Saturday, 2 November 2013

PIZZA DOUGH, GREEK STYLE: Pizza Shop Pizza Dough!

Wish I had one slice left. Even half a slice. I would settle for half of a slice. Unfortunately, it's all gone and I am left only with pictures and memories. Ah, the taste memories! I am eulogizing this pizza because it's not store bought, I made it myself. Made the dough, arranged the toppings, even used zucchini from my garden, and handpicked the basil leaves from the plant that grows on my patio. So I had special feelings about this pizza.  We had a relationship. It's over now. The pizza has been eaten. 

What can I say? I'm Greek and Greeks love bread! I would wager it's every Greek's favourite thing to eat. So just about any Greek who cooks knows how to bake bread with homemade dough. And they all like to argue about whose dough is the best. 

Now we come to the subject of pizza. Can you have pizza without dough? Perhaps in an alternate universe, it could be possible ... but hardly worth the experience. Since pizza depends on dough to become pizza, the pizza with the best dough makes the best pizza. Perfect the art of making dough, and you will have perfected the art of making pizza! 

Another important thing in pizza making is to have a flavourful sauce. Not a bland unseasoned sauce, nor a strong over-seasoned one, not a runny sauce, and not an extra thick and heavy sauce. Pretend you are a politician who has to tread in the middle of the political spectrum, then make your pizza sauce accordingly. But you will not have created a middle of the road sauce, instead, you will have a balanced sauce!

I'll tell you how I make my pizza; the recipe is tied and true and it makes an amazing pizza! 


4 cups bread flour
1½  cups very cold water 
¼ cup good vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
a little more flour, cold water and oil

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer add the water, the salt, sugar, oil and yeast. Using the paddle attachment mix until the ingredients are incorporated. 
  • Switch to the dough hook and add the flour in 8 batches (1/2 cup increments), mixing after each addition. Mix until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl. 
  • Be patient and let it mix, but if it looks as though it's going to stay a little too wet, sprinkle more flour into the bowl and mix until done. If the dough starts to wrap itself around the dough hook and looks as though it’s heading out of the bowl, add some water. You want a dough that is soft and just a little sticky.
  • Sprinkle flour on your work counter and place the dough on top. 
  • Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly oil the parchment. 
  • Cut the dough into pieces and weigh it: 14 ounces/400 grams are good for a large pizza that will serve about 4 people, and 8 ounces/230 grams are good for a smaller one that will serve about 2 people. 

  • Form each piece of dough into a round and place it on the sheet pan. Brush the dough with oil, and cover the pan well, using a plastic bag. 
  • Place the pan in the refrigerator. It should stay there to rest overnight. 
  • Any dough that will not be used the next day can be individually wrapped in plastic, placed in a freezer bag and frozen. It can be kept in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.

To make a pizza:

  • Place a dough ball on the counter. If frozen, let it come to room temperature. Cover it with flour and flatten it with the palm of your hand. Let it rest for 20 minutes and then flatten it to the appropriate size by using a rolling pin.

  • I don't like to bake my pizza directly on top of a pizza stone. I use a pizza pan, and I place the pan on the pizza stone. So at this point, I place the dough in its pan and I stretch it with floured hands until it has reached the sides of the pan. If the dough shrinks back from the sides, let it rest for a few minutes and it will become pliable and stay put and do what you want it to do.  
  • I use a pan with a 14-inch diameter for a large pizza and a pan with a 10-inch diameter for a small pizza.

  • Once the dough is stretched out in the pan, it's time to spread on the sauce. Two tablespoons of sauce for the small pizza, or four tablespoons of sauce for the large one. After that, I sprinkle on the cheese.
The type of cheese I like to use is shredded mozzarella mixed with a good shredded cheddar. In my opinion, this combination tastes best and in addition, gets rid of the problem of dealing with an elastic cheese which is what mozzarella turns into when left to its own devices. I like a 60/40 blend: 60 percent mozzarella, 40 percent cheddar.
  • At this point, the dough has to rest again so that it can rise. Cover it with plastic and let it rise for about 2 hours. If the pizza will not be cooked after the 2 hours, it can wait in the refrigerator.
Zucchini and olive pizza! Use what you have on hand. I had all those vegetables in my refrigerator - no need for a trip to the grocery store. A nice touch was the fresh mozzarella on top and the sesame seeds around the border of the pizza. Actually, I hesitate to make pizza without that sesame seed border ... It's kind of my signature, I think. 

  • When ready to cook add any toppings that will be used. The oven should be preheated to 450ºF/230ºC. Place the pizza in the oven, on top of the pizza stone. Baking time will be approximately 8 minutes.
  • If the top cooks before the bottom, next time move the pizza stone to a lower shelf. If the bottom is nice and crisp before the cheese and toppings are browned, then next time the stone should be placed on a shelf that sits higher in the oven. 
  • Always check: before starting to bake the pizza make sure the oven is nice and hot. 

  • Take the pizza out of the oven and with the use of a long knife or spatula transfer it to a cutting board. Don’t slice it yet. Inhale all the different aromas arising from it! You will smell the freshly baked dough, the melted cheese, the fragrance of roasted vegetables if any have been used. You will feel the heat rising up from the pizza, and the heat will spin all those fragrances around the room. Then look at all the lovely colours. Admire the golden dough, the redness of the sauce ... is it any wonder pizza is the world’s favourite food? Is there anyone who does not love pizza? 
  • Okay, now it’s time to stop admiring. Your pizza, she is ready to be eaten! It needed a few minutes of admiration so that its beauty could be thoroughly appreciated, but also so that the cheese could slightly set, becoming easier to slice. Well, what are you waiting for? Slice that baby and… you know what to do after it's sliced, don't you? Don't you?