Pizza night

Most weeks Jess and I have a pizza night. Pizzas night, actually. It's good cold, but it's great when it's fresh from the oven. I used to do this quite a bit differently, but over the last few years I've made a few adjustments and at this point I'm pretty happy with it. There are still a couple things I want to try sometime, but it's hard to mess with a good thing. I wanted to share the secret with everyone!

The hardware
Now, I use a dough whisk to mix everything up. You could use a stand mixer with a dough hook or whatever else you like to make dough with. Other than that, all you need is a bowl, a kitchen scale, and a scoop of whatever size fits into your flour receptacle. I only use my little measuring cup as a scoop for the flour, because it's in a big jar that would be difficult to pour from. Also, it lets me sort of loosen up the flour as I scoop it into the bowl. For everything else, I just pour straight from the jar or get my hand down in there.

The software
Put your bowl on your scale and turn it on. Scoop or dump in the following into your bowl, in order:
  • 400 g whole wheat flour
  • 30 to 40 g flax seed meal
  • 30 g gluten
  • 15 g bread machine yeast
  • A pinch of salt
  • A little sugar (only for the yeasties, a tablespoon or two)
Stop! Whisk all these dry things together. And then also add:
  • Some olive oil (a couple tablespoons)
  • A bunch of honey (3/4 to 1 cup)
For later you'll also need:
  • A cup of warm water (around 100 degrees-ish)
  • A couple tablespoons of extra flour just to keep things from sticking to everything. 
  • Cornmeal to keep your pizza from sticking to your stone or pan.
  • More olive oil to brush on the crust.
  • Pizza sauce, about five spoonfuls per pizza.
  • Shredded mozzarella.
  • Oats. Mine are rolled, not sure if steel cut would work any differently.
Make the dough
Whisk everything that's in your bowl. The honey will make it a little clumpy. Pour the water in the middle and start whisking some more. It's not vital but might make it easier to get going if you whisk in the middle and only bring in a little additional flour from the edges at a time until everything's wet. Keep whisking until it all sort of comes together in one big clump and it's a pain in the butt to pull the whisk through the whole lump.

Sprinkle the table with a little bit of flour. Dump your dough out onto the table and knead for several minutes. I'd say at least ten minutes, but I get lazy and quit after five or six usually. Use a little more flour as needed, but only enough to keep the dough from sticking to the table and your hands. Measuring the flour by weight means that we're more or less set on moisture content, so we're not trying to dry things out any here.

Take a nap
The dough needs to rest some, and so should you. Form the dough into as much of a sphere as you can manage, and put it in your bowl with a little oil to coat the dough. Cover it with a damp towel and let it sit for an hour. Go find something to do. This is the point where I occasionally get impatient and will move on after 45 minutes. Especially if I didn't start this whole process till it was already 20:00.

Preheat your oven to 500°
If you have a pizza stone, make sure it's in the oven before you begin preheating. My stone said I should let the stone sit in the preheated oven for 45 minutes before baking, but I ignore that completely and get things going as soon as the oven says it's ready.

Make your crust
While the oven begins its long slow journey to 500, you might as well begin preparing your crusts. I usually make two pizzas with this amount of dough, but you could do whatever. The same dough would work for three if you wanted several toppings, or four or five if you want to do individual pizzas. After splitting your dough, try to make each hunk into spheres again. And then let them sit for a few minutes, if you don't have a starving spouse waiting.

You'll need a little more flour here, but only a tiny bit to sort of soak up the oil that you coated your dough with while it was rising. And then maybe a tiny bit more so you're not peeling your dough off the table to move it around.

Take your more or less spherical balls of dough and flatten it a little so there's enough surface area to fit your fist. Push your fist down in the middle of your disk of dough, and then rotate and repeat a few times so you've got a deep circular indentation. Do the same thing a little more to widen the circle some. Pick up the dough and vigorously pass it from hand to hand. The idea is to move it fast enough so it stretches itself out a little bit each time.

I've not had a whole lot of luck tossing my dough, and I kind of worry that using the whole wheat flour makes it a little more fragile anyway. So instead, I lay it back on the table and use the backs of my fingers to stretch it, turning it after each stretch. What I'll do is push down with the backs of my fingers, and sort of twist the tips of my fingers toward the outside edge of the circle. At the same time I move my hand out so it pulls the whole thing a little larger. Then I turn the dough a little and repeat, in an attempt to make my crust round.

After forming both crusts, I sprinkle corn meal on my pizza peels and lay the crusts on them, up toward the front edge. I use a basting brush to brush some olive oil around the edges of the crust. This seems to help the crust get a little more browned and slightly crisp. I usually end up also lightly coating the whole thing with whatever's left on my brush.

The newest addition to my pizza is some oats. Before putting the sauce on, I sprinkle a couple handfuls of oats on the crusts. It makes spreading the sauce a bit trickier, but I like the idea of getting some oats in with my pizza.

I use about five spoonfuls of sauce on each pizza. This is quite a bit more than I used to use; in the past I would only use enough sauce to coat the whole thing. Now we're trying to focus on the sauce rather than the cheese.

I've never paid attention to exactly how much cheese we put on, but it's just enough so that when it melts, it all comes together. Since we usually get the cheese in half pound blocks, this might mean it's about a quarter of a pound between the two pizzas.

When we have it, we will add torn up spinach leaves. Completely cover the pizza. The spinach shrinks a lot. And we do have spinach right now, but it's a little funky, so we'll stick to just the cheese this time.

Slide a pizza onto your stone in that 500° oven, and let it bake for 6 or 7 minutes. I like to keep an eye on the cheese. My preference is for a couple small areas of cheese to brown a little, but a lot of times I end up taking it out just before that happens while the cheese is still bubbling merrily.

Hopefully, it'll look something like this. All that honey we used results in a nice sweet crust. But don't worry, if you cut these into eight slices, you'll only end up with around a tablespoon of honey per slice.

Oh, one more thing. After you take it out of the oven, if you let it sit for a few minutes before cutting, the cheese will have cooled enough to cut cleanly, thus avoiding stretching a string of cheese across the table as you serve your family.

Edit: This post also shows on a blog hop, dated 2012-05-29 here: