Pizza Dough Throwdown, Part One

Friends, it’s your lucky night.  This post contains not one but TWO recipes! 

Tonight it was pizza night in my house.  Pizza night Fridays go way, way back in my family, back to my brothers and I in grade school, trooping downstairs with bottles of soda while Mom and Dad hoisted hot pans of homemade pepperoni pizza, all of us humming the Star Wars theme.  We really liked to watch Star Wars during our pizza nights.

I haven’t been able to give up pizza night, and really, why should anyone give up something so wonderful?  I do, however, try to change the pizza up a bit from time to time.  Tonight I made a homemade whole wheat pizza dough with my favorite uncooked tomato sauce.  The dough recipe makes 2 large pizzas or 3 or 4 smaller ones.  The sauce recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of sauce, or about enough to sauce 3 large pizzas (note: I tend to go light on the sauce).  If you have sauce left over, you can freeze it for next time.

I am on the search for the best pizza dough ever.  Chicago Matt has passed along a recipe to me that he SWEARS is the best.  So, this post will be the first of a two-part pizza dough throwdown.  Next weekend (hopefully), I will attempt Chicago Matt’s recommended Peter Reinhart recipe and present you, faithful reader, with my tastebuds’ opinion.

Tonight’s dough recipe is an adaptation of my go-to pizza dough recipe from AllRecipes.com.  I have used this dough recipe for about 8 years now, pretty much ever since I started making pizza on my own.  If you are a pizza geek like me, I don’t have to tell you that one of the keys to great pizza is a HOT oven.  Ideally, you should preheat your oven as hot as it will go, all the way to 11 .  If you’re worried about setting off an explosion or melting your kitchen, you don’t have to go quite that far.  My oven will go to 500F, but I play it safe at 475F with fabulous results.

And now, on to the sauce.  This sauce recipe is my own creation, and it’s very, very adaptable.  Use fresh herbs, use dry herbs, use more garlic, use no garlic.  Wait, don’t do that…using no garlic is just silly, right?  Right.  Anyhoo, this sauce is uncooked, which makes it super easy.  All you need is a blender, and I bet if you want to get really rustic you wouldn’t even need that.

I don’t have to tell you that this pizza is utter delish.  But I will, because it is.  UTTER DELISH.  I like the slight nuttiness of the whole wheat crust, though I realize whole wheat is a deviation from the pizza dough purity that some pizza geeks might crave.  On special occasions, I make non-whole-wheat pizza dough…for your garden-variety weekend pizza, I try to be a little less blasphemous when it comes to those gosh darned refined flours.  The sauce is mild but tomatoey, just the right complement to the cheese and whatever toppings you use.  The pizza in the photo is a simple margherita pizza, just sauce and cheese topped with a little basil chiffonade* right after it comes out of the oven.  Mmmm.  The second pizza from this batch of dough was hamburger and pineapple, the hubby’s favorite.  I doubt any of THAT pizza will last to see tomorrow.

*To chiffonade your basil, stack 4 or 5 basil leaves on top of one another.  Starting at the stem end, roll the basil leaves up to the tips in one tight little roll.  Using a sharp knife, slice the roll into rings at your desired thickness.  The rings will unroll into lovely little basil ribbons.

Becky’s Bomb-diggity Pizza Sauce
Ingredients:
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled
Handful of fresh basil, washed
Dash salt
Dash pepper
If you’re feeling creative: dash crushed red pepper + dash sugar

Directions:
Whiz in blender until smooth.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Adapted from “Jay’s Signature Pizza Crust” on AllRecipes.com

Ingredients:
1 packet active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/4 – 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and honey in the water, and let sit for 10 minutes.

Stir the salt and oil into the yeast mixture.  Stir in the whole wheat flour and about 2 cups of the all-purpose flour.  Once you have mixed in enough flour for the dough to form a sticky ball, turn it out onto a clean, floured surface.  Knead in more all-purpose flour until the dough is no longer sticky (meaning that the dough is moist but you can touch the dough without it sticking to your fingers).

Place the dough into a greased bowl, turn to coat, and cover with plastic or a towel.  Let the dough rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 475F (500F if your oven can handle it).  Punch down the dough, and form a tight ball. Allow the dough to relax, covered loosely, for 10 minutes before shaping.  Using your hands, shape the dough on a well-floured surface.  You can use a rolling pin if you want, but using your fingertips to press the dough is the best way to shape, as it removes air bubbles from the dough.  Transfer your dough to a lightly-greased pizza pan or cookie sheet (sprinkled with cornmeal, if desired) if you do not have a pizza stone.

Top your pizzas as desired.  Bake in preheated oven, until the cheese and crust are golden brown, about 8-10 minutes (for a 475F oven).

Note:  the more sauce and toppings you add, the longer it will take to cook, and the less likely it is that you’ll get a crispy crust bottom.  If you like crispy crust all the way around your pizza, go light on the toppings.

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