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BEST-EVER PIZZA DOUGH
Updated 1/15/2011)----This dough originally happened strictly by accident, and necessitated by my hubby's complaints over my previous failures of too-crispy, too-thick, too-tough, too-heavy, too-yucky (and more) attempts to please his particular "pizza palate". Soooo, this is the result of a combination of recipes and tips from all of the following:
PJ Hamel at King Arthur Flour; Peter Reinhart, author of Bread Baker's A[pprentice", Charles Scoccalone, co-author of "Pizza", and Mike, owner of our local favorite pizza joint.

This recipe and method will result in a light, tender, flavorful pizza crust full of little holes.

Yield 2 large (14-inch) pizzas or 3 small-medium (12-inch) pizzas. You might even be able to divide it into 4 pieces for small personal-sized pizzas for the kids.

3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour or hi-gluten flour -- (14.25 oz.)
1 teaspoon instant yeast (.25 oz.)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt (.25 oz.)
1 teaspoon sugar (.25 oz.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cup water (9 to 11 oz.) -- at room temperature

USING A STAND MIXER: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Add oil, and with mixer on low speed, using the dough hook, add 1-1/4 cups of the water and mix knead on low speed approximately 6 minutes, adding more flour or dribbling in more water as needed The dough should form a ball; it's okay if the dough sticks a little bit to the bottom of the bowl but not the sides.

IF MIXING BY HAND, mix all ingredients together until dough reaches a shaggy mass. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead 10-12 minutes, let the dough rest 5 minutes. Finish kneading about 5 additional minutes, until dough is soft, smooth and supple, trying not to add any more flour than necessary.

If freezing all or parts of the dough, do it now by dividing the dough as desired and placing the dough balls in oiled zip-bags and freeze up to 6 weeks. Gently remove the dough to floured surface, degassing as little as possible (do not literally "punch down"). Using a bench scraper as a knife (not as a scissors), divide the dough into 2 equal pieces for two 14" pizzas or 3 pieces for 12" pizzas. Shape into rounds according to the size(s) desired, stretching the top by gently tucking any rough edges into the center on the bottom of the ball. Place the dough destined for the freezer into a lightly oiled ZipLoc bag.

Shape the dough to be used now into a ball, Place the rounded dough into a lightly oiled bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm spot until double in volume, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Be sure to check it after 1 hour---the dough is ready when it does not spring back when a finger is poked into it. (Alternative fermenting, the dough may be placed in the refrigerator for a slow rise 4-6 hours. Allow the dough to come to room temperature about 2-3 hours to complete its rise before shaping.)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. for at least 30 minutes before baking.

BAKING METHODS AND OPTIONS:
1. Using a baking stone: Place the stone on the lowest rack of the oven before preheating (at least 30 minutes before baking).
2. Using a baker's peel: Sprinkle liberally with cornmeal; or parchment paper may be cut to fit on the peel and then sprinkled with cornmeal.
3. Using a pizza pan (perforated is preferred): Lightly spray with olive oil cooking spray.
4. Using a baking sheet with a baking stone: Turn the pan upside down, line it with parchment paper cut to fit, and then sprinkle it with cornmeal. Bake with the pan directly on the stone.
5. Using a baking sheet without a baking stone: Line the pan it with parchment paper cut to fit, and then sprinkle it with cornmeal.
SHAPING: To shape the pizza, generously flour a 9- or 10-inch plate that has about a one-inch "lip" on it, and place the dough ball in the center. Flour the dough and flour your hands. Using fingertips, begin pushing the dough from the center out toward the edge, occasionally turning the plate, until a ridged edge about 1/2-inch high is formed. If the dough resists and "bounces back", let it rest a few minutes and resume shaping. Transfer the pizza dough to a well-foured surface and continue the same action until it's almost to the size you desire. Pick up the dough and spread it over your fists, knuckle-side up. Holding your fists about 12 inches apart, gently toss/turn until the dough is the size you desire, usually about 5-6 turns.

Place the shaped pizza onto the prepared peel, parchment, and/or pan. Gently re-shaping any portion as needed. Add sauce, cheese and/or other desired toppings. Lightly brush around the edge of the pizza with a little olive oil. Then drizzle a little extra virgina olive oil over all if desired (I do not). Place the pizza into the oven, reduce oven temperature to 475 degrees F. and bake pizza about 7-9 minutes or until crust edges begin to brown and the cheese is melting and bubbly. Let rest 2 minutes before cutting.

For more pizza ideas, visit "Shaboom's Pizza Parlor"

Visit Peter Reinhart's personal "Pizza Quest". You will be amazed!

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Copyright 2011 Carol Stevens, Shaboom's Kitchen, All Rights Reserved