Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How to Throw a Pizza Crust

Pizza may be my favorite food in the whole wide world. It's also the great equalizer when one's considering what to feed a mixed crowd of vegetarians and non-vegetarians. It's rare that anyone is ever disappointed in a pizza no matter what's on top, so serving it to a crowd is usually a no-brainer. 

I like to par-cook my homemade pizza crust. It allows me less time in the kitchen when friends and family are over, and it assures a good product. All you do is throw the dough, slide it undressed onto the stone, and cook it for just a few minutes. When it's time to eat, top your par-cooked crusts with sauce and cheese and slide 'em into the oven to crisp up.

Beer Pizza Crust:
(Special equipment: stand mixer, 3 rubber bands, and 3 seven-inch round plastic containers.)
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon Fleishmann’s active dry yeast*
9–12 ounces of your favorite beer
olive oil

1.    Pour beer into a microwave-safe glass and heat for 1 minute. 
2.    Bloom the yeast in a few tablespoons of the warm beer.
3.    Place flour, salt, and honey into a stand mixer, turn it on low, and add the bloomed yeast.
4.    Slowly add the beer until all the dry flour has been incorporated. (You will have beer left over.)
5.    Mix for 5 minutes 'til dough looks smooth.
6.    Roll dough into a nine-inch log; cut the log into three equal three-inch pieces.
7.    Roll each piece into a ball; place each in its own round airtight container
8.    Set containers out on the countertop. Leave the dough alone for 8 hours.
9.    Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 500°
10.  Turn the dough ball out on to a lightly floured pizza peel. Begin to dimple the dough using three 
       fingers. Leave a half-inch on the outside undisturbed—this will become the crust. Turn dough over    
       and repeat the process.
11.  Pick up the dough and let it stretch over your fists until it is about 12 inches in diameter, or toss it in  
       the air like a pro—your call.
12.  Make sure your have enough flour on the peel so that the pizza can slide around and into the oven.
13.  Spread about 1⁄3 cup of tomato sauce over the crust, and then top with ½ – 1½ cups of cheese. Add   
       any other topping that you like at this point.
14.  Using the pizza peel, slide the raw pizza onto the hot stone and let it cook for about 7 minutes.
15.  Remove the pizza once the top starts bubbling and it begins to brown around the edges.
16.  The best part: cut and serve.

* For a faster crust, use "rapid rise" yeast and cut the proofing time down to one hour.