first time. I found no such things… well, I probably could have, but I just couldn’t be bothered to search for it any longer, things had to get going. So I picked a recipe labeled as something like “Pizzeria Style Dough”, followed the recipe, and ended up with ANOTHER THIN CRUST. The taste was still good, but the texture wasn’t there yet.
This week I attempted a third try, and SUCCESS! This time I tried the dough from the Baby potato + rosemary pizza from the book A lot on her plate by Rosie Birkett (who also have a blog under the same name, super interesting if you are into tasty meals and travelling). The only thing I changed was adding a tablespoon of olive oil.
The method is quite simple, put sugar and yeast in warm water, stir a little and wait until it is light and foamy. In another bowl, mix flour and salt together and add the olive oil. When the yeast is ready, create a funnel in the flour mixture and pour a third of the yeast mix. Mix with a fork, and add another third of yeasty water when the first batch is totally incorporated in the flour. At some point, it might be hard for you to continue mixing with a fork, the best solution is to use your hands from now on. Add the rest of the water. When the dough comes all together, lightly flour a work surface and drop the dough on it. This is when the real work starts, KNEADING. It’s the funniest part, and the only real way to make pizza dough. Gently push the heels of your hands and slightly rotate the dough after each push. The more you do it the more natural it will become, and the more fun you will have. The dough is kneaded enough when it is smooth and elastic… wait what? I keep reading this in all type of bread recipes and every time this statement makes me go “what the hell is that suppose to mean?”. Thank god I had Elizabetha to help me before. She taught me that it is enough when you press your finger down on the dough and it springs back quickly. If this is still unclear to you, there is two other ways to tell:
1) It will be the same texture as your ear lobe.
2) When you fold the dough it will take longer to get together.
Does this make sens? After a lot of practice and with some advise, it does to me, but if you are unsure, ask. OR watch some Youtube videos, faster and oh so easy.
When this state is reached, lightly oil a bowl, put the dough in it and cover with clear wrap or a tea towel to rest for an hour in a warm place (it will take longer if its colder). If you prepare the dough in the morning for dinner, let it rise in the fridge. When the size is doubled, transfer to a floured surface and punch down the dough, in other words knead for 30 seconds. Leave on the surface while the oven is preheating to 425 Fahrenheit (425F/ 220C/ Gas mark 7).
For baking, you can either use a baking tray line with baking paper, a pizza stone, or my favourite, an iron skillet. If using the stone or skillet, put them in the oven while it is preheating. When temperature is reached, cut a forth of the dough and roll it to your favourite shape (mine is a 10” circle, with this shape you’ll have 4 pizzas with this dough), take the skillet out, put it in the skillet (or other baking accessory), quickly put your topping on it and plop in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the cheese reach a colour you like.
The result of this hard labour will be a melt-in-your-mouth pizza crust, that is neither too thin nor too doughy, D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S. Seriously, that was the best pizza we had in a longggg time. We had 2 of them with a salad and froze the 2 others for another time, which might just be today…