Since we moved to NDG our decent take out options were significantly limited and weekend consumption of pizza increased as a result. It’s easily the cheapest thing you can order when you’re too lazy to cook. To compensate for this trend, I’ve started preparing pizza dough on Thursday to have properly proofed in the refrigerator by Saturday when hunger strikes and I don’t feel like heating up a pan.
My usual pizza dough was always measured by eye and the results were never consistent. I have made pizza this way for years without bothering to change my habit until recently, when I set out to find a reliable recipe I could stick to that made the type of pizza I actually wanted to eat on a regular basis. Enter Peter Reinhart’s recipe for Neapolitan pizza dough, which is not only more enjoyable to eat, but make.
This recipe schooled me in two things about bread that I never really paid attention to before. The first is that you don’t have to use warm water to make it. The recipe calls for water 18 degrees Celcius (65 degrees Fahrenheit), which is a bit cooler than room temperature.
The second is that adding oil to the dough shortens the gluten strands, which makes it tender and flavorful but difficult to hand-knead to pass the “windowpane test” (where you pull the dough until its translucent enough to see through in order to determine the gluten strands have developed well).
To remedy this, I portion the dough, roll it into balls and coat it liberally with extra virgin olive oil, then place each ball into a sandwich bag. These individual dough balls can be frozen or left in the fridge for a couple of days and only improve in flavor. A six ounce ball rolls out to about an 8″ pizza and eight ounces about a 10″ pizza. I find baking pizzas larger than that just makes a mess of my baking stone. Speaking of which, mine now has a large crack down the middle of it from thermal shock after mozzarella dripped onto it. Is there a way to prevent such a thing from occurring if I purchase a replacement?
- 22 1/2 ounces (about 5 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon instant (NOT dry active) yeast
- 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons room temperature water
- a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Combine the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and gradually incorporate the water. Stir together until it forms a rough ball, then set aside for five minutes.
- Lightly dust a work surface with flour and knead the dough, adding more flour as necessary, until it comes together to form a smooth, cohesive ball. Check to see if it passes the “windowpane test” (stretch a small piece to see if you can see through it), if not, continue to knead until it does. Invert the bowl and cover the dough with it, leaving it to rest for half an hour.
- Weigh the total dough and divide it into equal portions according to how large you’d like your pizzas to be (I recommend about eight ounces for a 10″ pizza). Roll each of those portions into a ball.
- Coat sandwich bags with extra virgin olive oil and seal the dough balls individually inside. Place these in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours or up to 4 days.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator two hours before you want to bake them. To prepare the dough, coat it lightly in flour, dusting off the excess, then roll out as thinly as possible. Use the hottest oven temperature you can attain, with a baking stone or thick inverted baking sheet arranged in the bottom third of the oven.
This makes about six 6 ounce pizzas or roughly four 8 ounce ones.
For the simplest of Neapolitan pizzas, the Martguerita, spread crushed tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil onto a rolled out crust, portion torn fresh mozzarella/boccoccini on top and bake until the cheese has melted and the crust is puffed and golden, about 5-6 minutes in a 500 degree oven. Allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing, so the cheese sets and the crust has a chance to rest. Dust with dried oregano and/or chilies and brush the crust with a cut clove of garlic, if desired.