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September 1, 2011

PIZZA

I love pizza. But I'm a snob about it. Most pizza is just not that great, and at $20-30, not budget friendly either. So I make my own. When you make the dough a day or two ahead, it's pretty awesome. But even if you're lazy or impulsive, same day dough is better than crappy delivery.
Barbecue chicken with mushrooms

Put 1 1/3 cup warm water in a bowl with 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast. That's 1 packet for those of you following along, but it's way cheaper to buy bulk if you do any amount of baking. Once the yeast is dissolved, add 2 tsp sugar, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 2 T olive oil. Mix in about 3 3/4 c bread flour. If you've ever made bread or dough, you know why I say about. If you haven't, you want to mix in just enough flour so that the dough is not sticky, which can vary based on the day (and how much flour is actually in your cup). I will sometimes replace 1/2 c of the flour with 1/2 c of wheat germ, to health it up a little. All-purpose flour will work, but bread flour has more gluten, which equals more chewy, which equals yum.

I finally got a stand mixer last year and my carpal tunnel still sends thank you notes. If you're kneading by hand, it will take about 15 minutes. Either way, you want the dough to be smooth and elastic. Pull it. If it stretches, you're good. If it breaks, keep going. You've probably heard of the windowpane test, but I make this with kids and they don't have the patience to knead that long. It turns out fine.

Thai chicken with sweet chili sauce and squash

If you're planning ahead, put the dough in a large tupperware and pop it in the fridge. You could also put half in the fridge for later and leave half out to rise. If you're leaving the dough out, cover it and leave for 1 1/2 hours. Pull the chilled dough out of the fridge a little while before you need to use it so it can come up to room temperature.

Divide the dough in half and pat into a little disk. Grab the edge of the disk like an old woman clutching her handbag. Let the weight of the dough do the work for you. Move your hands around the edge, letting the dough stretch. It will want to stretch much thinner in the middle than on the edges, so watch for impending tears. You can also get all showy and toss the dough, but you better make sure your floor is clean. Let your pizza dough rest for a few while you get your toppings ready.

Your oven should be hot. Really hot. At least 450°. Hopefully, you've preheated a pizza stone too, but a baking sheet will be fine. Use a little cornmeal on your stone or pan and build the pizza on top. I don't know anyone personally who owns a pizza peel, but if you do, go ahead and use it. (Though if you do, I have no idea why you'd be reading my pizza tutorial.)

Pesto with tomato and kalamata olives

I find 12 minutes is perfect in my oven, but your mileage may vary. Let cool before you slice, if you want the cheese to stay on the pizza. (Also, use a cutting board, not your stone.)

Ta-da!

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