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Pain with pizza dough

One thing that I've never been able to do well is a good pizza base. We got part of the way there when we were in South Australia, where we could buy good fresh pizza dough at Millie's Bakery in Mount Barker. But there's nothing like that here, and anyway it's only part of the problem.

As I see it, there are three (or maybe four) issues with pizzas:

  1. What kind of dough do you want? Once the Italian style was the only one that people would use, but increasingly people are making American style bread, which I don't really consider to be pizza. So for me, this is no longer an issue.
  2. How do you make the dough? I've been using standard bread mix. Nowadays you make bread by mixing all the ingredients (including dried yeast) and kneading them. The yeast works anyway. But the ingredients I have seen haven't included olive oil, which I suspect might prove a problem, so today I mixed the yeast with the water and then added it to the other ingredients. The bread hardly rose at all.

    What went wrong? My suspicion is that the dried yeast includes its own small amount of sugar, which under expected circumstances gets moist and allows the yeast to rise. By mixing it with the water, I've flushed it away, and nothing happens.

  3. How do you roll out the dough? I'm not one of those whiz-bang pizza swingers, so I roll it out with a rolling pin. This tends to leave the edges much thicker than the middle.

  4. How do you bake it? This is the real problem in making pizzas: in almost every case, they get cooked only from above, so the topping is cooked, and the base is still half raw. They really need heating from below as well, A real pizza oven has a stone base which performs this function. In a home oven, there are three options:

Friday, 4 July 2008

Mail from Thomas Maynard today regarding my comments above.

There's a very helpful website devoted to helping folks walk the delicate line between “artisanal” and “easy”—with minimal compromise in flavor. That site is http://www.breadtopia.com.

Besides bread—and I've baked their recipes with excellent results—they also cover pizza. The specific pizza page is here: http://www.breadtopia.com/pizza-dough-recipe. Also note the grilled pizza on the same page.

While your notion of what is “proper” may differ, I can guarantee that if you follow their direction you will achieve a satisfactory result (but perhaps not “ideal” . depending on your preconceptions). At any rate, they will put you at an excellent jumping-off place for your own experimentation and optimization.

The site's definitely interesting, and I've done a bit of looking around. But somehow it left me dissatisfied. The link to pizza baking says “Use a quality baking stone and give it time to reach full heat saturation. By ‘a quality baking stone’, I mean a thick stone with good heat retention and heat transfer qualities”. And that's all it says; it doesn't say what “quality” means, nor how thick a “thick stone” is. Does my stone fit the bill? No way to guess.

It then goes on to mention the use of a “pizza peel”, a term I had never heard before. It's apparently a generic term for a baker's shovel, and it states that you need one if you're using a pizza stone. That's possible, but I can still see myself making quite a mess trying to slide pizzas off the peel onto the stone, as I mentioned in part 4 of my discussion.

Finally the dough recipe uses “instant yeast”, whatever that is. That's a cultural thing, of course; presumably it's available on every street corner in the USA. But it doesn't go into the details of how to mix it; possibly that's in the accompanying video, but I think that it should be in the written documentation as well, here as in any other kind of instructions.

ALDI's typical pizza

On 27 October 2013 I found another recipe in ALDI's weekly specials flyer. The fact that I include it here should not be construed as a recommendation:

Ingredients

quantity       ingredient       step
1 pkg       Fresh Approach Fresh Pizza Bases 600g       1
1 jar       Remano Passata 700 ml       1
900 g       Pumpkin, diced & oven roasted       2
1 pkg       Tibaldi Prosciutto, sliced       2
2       medium red onions, sliced and sautéed until soft       2
1 pkt       Emporium Selection Greek Feta Chees 200g       2

Method

  1. Place pizza base on the pizza stone and spread enough tomato passata to cover the base.

  2. Arrange pumpkin, followed by prosciutto, onion and crumbled feta.

  3. Pop in the oven and cook until cooked through.

That's amazing enough to remember.

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