Monday, April 25, 2011

Homemade Pizza Dough/Get your fingers in the pie!

Weekends. Movies at Sathyam, catching a match (where Chennai Super Kings lose again) at one of the coffee shops/pubs/MAC-Chepauk and maybe driving down to Temple Bay Resort for some R-and-R with colleagues?

I'll tell you how mine went. Dealing with critically-ill patients, women in labour and testy gastroenterologists/gynaecologists/MediInsurance. Hearing that my convocation and weekend trip to Pondicherry were cancelled. And making pizza dough. Redemption comes in various doughy ways.

You need your Biceps to be at least semi-toned, in order to make Pizza Dough from scratch. All that kneading and punching and tossing. You also need a healthy dose of anger, dejection and disappointment. It'll all dissipate when you're done kneading. You can then top your pizza with anything from pineapple to Nutella to Jalapenos and reconsume lost calories. It might even be the highlight of your weekend.

You can make two to three batches pizza dough in the weekend and stow it away in the freezer for a good couple of months, wrapped in three layers of cling film (and put into a Ziploc bag for good measure).

This isn't something for the weekdays. Pizza dough rolled out and topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella and basil and baked until golden is for the weekdays, though. I'm not making stress-eaters out of you. I'm merely stating the obvious.

As for the flour, I'd suggest bread flour. If you live in India, All-purpose flour or maida is the closest substitute. It'll give you good old-fashioned pizza dough, the kind you'd find Luigi/Mario tossing. (Explanation: I am child of the nineties. Pizza=Pizza Hut; Italian names=Super Mario Bros).

You can work up to whole wheat dough, cheese stuffed crust, Chicago deep dish style with furthur experimentaion. The recipe hunt takes me straight to Baking Illustrated's classic pizza dough recipe, and furthur Googling takes me to Heidi Swanson's post on aunthetic pizza dough.

So, stash your flour in the freezer a couple of hours before Project Pizza Dough begins. Cold flour reminds me of Tempura, and that is yuMmmy in my book, so the start is auspicious enough for me. Another tip that floats around the internet is to cling film the dough and let it rest in the refrigerator for a few hours/overnight, so the flavour deepens... but if your Yeast does more than it is paid for, you might have some huge Robin Williamsque goop that you'll have to punch-punch-punch down.

Speaking of yeast, it has to be in working condition, whether you're using Fresh yeast or Active Dry or Instant. It has to practically foam/bubble in the warm water; if it doesn't, start over with better Yeast.

And now. Enough talking, let's get to the actual kneading.

Homemade Pizza Dough:


1/2 cup warm water (40 to 45 C or 110 F)
2 1/4 tsps Instant Yeast or 1 packed tbsp fresh yeast
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups bread flour/All-purpose flour, plus extra for sprinkling
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Semolina(rava) or cornmeal for sprinkling


In a medium-sized bowl, combine the warm water and yeast.

After all the yeast is dissolved in, let it stand for 5 minutes and become foamy.

Add the remaining room-temperature water and oil into it. Mix until combined.

In a large bowl, combine the cold flour and salt.

Add in the yeast-liquid and combine with a wooden spoon or your hands until a cohesive mass forms. Add a few tbsps of flour if you find it too sticky to deal with.

At this stage, you can use your hand mixer with your dough hook to knead the dough into a smooth, pliable ball. Or take the cohesive mix out and knead on a floured surface for about 10 minutes, like you would with chapati dough.
Once you have a dough ball, place it in the well-oiled bowl. Turn it around so the whole ball is coated with oil. Cover the bowl with cling film/plastic wrap and let it rise in the warmest part of your kitchen for two hours.
The dough would have risen. Punch the air out of it.

Divide it into two equal-sized smooth balls. Cover them with either a damp kitchen cloth (I used an old, clean chiffon dupatta). Let them rise for 10 minutes, but no more than 30 minutes. Your dough is now ready to be Rolled-and-Rocked, in that order!

 Alternatively, wrap the risen balls in a couple of layers of cling film and freeze the dough. In order to use the frozen dough at a later date, you'll have to remember to take it out of the freezer and stash it in the refrigerator in the morning if you want to have pizza for dinner that day. The refrigerated dough can be taken out and furthur thawed at room temperature for 30 minutes.

The dough below isn't ready yet, because the indentations I make keep springing back.

 When it's fully thawed out, the dough won't be springy. If you make dents, they'll actually hold the shape in the dough. Exhibit B.

On a clean work surface that's been floured and sprinkled with semolina/cornmeal, place your dough ball. Punch the dough out some more and shape it into a rough circle with your hands.


You can also work on it with a rolling pin for neater results, but it doesn't seem as authentic. Make sure it's only as thick as paranthas, because it will rise some more in the oven.

Transfer the prepared dough to a greased Aluminium foil or parchment paper. BUTTER PAPER DOES NOT WORK. Epic fail, to have used butter paper, it just lead to a gigantic sticky mess.

Add sauce, toppings and cheese to the prepared crust. Bake in a preheated oven until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly!

I know the post seems blah and there's nothing to salivate over except a pain-in-the-ass dough. This is just the template. I might have the perfect pizza to blow Monday blues away. You can fully cheat and use pre-made pizza crust, I promise to not make snide remarks. Arrivederci!!

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