Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cook-In-Training: Pizza For A Week

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cheese, prosciutto, caramelized onions, red and orange sweet peppers,
browned mushrooms, pineapple
I have a good sized collection of cookbooks and I really enjoy reading and cooking from them.  I usually try to follow a recipe 'as is' the first time I use it - sometimes they are a huge hit, sometimes a flop.  Other times the effort invested for the return is just not worth it to me, or the final flavors are too exotic for my family's tastes.  Despite all the ups and downs of using my family as guinea pigs for my testing efforts, I do love it.  I always learn something new and gain inspiration for where I can go from here.  This is the first post about my experiences of being an old cook learning new tricks.

Cookbook:  Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day
Recipe:  Master Pizza Dough (posted below)
Adults Rating
Kids Rating

Our Friday night creations
I picked this recipe for quite a few reasons - I wanted something that was quick to put together; a pizza dough recipe that is specifically for thin crust Margherita style pizzas, a dough that can be made ahead and then used later in the week, and a final pizza start-to-finish taking a bite time that rivals how long it would take to heat up a ready made frozen pizza.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.  I made our dough 3 days in advance of using it so that we could taste it with some flavor development taking place.

My tips and tricks:
  • Weigh your flour and water instead of trying to measure them with cups.
  • Be prepared for how large this batch is - you will need a 5 quart container that fits into your refrigerator.
  • Rolling out the dough is best done by placing 4 - 8 ounces of dough between 2 oiled pieces of parchment paper and then use a rolling pin (4 ounces for personal pizza size, 8 ounces for a large sized).  The first roll out the dough will shrink again quite a bit so roll the dough once, let it rest a couple of minutes, then roll a second time before topping.
  • Put the sauce on very very lightly.  I used a brush to coat mine and that worked great.
  • Use a very hot oven.  Our best results were with an oven between 500-525 (F).
  • Cook the pizza right on the parchment paper you rolled it out on.
  • Prepare your toppings in advance if you are letting kids build their own, making sure they have time to cool down to room temperature.
  • Depending on your oven temperature, thickness of your toppings, and how wet the toppings you use are, cooking times can vary a great deal.  This is a hands-on activity that involves the whole family but don't turn your back on a cooking pizza.  Our cooking times were as short as 7 minutes and as long as nearly 20.
Changes I will make next time:
  • I will cut the recipe in half unless I am going to be hosting a large party.  After feeding 3 adults and 2 children an individualized personal pizza and a group sized dessert pizza, I still have 3 lbs. of dough to use up.  The kids are thrilled, means a pizza a day for the next couple of days!
  • Put herbs into the dough and see how that works out.
  • See how well very thinly sliced raw vegetables do.
  • Mix in some portion of semolina and other types of flour as well.
  • Try some breakfast pizzas and figure out how best to end up with an over easy egg in the middle using just the cooking pizza to do it.  Fun!

Master Pizza Dough

Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day


  • 25 ounces warm water
  • 38 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbs kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs yeast


  1. Put all of your ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Using the dough hook on your stand mixer, mix until everything is combined. This can be done by hand as well.  You will end up with a very sticky, wet dough.  Don't worry that is exactly what you are looking for.
  2. Leaving the dough in the bowl, cover it with a towel and let it rise for 2 hours.
  3. Transfer the dough into a 5 quart container that has been lightly oiled and cover it with cling wrap that is placed right on the dough itself.  Use a couple of pieces if you need to in order to cover all of the top.  Refrigerate it for 3 hours minimum and up to 7 days.
  4. Pre-heat your oven to 500-525 (F). Roll out 4 - 8 ounces of dough until quite thin, top, and bake. Baking time will vary. Begin checking on smaller pizzas after the first 5 minutes, larger pizzas after the first 15 minutes.
Yield: 4.5 - 5 lbs. of dough