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Your guide to Pie

Posted April 4, 2012 @ 8:53pm | by Anne

Okay, we are going to take a break from our normal Guggenheim-quality blog scratchings to bring you a series of 'How to' tutorials on making pizza dough, tossing dough, and pizza recipes to have fun with. Why? Because a lot of you have asked for it! That, and we are currently doing a weekly series on this on our local tv channel KKCO (channel 11) 

Don't worry; we'll still draw stuff as well...

Let's start with Lesson 1: How to make pizza dough at home. 

There are a lot of reasons why you want to know this; maybe you live in Nebraska and can't find good pizza anywhere, maybe you want to impress your new girlfriend with your culinary prowess, maybe your grandma made meatballs again and you want to figure out something new to do with them. Regardless, pizza is a good tool to have in your back pocket because whatever the occasion, your friends will probably think it's cool if you make it for them.


We are going to share with you a recipe for a NY style pizza dough. First let's define what 'NY style' pizza is; NY style pizza is traditionally a thin crust, chewy pizza, with a decent sized rim of crust. The crust should have an initial outer 'crunch' to it, while the inside is airy and chewy. NY style pie is round in shape, and always hand formed and tossed...none of this rolling pin nonsense. 

Here's a fun definition of NY style pie from PMQ magazine: NEW YORK STYLE PIZZA: New York style pizza can be traced back to the 17th century when Spanish soldiers were occupying the area around Naples, Italy. One of their favorite snacks was a soft, crispy dough with toppings that the Neapolitans called sfiziosa. Like local New Yorkers who fold their slices in half and eat while walking, these Spanish soldiers folded the flat bread into a libretto (little book) and ate it with their hands. One of the main characteristics of New York style pizza is its thin, chewy crust, but that isn't everything that defines New York style pizza. Many might say that it's not New York style unless it leaves those yellow trails of oil running down your elbow when you eat it. This comes from the high butter fat cheese they use. Big Dave Ostrander says most New York pizzerias use Grande mozzarella cheese to get this trait. For New York style, fresh mozzarella isn't an option... it's a rule! Many are hearth or deck oven baked and the sauce is usually thinner than most sauces with fewer ingredients added. The dough is made with high protein, high gluten flour (usually 13.5 to 14.5% protein) and is slightly chewy. There is an old urban legend that you can only produce New York pizza in New York due to the hard water they have. While it's true that New York has hard water, it's debatable as to whether this is the secret ingredient. Source: PMQ.

We are sharing with you a NY style recipe, as this is what we make, and prefer, at the Hot Tomato. This is not our exact recipe, but is a good solid NY style one nonetheless. Why not share our exact recipe? Because we make ours with a 50lb bag of flour, are not very good at math, and can't figure out how to break it down to a 'make at home' size.... (this is really true). But! the ingredients are the same, as most good NY style pizza ingredients are. 

To start:

You will want a few basic pieces of equipment on hand, the most crucial being a counter top mixer (a.k.a. the 'mini-hobart') with a mixing bowl. Yes, you could theoretically do this by hand, but you don't want to....You will also need measuring cups and spoons, and some saran wrap.

Next; ingredients. Let's talk flour for awhile. At the Tomato we use what is called "High Gluten" flour. Gluten in flour is also known as your protein content. Here is a short but sweet definition of what gluten does for dough: GLUTEN: An elastic, rubbery substance that results when certain proteins in flour, namely glutenin and gliadin, are combined with a liquid (usually water) and mixed together. Prior to this combination the gluten does not exist. When the gluten in dough is properly kneaded, a strong and highly developed gluten network forms that has a honeycomb-like structure which traps gases (i.e., carbon dioxide) produced during fermentation. As the gases are produced in quantity, the gluten structure expands, causing the dough to rise.

At the Hot Tomato, we use a flour with a 14% gluten/protein content. This is pretty high, and is the standard for a classic NY style pizza.

For those of you who live in smaller towns or cities and are making this at home, you will most likely be stuck with what the local grocery store carries for flour choices. Garden-variety grocery store 'bread' flours will have a protein content between 11-12%. This change in numbers does not seem like much, but when it comes to dough, it is quite great. If you can find a high gluten flour, grab it! if not, you can still make a great home pizza, but be aware that it will not quite develop the 'chew' and strength that it would with a higher protein content.

Here's your ingredients:

1 3/4 cups of 80 degree water. 80 degrees is a solid number for dough that is going to 'cold proof' (more on that later). If you are in a rush and need to use your dough pronto, up that water temp to 110. Yes, we do actually measure the temperature of our water. You should too.

2 tsp dry yeast

2 tsp honey or sugar

1 Tbs good quality Olive Oil

2 tsp Salt

5 Cups Flour  

This recipe makes THREE 14" pizzas.

Step 1: Warm up your mixing bowl! It does no good to warm your water up to a certain temperature and then proceed to throw it into a cold bowl....for obvious reasons. Run your mixing bowl under warm water until it reaches a nice warm temp, and then attach it to your mixer.

2. Put your water in the mixing bowl.

3. Add your yeast to the water. Give it a few minutes time of rest to dissolve, and then swirl your hand around in the water to make sure it has all dissolved evenly.

Pizza is an incredibly 'Hands On' food. You mix the yeast by hand, you dissolve the sugar and salt by hand, you roll the dough by hand, and then you hand form, pound, and toss the dough, all by hand. If you don't like food that people have touched? I'd probably stay away from pizza....That being said, we like to keep this one thought in mind; "be in a good mood". I know that sounds hippy trippy, but dough is a living thing, and we like to think that if you make it with love, and you're happy, and not angrily pounding away at that dough, it takes wayyyy better.....okay, tangent done!

Step 4: Add your salt and sugar to the water. Swirl it around with your hand.

Step 5: Add your olive oil to the water.

Step 6: Add your flour.

Step 7: Turn the mixer on! Prior to doing this, have a timer ready. 

Step 8: Start your timer, mix your dough for 9 minutes.

Step 9: Once your dough has mixed for 9 minutes, pull the bowl off of the mixer.

Step 10: Lightly oil your hands and divide the dough into 3 balls. Why Oil? Because flour at this point will only stick to the dough and form a crust as the dough conditions.

Note! Your dough will feel wet and sticky!!! This is totally normal!!!! NY dough has what is called a 'high hydration content' i.e. the amount of water in the dough. This means it will feel sticky. Sticky is good when it comes to pizza dough. Hydration content gives your dough it's 'chew'. The higher the hydration, the more 'chew' your crust will have.

Step 11: Take those 3 dough balls and roll them into 3 nice, smooth rounds. This can feel a little awkward, and take a little practice, but keep at it; you want a nice round ball of dough.

In fact, because this is awkward, we are going to give you some pictures to help.

 Use the palms of your hands to roll the dough back 'into itself' so to speak.

All the while trying to keep the top part of the dough smooth.

When finished, tuck the underside of the dough back into the ball.

Next step; Letting the dough 'Proof'. Proofing is done in two ways. There is 'Warm' proofing, and there is 'Cold' proofing. Warm proofing allows the yeast to ferment and feed the dough, which 'grows' the dough in size. Cold proofing slows down the activity of the yeast so that your dough has time to develop more flavor and character. Warm proofing can be done in a pinch if you need to use your dough quickly. But! we don't really believe that dough that has only been warm proofed has as great of characteristics as dough that has been through the cold proofing procedure.

Therefore; we recommend cold proofing your dough as well. Remember! cold proofing will only work if you  started your dough with water at 80 degrees in temp. If you used the hotter water, you will not be able to cold proof your dough for the amount of time we suggest. Your yeast will already be so active, that your dough runs the risk of over-proofing, and 'blowing up'.

Here's what you want to do;

Place those nice round dough balls on a lightly oiled tray, and cover them with the saran wrap. Now let them sit on your counter for about 45 minutes to an hour. The dough at this point should have grown by about 50% in size from the initial ball.

Now, put the tray of dough in your refrigerator. This is your 'Cold Proof' phase. We use a walk-in cooler for this, but your fridge does the job at home.

We cold proof our dough for a minimum of 8 hours per batch, but really feel that the ideal is 24 hours. The more your dough proofs, the more the intricacies of the flavors develop.

Okay, and then, voila, you have pizza dough! And now we leave you to your own devices with it....:)

Next week; We will be showing you how to form, pound, and toss your dough. So stay tuned. 

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