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Making pizza dough--what's the secret??

  • g

I make pizza dough at home, but it's never the same consistency as I see at real pizzerias. What's the trick to making it so stretchy? I use high-gluten flour, water, yeast, salt and a little olive oil. I mix it, knead it until not sticky, then let it rise.

Nothing I make comes close to the elasticity of the real thing, you couldn't toss or stretch it without breaking holes in it. "Real" pizza dough appears very elastic and will absorb a lot of two-fisted stretching without breaking.

Anyone care to give up the secret from a real pizzeria? Is it the ingredients, the proofing, how is it done?

Thanks!

---Guy

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  1. I use the same ingredients plus a tablespoon of brown sugar or honey to help the yeast. I let it double in bulk. The secret that changed my pizza life is from Cooks Illustrated. Roll the dough with a rolling pin on a sheet of parchment paper with a sheet of plastic wrap on top. You can roll it to less than an eighth of an inch with no problem. Remove the plastic wrap, roughly trim the parchment paper and bake at at least 500 degrees. The paper is removed easily when the pizza is done. Cool the pizza on a rack. Enjoy.

    1. Here are a few tips on chewy bread dough; I'm sure others will have some as well:

      0) Not all bread flours are created equal; use a high quality unbleached flour like Giusto's
      1) Use about half the yeast called for in a typical recipe
      2) Add more liquid than the recipe calls for and flour the dough well when rolling it out
      3) Make a sponge with 50/50 flour and water plus half of the yeast in the recipe; let this sponge be about 30% of the total weight of the final dough; let this sponge rise for 24 hours in the fridge
      4) When mixing the final dough, take the sponge, add in all of the rest of the water, then add the flour one handful at a time, stirring five times after each four addition. This will get sticky and difficult, but persevere. (You can do the same thing in mixer or cuisinart, as opposed to be hand, but I find the texture better when done by hand.)
      5) After the dough has been mixed, before kneading let the dough rest for about 30 minutes so that the flour and water properly combine
      6) Let rise in a relatively cool place for much longer than normal; long slow rise is better
      7) Roll out the dough as follows - keep everything well floured when using a wet dough - take balls of dough (about 1lb for 12" pizza), rotate the sides of the ball downward so that maintain a ball shape but stretch out the top; press down the ball with the tips of your fingers to create a circle; stretch out the dough in a circl by hand; then cover with plastic and let it rest for ten minute; then finish stretching the dough out to the desired size. One of the Julia Child books, "Cooking with Masterchefs" has a very good description of the correct way to roll the dough
      8) Bake pizza in the hottest oven you can find on a pizza stone that has been well pre-heated

      Now, I would also say the following: I'm pretty sure commercial pizza ovens operate at higher than 500F; and I've found that the stone can never really duplicate a true brick oven. Unless you want to get a commercial oven, it might be difficult to make an absolutely perfect crust.

      1. Also- in addition to what I saw below- one other thing you could try is adding some pure gluten to your flour (but be careful, of you add too much you will end up with real glue). I did try this along time ago and my recollection is that the result was a chewier product.

        1. I recently used the recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice (it was a Christmas gift) using gold medal bread flour and it worked wonderfully. It had great flavor and texture and was very easy to work with. I managed to make an almost cracker thin crust without any tearing - something that had eluded me in the past.
          I don't have the book with me, but you use cold water, cold flour and mix the heck out of the dough in a bowl for 10-15 min (no kneading, per say) until it is really smooth and elastic but still sticky (not just tacky, but sticky). This would be much easier with a stand mixer, but what a great upper body workout. Then you divide the dough up into approx. 6oz balls oil them and put them into the 'fridge overnight. About 2 hours before making the pizzas, take the dough out to stand at room temp for 2 hours and then shape into pizzas, top and bake.

          1. Two of the greatest benefits of cooking and baking, to my mind, are to make dishes come out to one's personal taste and to make them as nutritious and healthful as possible.

            I've baked pizza for years, using as a guide the Sicilian pizza dough in Field's "The Italian Baker" but replacing about half the white flour with a combo of wholewheat, oat bran, and flax.

            I don't understand the current fad of crackerlike pizza dough--pizza is, after all, a form of bread. I want the sides to be bread-y. the bottom not so thin that my toppings break through.