Saturday, January 1, 2011

Recipe Tweaks: Pioneer Woman's Pizza Crust

One of the hippest moms I know told me, back when I was preggers and nesting like crazy and feeling the need to make Gourmet meals (literally, as in from the magazine Gourmet) every night, that I would be doing myself a favor by memorizing a reliable and tasty pizza dough recipe.

I followed her advice. The easiest and most freezer-friendly recipe I use is Pioneer Woman's Pizza Crust recipe, found on page 108 of The Pioneer Woman Cooks.  I've made it dozens of times with a few teeny tiny adaptations that make it just a smidge healthier and a teensy bit more fun to make.

Original Recipe = 4 cups all purpose flour
What I Use = 1 part whole wheat flour to 2 parts all-purpose flour (1 and 1/3 c. whole wheat flour, 2 and 2/3 c. all-purpose flour)
Why = I like to sneak whole wheat onto my plate sometimes. It gives the crust a deeper flavor, not to mention a nice color. Just be sure to whisk the two flours together before you add the other ingredients.

Original Recipe: "Mix by hand until the dough comes together."
What I Do: Knead and knead and knead. Then I knead some more. Ten minutes of kneading.
Why: To make the dough smoother, more elastic, and lighter. And chewier. And goodier. Well, maybe not goodier. Kneading it until you can stretch it into a pizza shape and it doesn't tear means you can also transfer it to a baking stone in the oven for a crispier crust.

Original Recipe: 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
What I Use: the same, or 1/3 cup vegetable oil
Why: because I ran out of olive oil (which is almost as bad as running out of cream gravy). You can't tell a difference in the dough. Seriously. It's just as good.

Original Recipe: Bake for 8-10 minutes at 500 degrees in a rimmed baking sheet.
What I Do: Bake for 10-12 minutes at 420 on a preheated pizza stone.
Why: Personal preference*. I like the bottom of the crust to be crisp and the inside to be tender, so I bake directly on a stone in the oven. I prepare the pizza on a flat baking sheet with corn meal scattered underneath the pizza, which makes sliding the pizza onto the hot stone very easy.

*Also, my oven may or may not have some crumbs in the bottom. It may or may not smoke if I heat it to 500 degrees, resulting in all of the smoke alarms in our home being set off, which then results in me rushing around the house with a broom in hand, trying to sweep invisible-to-the-naked-eye smoke away from the alarms, all while assuring my now very alarmed William that mommy is chasing away the smoke, and nothing is wrong, and let's hope we can get these alarms off before the neighbors come over to make sure we're okay. Again.

This dough freezes well. Just remove it from the freezer and stick it in the fridge a day or so before you want to use it. I have found that it keeps in the fridge, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for as long as two weeks. This dough truly gets better with age.

Top with whatever and serve with a salad. If you've been especially good, maybe you'll find a tiny heart leaf of lettuce on your plate.

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