How many recipes have you seen lately on Facebook or YouTube that call for a ready-made pie or pizza crust? While these recipes are time-saving and nearly fool-proof, they pale in comparison to the taste, smell and texture of a home-made dough or crust. With just a few simple, easily learned skills, you can overcome your fear of dough and become a dough pro in relatively short order. Our focus today will be on pizza crust.
1. Choose the Best Flour. Bread flour is generally acknowledged as best for pizza dough due to its higher protein content than traditional all purpose flour. All purpose is fine, but the finished product is not generally as crisp as the bread flour. Whichever type you choose, make sure it's fresh.
2. Know Your Yeast. Yeast and how you use it will make or break your pizza crust. Instant dry yeast can be purchased in the little envelopes pre-measured for most recipes or in bulk, generally in brick form. Most recipes call for the pre-measured envelopes, so these may be your best bet if you're a beginner. Two key points to kick-start your yeast:
ALWAYS proof your yeast. This will ensure that your yeast is fresh and will aid in incorporating it into the dry ingredients. To proof your yeast, simply take a portion of the water called out in your recipe (half-1 cup), warm it to around 105F and thoroughly dissolve the yeast in it.
Add a teaspoon of sugar. Once dissolved, the sugar gives the yeast food to consume and thus activate quicker. Usually within 5-10 minutes you will notice the yeast mixture has expanded and formed a frothy top, which means it's ready to add to the dry ingredients.
3. Mix the Ingredients. You have two options for mixing, depending on your preference. Some chefs view kneading the dough by hand as far superior to using a stand mixer. Using your hands helps you develop a feel for the dough—and it’s great exercise. But a good stand mixer with a dough hook tends to speed things along and free you up for other tasks while the dough is mixing. Whichever method you choose, pay close attention to the consistency of the dough. You'll know it's ready for its first rise when you poke it with your finger and the indention slowly rebounds.
4. Watch Your Bake Time. Most pizza recipes call for a baking temperature of 450F for 12-15 minutes. Considering the temperature in most commercial pizza ovens is 850F or above for 2-3 minutes, following the recipe may not give you the results you're looking for. But if you decide to crank your oven up to its highest possible temperature (usually 550F) you will need to keep a close watch on the pizza as the cooking time will be dramatically reduced from the recipe.
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