What is the trick to making a pizza crust golden-brown? Mine is always pale and more like cardboard than bread. I use a pizza stone and have tried several recipes. Nothing helps. Is it my oven?
–Linda in Seattle
I bet it is your oven -- and maybe the tendency we all have to knead too much flour into bread doughs.
Invest in an oven thermometer so that you’ll know if your oven temperature is really where you want it to be. Then remember to preheat the oven for at least 20 minutes, and to keep your dough very soft and a bit sticky.
This pizza dough is an example of what I mean. Try it with spring greens, olive oil, garlic and mozzarella. Or try Classic Pizza Margherita.
Makes 12- to 13-inch round, doubles easily
20 minutes prep time, plus 2 to 24 hours rest time
You could start this dough in the morning for supper, or in the evening for the next night’s meal. Leave it at a cool room temperature up to 12 hours. If you need to wait longer to make your pizza, put the covered dough bowl in the fridge. It will hold for another 12 hours. Don’t worry about how it looks when you take it out (it probably will have collapsed on itself). Let the dough come close to room temperature before punching it down.
Measure the flour by dipping the measuring cup into the flour and leveling it off.
1/2 cup warm (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit) water
A heaping 1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1 to 1-1/4 cups (5 to 6 ounces) all-purpose unbleached flour (organic preferred)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Stir together a 1/4 cup of the water, the yeast, sugar, salt and a teaspoon of the flour. It should bubble within 8 minutes. If not, the yeast is past its prime, and you need to replace the yeast before you continue.
2. Blend together the yeast mixture, 1 cup of the flour, and the remaining 1/4 cup water. Beat 2 minutes by hand or 10 seconds in food processor. You want the dough to be smooth, soft and sticky. If necessary, work in 1 tablespoon or 2 of flour until dough is somewhat sticky, soft and very elastic. Hand knead 5 minutes, or process 5 seconds.
3. Oil a medium bowl, and add the dough. Seal the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature to nearly triple in bulk -- about 2 hours or overnight in a cool place. Twenty minutes before baking, punch it down, knead another minute, form it into a ball. Cover it with a towel and let it rest at room temperature.
4. Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and set the rack as low as possible. Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a 13-inch round. Set on an oiled baking sheet and let it rest 10 minutes. Top the pizza however you want, but don’t overload it.
5. Bake for 10 minutes. Then with a spatula and thick oven mitt, slip the pizza off the pan directly onto the oven rack. Bake another 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully slip the pizza back on the pan and serve hot.
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