Basic Pizza Dough

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You guys, can I talk for a minute about the insane amount of drama going on right now in the chicken coop? Because it is ridiculous. It’s like a high school sitcom out there. With the introduction of the new girls, my once sweet fowl have turned, well, foul. If it had just been my first two girls and the Wyandotte everything would be fine, because the girls took one look at the Wyandotte and decided they’d rather not mess with her. The three of them now get along, albeit somewhat tensely. The problem is that the girls hate the new pullets, and Gueuze hates the Wyandotte. I expected this kind of thing from Zeste, but I thought Gueuze would be happy to have more ladies move in so it was a bit shocking to see how viciously he went after the new hen. I tried explaining to him that jerk chickens get eaten, but he called my bluff.

But now it’s Friday, and that means pizza night and it’s hard to stress over anything when you have fresh pizza. Pizza dough was one of the first things I started making from scratch and it just kind of snowballed from there. Kind of like how Saturday morning now means pancakes. Or two o’clock means coffee. Apparently I’m a creature of habit.Where was I going with that again?

Right, pizza dough. With a good crust you can pretty much make any kind of pizza. Barbecue chicken, classic margherita, cheeseburger pizza… We’ve even made taco pizza, complete with sweet corn and salsa. And the best part is that pizza dough is actually super easy to throw together. This time it’s a basic buffalo chicken pizza. Don’t worry, it’s not a buffalo Gueuze pizza.

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All you need is water, yeast, sugar, flour, salt, and olive oil.

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The first thing you do is measure out your warm water, then add the sugar and yeast and stir it in. Let it proof while you get everything else ready. If you’re going for a super quick, nearly kneadless dough use 1 cup of water. If you’re going for a dough with more bite, but that requires a bit of kneading use 3/4 cup.

Add the salt and oil to the flour, then mix it in by hand until it’s well incorporated. I’ve tried this recipe with only a tablespoon of oil, and while it worked it was less crispy and more just… Bread-y. It was good, but not great. I use white flour because it gives the best texture. You can sub in whole wheat flour, but I mean, c’mon, it’s pizza. You don’t eat pizza to be healthy.

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The key to getting a good consistency is to roll or crumble the flour between your fingers, working the lumps of oil out. By the end it should look a bit crumbly, with no visible oil.

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By this point the yeast will have proofed and formed a big puffy thing on top of the water. Pour everything into the flour and stir it in. You won’t be able to get all the flour worked in with a spoon, but just do it until the dough is less gooey. Seriously, don’t try to mix it by hand at this point because it will be super sticky and gooey and you will regret your decisions while you stand there helplessly trying to scrape dough off your hands, cursing your poor life decisions. You have been warned, so now you can’t curse me if you decide to try it anyway. Well, technically you can but it wouldn’t be justified.

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Now you can get in their with your hands and start werkin’ it. There’s really no right way to knead dough, but find it easiest to use my palm. Squash it, pick it up, flip it, squash it down again. Once a loose ball has formed you can transfer the dough to your counter to finish kneading it. There might still be some flour in the bowl, but that’s okay because you can work that in on the counter.

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As you knead the dough it will get stickier, and that’s when you can work in any flour still the bowl. If the dough is too dry, add more water by wetting your hands until the right consistency is reached. If the dough is too wet, do the same thing but with flour. Keep at it until the dough forms a nice, smooth ball and all (or most) of the flour has been worked in. Honestly though, if it’s not perfectly smooth it will still turn out okay. If you’re in a hurry, smooth-ish is fine. The more you knead the dough the more it will firm up as the gluten develops. The more the gluten is developed, the better the final texture will be.

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Sweep out the bowl and add a tablespoon of oil. Toss the dough ball in the oil until everything is nicely oiled and shiny, otherwise when you try to take the dough out after it’s risen it will stick to the bowl, tear in half, and leave you tearfully considering throwing a mediocre frozen pizza into the oven instead.

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Cover the bowl and set it in a warm spot. In the winter I put mine in front of the space heater, but in the summer I just tuck it into a corner of the kitchen. Some people use plastic wrap to cover bowls, but it’s totally not necessary. When the plastic wrap touches the oil on the bowl it will refuse to cling to the bowl and cling to itself instead, forming an impossible ball of crinkled plastic crap. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. Just use a tea towel. Preferably one with a chicken on it, because reasons.

On a really warm day the dough might only take a half hour to rise, but if it’s cold or the yeast gods aren’t in your favour it could take a few hours. It should be doubled in size though.

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You’re getting close now! Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Then transfer the puffy dough ball to a pizza stone or  pan and smoosh it out flat. I like to cover my pizza pan with parchment paper because I’ve dealt with enough stuck-on crusts to not want to deal with even one more.

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Pile on whatever toppings you’d like. For buffalo chicken it’s just a white sauce base, mozzarella (and blue cheese, if you like it), and chicken tossed in hot sauce. Not the fanciest or most in-depth pizza, but it’s pretty damn tasty. I always add extra hot sauce to my slices after.

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Basic Pizza Dough

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus 1 tbsp for oiling the bowl)
3/4-1 cup warm water
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp active dry yeast

1. Mix sugar, yeast, and warm water together
2. In a large mixing bowl combine flour, salt, and oil. Mix by hand, rolling the flour between your fingers, until the oil is well incorporated and there are no lumps.
3. Pour water mixture into flour and stir to combine. Work by hand until a loose ball forms.
4. Transfer dough to countertop, and knead, working the remaining flour in, until the dough forms a smooth ball.
5. Add 1 tbsp of oil to the bowl, return dough to bowl, and toss until well coated with oil. Cover with a tea towel and set in a warm spot to rise (about 1 hour or so).
6. Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit.
7. Spread dough out in a pizza pan covered with parchment paper, top it with whatever you want, and bake for 20-25 minutes.

 

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