The Number One (#1) Secret Ingredient in Pizza Dough – You May Not Like The Answer

For a long time, I was an impatient pizza chef. After all, a recipe that required almost a week to prepare sounded ludicrous! Who could plan their eating habits that far in advance, I wondered? Well my friends, you and I have to become those exact people if we are ever to reach our lofty pizzaiolo goals. Time, after all, is the number one secret ingredient in pizza dough.

There is no one bigger ingredient in a dough recipe that will affect the flavor and depth of your dough. Brand of flour, oil or no, salt or no… all of these options are minuscule compared to the choice you make when you prepare a dough half  an hour before you bake it.

I have found this one rule to be true for almost all home pizza making: If the recipe calls for two hours of rise time in between mixing and baking, place your dough in a covered bowl, place the bowl in the fridge, and leave it there for three to five days. If the recipe calls for twelve hours of rise time, place your dough in a covered bowl, place the bowl in the fridge, and leave it there for three to five days. A long, slow, cold rise time will do wonderful things to your dough. In fact, about a day or so into the rise, pull the dough and and punch it down – then place it back in the fridge of course. This will further develop the flavor and texture (not to mention redistribute the bubbles which have formed in your dough).

So there you have it. I know, it’s kind of a bummer. As you read this article, the spark went off in your head “How about pizza tonight!” But what you need to retrain yourself to think is this, “How about pizza five days from now??”

It’s time to start paying attention to time, the secret ingredient in all pizza dough.

Advertisements

100 lbs of Central Milling Organic Flour

100 lbs of Central Milling Flour

100 lbs of Central Milling Flour

So about two weeks ago, I took delivery of 100 lbs of Central Milling flour, and wow, 100 lbs is a LOT of flour! It came in two 50 lb bags: One bag of Beehive Organic Unbleached Malted AP and one bag of their Artisan Bakers Craft Organic Wheat Flour. Both flours have produced nothing but amazing results so far, with only one negative side effect: Where does one store a hundred damn pounds of anything in one’s little apartment kitchen?? In the end, I got a great 12 qt glass storage container to store a usable amount on the counter, and I shoved the rest in next to the fridge to use as a refill as my container gets low. I’m happy to have my new favorite flour so proudly on display, and my wife is happy to have those huge sandbag-esque bags of flour out of the middle of the kitchen! It’s a win-win!

So I know, if you read this blog with any regularity, that you know I am all gaga about Central Milling flour. They seem to have a great selection of specialty flours and they are semi local to me so I can pick and choose new flours each time I get a hold of them. I also wanted to let you know that I’ve been making pizzas recently with just the Beehive Organic AP flour

A Basil Extravaganza!

A Basil Extravaganza!

(see Basil Pizza Photo) and I am just so surprised at how well the flour/dough sets its gluten structure up. Because it’s not a bread flour per-se, the dough isn’t rubbery or hard to stretch. But to my surprise, this simple AP flour also holds up really well  to the bubbles and stretching produced by the CO2 from the yeast. It seems to be a perfect blend of a decently high gluten network with the soft, easy to toss feeling you may be looking for in your dough. Just thought you’d like to know WHY I like this flour so much 🙂

Anyhow, enjoy the photos, enjoy laughing at me and my inappropriately large bags of flour, and most importantly, go out and enjoy making some of the best pizza of your life for yourself tonight, would ya? If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment – I’ll get right back to you with some hopefully helpful tips 🙂

Happy baking!

-Ryan

Central Milling: Now Shipping to You and Me!

cmillingCentral Milling, a company I choose over Giusto’s, King Arthur’s, and all others, is now set up to ship flour to the likes of you and me. For years, the good people at Central Milling have been supplying commercial baking establishments all over the west coast as well as filling the bags of Whole Foods‘ 365 brand flour. They have an INSANE list of organic and traditional flours to choose from, and with the advent of the flat rate shipping box from the USPS, they have an easy and convenient way to get their fine product directly from the mill to your front door. It doesn’t get much more fresh than that!

If you’d like to check out their wide array of flours, check out the 2009 Product Listing.

If you’d like to order up some flour for your very own, send an email to Nick at ngiusto@centralmilling.com or call him at (707) 849-6788 and he will get it straight in the mail for you.

If enough of us home enthusiasts are interested in his flours, we may be able to offer a “In Search of the Perfect Pie Coupon”. I guess we’ll just have to see what everyone thinks 🙂

Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think of your experience with these new flours. Thanks!

-Ryan

Central Milling – The New King of Flour?

cmillingI’ve been talking a lot with a certain manager at Central Milling, a California/Utah based flour mill, and am happy to report I am soon going to be offering In Search of the Perfect Pie coupons here on the blog for you guys to order their previously only commercially sold flour directly from the mill. At the moment, Central Milling is responsible for the fine organic flours you find in every Whole Foods 365 brand bag, your favorite bakeries up and down the California coast, and even many of the largest casinos out in Las Vegas. If you are interested in finding out more about the company, check out their (albeit simplistic) web site at http://www.centralmilling.com/.

If you’d like to be the first to find out when these coupons are available, subscribe!

Couldn’t Stay Away

I tried to leave my pizza stone behind. Tried to say I didn’t need it – tried to say I didn’t like it. Well, my friends, that was a big fat lie. Check out these photos from my return to the stone.

How to Make a Sourdough Pizza from Scratch – THE VIDEO!

I’ve been talking about how “my new great pizza recipe is coming soon” for a while – well, now it is HERE. And I’ve even shot a video to go along with it! Enjoy making your new, most favorite pizza EVER.

How to Make Sourdough Pizza from Scratch

from Ryan Sanders on Vimeo.

Here is the recipe I follow in my newly released how-to video. This is based on the Jeff Varasano recipe, with a few modifications for an oven that only goes to 550.

Things to know before you begin:

  • This recipe assumes you have an active sourdough culture.
  • Prep time on the dough is at least one day.
  • This recipe makes two pies.
  • This recipe is only given in weights. You’ll need a scale that can measure grams.
  • If any of this sounds a bit much, check out my simpler thin crust recipe here.

1. Make sure you have a sourdough starter going before starting this recipe. If you don’t have one going yet, you can order one at sourdo.com or cultivate your own local yeast like this.

2. Measure according to weight (in grams) the following.

  • Filtered Water – 220 grams
  • Bread Flour  – 336 grams
  • Kosher or Sea Salt – 1.5 tsp
  • Sourdough Yeast Culture -36 grams
  • Instant Dry Yeast – 3/4 tsp

3. Pour everything except for about one quarter of the flour into your stand mixer.

4. Use the standard paddle attachment and mix on the slowest speed until your dough is evenly mixed. You should be aiming for the consistency of a thick batter. It shouldn’t look like dough yet.

5. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. THIS IS IMPORTANT, DON’T SKIP THIS.

6. Put the dough hook onto your mixer and start kneading your mixture. After five minutes, bein to gradually add in the remaining flour. Aim to have all the flour in by about the eight minute mark or so. If you reach a point where the dough looks good but you still have more flour, just don’t add it.

7. After about 8 minutes, click your stand mixer up to the next highest speed. Kneed until you see the dough form a wet ball. Always err on the side of dough that is too wet, and never “be a slave to recipes” as Jeff Varasano would say. If the dough needs a bit more flour, put some in.

8. Cover the bowl and rest for 20 minutes. THIS IS IMPORTANT, DON’T SKIP IT.

9. Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured counter top, sprinkle the top of it lightly with flour, and use your hands to form it into a nice round ball. It should be wet enough so that it sags when you form your ball. If it’s perk, your dough may be too dry.

10. Place the dough in a container, cover it with plastic wrap or a nicely fitting lid, and stow it away in your fridge for 1-6 days. The 3-4 day range is best, I’d say.

11. Take the dough out about an hour to an hour and a half before you want to bake it.

12. Heat your oven to as hot as it will go.

12. Toss the dough and put a small amount of sauce on. I stick to one ladle full.

13. Top the pie with mozzarella and the toppings of your choice and slide it onto your super hot pizza stone, or if you are using a pan, just slide the pan onto a baking rack.

14. My over doesn’t have a cleaning mode, so I top out around 500 degrees. My pizzas take about 5-7 minutes to bake. Keep an eye out on yours.

15. Pull it out and cool it on a wooden surface if you can. Wait about 3 minutes to cut into it. Serve.

Hope you found this helpful!
Cheers,
Ryan

The Pizzetta Stone – Translating Jeff Varasano’s Technique

If you, like me, have ever done a Google search for “NY pizza recipe” then you have no doubt stumbled across the bible-esque tome that is Jeff Varasano’s Famous NY Pizza Recipe. The recipe, which is in itself very simple, tips the scale at a hefty 22,000+ words. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve read almost every single one of those words, but it took me months to get up the courage to sit down and plow through it all!

What I’ve prepared for you here is a condensation of Jeff’s recipe; a reduction, if you will, of the simple steps minus all of the asides and fascinating science behind his pie’s creation. What we’ve got here is a recipe you could have open on your laptop in the kitchen (I prepare exclusively from my computer) and actually follow the steps without hours of scrolling looking for the next step. If you ever want more explanation as to WHY you are doing the steps below, please grab a cup of coffee and sit down for a nice bit of reading at Jeff Varasano’s Famous NY Pizza Recipe. And Jeff, if you’re out there, thanks for publishing all of your findings for the rest of us to benefit from. Enjoy!

Things to know before you begin:

  • This recipe assumes you have an active sourdough culture.
  • Prep time on the dough is at least one day.
  • This recipe makes one pie.
  • This recipe is only given in weights. You’ll need a scale that can measure grams.
  • If any of this sounds a bit much, check out my simpler thin crust recipe here.

1. Make sure you have a sourdough starter going before starting this recipe. If you don’t have one going yet, you can order one at sourdo.com or cultivate your own local yeast like this.

2. Measure according to weight (in grams) the following.

  • Filtered Water – 110 grams
  • Bread Flour (Jeff likes King Arthur) – 168 grams
  • Kosher or Sea Salt – 6 grams (This is roughly one teaspoon – my scale doesn’t do well with such small amounts, so I use a tsp)
  • Sourdough Yeast Culture – 15 grams
  • Instant Dry Yeast – 0.5 grams (equivalent to a pinch – optional)

3. Pour everything except for about one quarter of the flour into your stand mixer.

4. Use the standard paddle attachment and mix on the slowest speed until your dough is evenly mixed. You should be aiming for the consistency of a thick batter. It shouldn’t look like dough yet.

5. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. THIS IS IMPORTANT, DON’T SKIP THIS.

6. Put the dough hook onto your mixer and start kneading your mixture. After five minutes, bein to gradually add in the remaining flour. Aim to have all the flour in by about the eight minute mark or so. If you reach a point where the dough looks good but you still have more flour, just don’t add it.

7. After about 8 minutes, click your stand mixer up to the next highest speed. Kneed until you see the dough form a wet ball. Always err on the side of dough that is too wet, and never “be a slave to recipes” as Jeff would say. If the dough needs a bit more flour, put some in.

8. Cover the bowl and rest for 20 minutes. THIS IS IMPORTANT, DON’T SKIP IT.

9. Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured counter top, sprinkle the top of it lightly with flour, and use your hands to form it into a nice round ball. It should be wet enough so that it sags when you form your ball. If it’s perk, your dough may be too dry. For photo examples of how wet your dough should look, go to Jeff Varasano’s Famous NY Pizza Recipe of course!

10. Place the dough in a container, cover it with plastic wrap or a nicely fitting lid, and stow it away in your fridge for 1-6 days. The 3-4 day range is best, I’d say.

11. Take the dough out about an hour to an hour and a half before you want to bake it.

12. Heat your oven to as hot as it will go. Jeff broke the safety off of his over and bakes pizzas while it is running on it’s cleaning cycle. Of course, he doesn’t suggest you follow his example… If you are using a pizza stone, make sure it is in when you begin to heat the oven.

12. Spread the dough out on a floured counter (Jeff says it isn’t great for tossing), put a small amount of sauce on. I stick to one ladle full.

13. Top the pie with mozzarella and the toppings of your choice and slide it onto your super hot pizza stone, or if you are using a pan, just slide the pan onto a baking rack.

14. My over doesn’t have a cleaning mode, so I top out around 500 degrees. My pizzas take about 5-7 minutes to bake. Keep an eye out on yours.

15. Pull it out and cool it on a wooden surface if you can. Wait about 3 minutes to cut into it. Serve.

Now if you are dying to know why or how, or want to see examples of what certain stages should look like, or want to know what your options are as far as flours, cheeses, sauces, yeasts, mixers, etc, or just want to read a more in depth explanation of anything you’ve read here, check out Jeff Varasano’s Famous NY Pizza Recipe for Pete’s sake!

Hope you found this helpful!
Cheers,
Ryan

Ryan’s Thin Crust Pizza Dough

Preheat to 500+ degrees (as hot as it will go). Put your stone in if you are going to use it. Yields one pizza.

  • 2 tsp yeast (one packet)
  • 1/4 tsp sugar (a squirt of honey works too)
  • 3/4 cup water (110 degrees. Use a thermometer)
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup bread flour ( don’t just put more all purpose flour… i said bread flour dammit!)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (sea salt would be nice)
  • oil (olive, grape seed, whateva’)

Instructions – Preheat to 475 degrees. Put your stone in if you are going to use it. Put sugar and yeast into 110 degree water. Stir it around a bit to make sure the sugar dissolves and the yeast really starts eating it up. Leave it to the side with a kitchen towel over the top for a couple of minutes. Put both flours and salt into a stand mixer and pulse it to mix the two together. Pour the liquid in on top of the flour mixture and follow these timed mixing stages:

  • 2 Minutes – Mix on medium speed. This stage is to simply bring the ingredients together and get them interacting with each other. Don’t worry if the dough still looks rough after the first 2 minutes.
  • 5 Minutes – Turn mixer off and let dough just sit there. This lets the proteins in the flours relax, unfold, and lets the yeast begin eating the flour as well.
  • 3 Minutes – Mix on medium speed again. If dough is looking too sticky, add more AP flour 1 tablespoon at a time until it pulls away from the sizes of the bowl. If it is too dry, add water 1 tablespoon at a time. You’ve got three minutes to get it right!

Take the dough out and throw it onto a floured counter top. Hand kneed it for a minute or two. If it is still too wet or dry, you can continue to add water/flour as you knead. You should see the texture and elasticity of the dough improve visibly as you kneed it by hand. No need to punch it or use fingers. Use the palms of your hands and almost “smear” it across the counter, fold it over itself and repeat. You are kneading to distribute air bubbles evenly into the dough, not pop them by punching it. Anyways, I digress…

If you made this recipe for one, form your dough into a ball, press it in between your hands to form a super-thick pancake form, then start tossing it in the air! If you multiplied this recipe, form your dough into a big ball, rub it with a light coating of oil, and plop it in a big bowl with a dishtowel over the top. When you are ready to toss the dough, pull a ball of dough out of the bowl in the neighborhood of a baseball/softball size, press it in between your hands to form a super-thick pancake form, then start tossing it in the air!

Although you don’t have to, you should have no problem getting this dough thin enough to see light through it. Bake the pizza until you see the cheese/toppings just starting to brown and you can lift a corner of the pizza up off the pan/stone and it seems to support it’s own weight. At this point, you’ve got maybe a minute or two more in the pan/stone OR (what I like to do) put one of your oven’s racks on the lowest height possible and slide the pizza in just on the rack itself. Because it is so close to the heating element, the bottom of the crust will get browned pretty quickly and after a minute or so you should have an extra crunchy crust. Keep a close eye on it because by the time you smell it burning, it will be nice and black 🙂

Other Cooking Tips – You are going to find using a metal pan is actually easier than a pizza stone, but a pizza stone will yield a crispier, crunchier crust. If you use a pizza stone, you need to preheat the stone as well as the oven. The problem with this arises when you realize: you can’t assemble the pizza on the stone. It’s 475 degrees! You’ll need to have a way to build the pizza and then transfer the completed creation to the blazing hot stone. A pizza sleeve (big wooden shovel thing) would be ideal for this, but a large, floured, portable cutting board works decently as well. If you use a metal pan, you can make the pizza directly on the pan and then just slip the pan into the stove. In order to get some of that crispiness back, I liberally oil the metal pan before placing the dough down into it so that as the pan heats, the bottom of the dough actually fries. Different kind of crispy, but super yummy all the same. If you are thinking of using very naturally wet vegetables (onions, bell peppers, etc.), your chances of success will greatly increase if you cut the vegetables before hand, lightly salt them (salt draws the liquid to the surface), and then roll them up in a dish towel so it absorbs all the excess moisture. I’ve had pizzas become too wet because of the fresh veggies and collapse through the middle of the crust right onto my oven’s heating element.. Plumes of black smoke tend to ruin dinner parties.

Final Tips – When shopping for mozzarella cheese, make sure it is part-skim, low moisture. Again, water on top of thin crust is bad and disastrous. For sauce, I like Newman’s Own Marinara or Muir Glen Organic Pizza Sauce found in the canned foods at Chico Natural Foods which is called Pizza Sauce which is organic and tastes pretty good. They also have a really nice pepperoni in the meat and cheese cooler in back which knocks the pants off of the hormel or whateva’ brand you’ll find in most grocery stores.

I’m working on my next pizza volume now… Coming soon, to theaters near you: The Pizza Bible II – Return of Son of Pizza Bible! This time, it’s sourdough!!!!!