For more years than I can remember, Friday night has been Pizza Night at our house. Heaven help me when I try to serve something different to my family at the end of the week. Often they will balk and order pizza anyway.
I understand that Friday Night/Pizza Night is a tradition in many other families as well. I learned years ago that Ellen, too, has this family tradition, though with one big difference. While my family’s Pizza Night involves on-line ordering from Papa John’s for delivery or calling Frank’s West Ristorante Italiano for a more authentic tasting pick-up, Ellen actually makes her pizza almost completely from scratch.
She has proclaimed the ease of her recipe for years, but I just look at her like she is an alien from another planet. In my mind, pizza dough is best left to Italian men who can throw the dough ball up in the air and have it land in a perfect circle ready for the brick oven. Even after Ellen wrote about her weekly pizza nights and shared her pizza dough recipe on Ellegram, the whole idea still seemed a waste of time and effort.
It’s not that I don’t know my way around the kitchen. A few years ago, I spent a couple of months working through the recipes in Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day to overcome my
fear ignorance of yeast. I got pretty good at baking bread on a bread stone, and my family loved it. Unfortunately so did our waist lines, and, believing that I had mastered the art of bread-making, I put aside my rolling pin and active dry yeast.
Ellen, though, continues to wax poetic about her family meals with returning college coeds when together they break pizza made by her loving hands. Finally, with my own coed heading home for spring break, I decided it was time to decide if homemade pizza is really worth the effort. Turns out, per usual, Ellen’s pizza dough was so much easier than I thought it could possibly be: I even tried tossing it in the air.
To get started on your own dough, it helps to have these kitchen tools:
- 2 13″ round pizza pans, preferably with small holes punched through the bottom, like this Farberware Pizza Crisper
- Heavy-duty stand mixer (much easier with one, but still do-able without), fitted with paddle attachment
- Large bowl
- Kitchen towel
- 1 liquid measuring cup
- 1 small whisk if available, otherwise a fork
- Flexible spatula
- Non-stick cooking spray, such as Pam
- Tablespoon and teaspoon measuring spoons
With tools at the ready, it’s your turn to try
Ellen’s Friday Night Pizza Crust1 packet, or 1 heaping tablespoon, dry active yeast 2 teaspoons sugar, divided 1½ cup very warm water 3 cups all purpose flour (I use King Arthur unbleached) + more for rolling dough 2 tablespoons olive oil 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese ½ teaspoon salt (optional)
Run tap water until very warm. To measuring cup, add yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and ½ cup very warm water. Using whisk or fork, blend contents briskly. Let yeast mixture bubble up until foamy, about 3-5 minutes, or until it looks like this:
While waiting on the yeast to foam, add flour, rest of sugar, Parmesan cheese and salt (if using) to the bowl of the stand mixer. With mixer running, add the olive oil. Once yeast is foamy, add to flour mixture and combine. To measuring cup, add 1 cup very warm water. With mixer running, add water – a little at a time – until the dough pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl. If your dough is too sticky to pull away from the sides, add a little flour. It should look like this when ready:
Spray large bowl with non-stick spray. Turn dough out into the bowl using the spatula. Wet a kitchen towel with warm water, then cover bowl with towel. Put the bowl in a non-drafty area of your kitchen and let the dough rise for about 45 minutes, or until it has doubled in bulk. In winter months, it may take longer for dough to rise. While dough is rising, prepare your toppings.
Once the dough looks like this
position oven racks to accommodate two pizzas, then preheat oven to 500°.
Now you are ready to roll the dough and assemble the pizzas. First, with your hand dusted in flour, punch down the dough, then scoop the dough into a ball and turn out onto a flour-dusted rolling surface. Divide dough in half. Begin rolling the first half into a 12″ circle. Once you have worked it out, gently lift the dough on to the pan, then repeat with the other dough half. Now it is time to dress your pizzas. Once dressed, pop in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until browned.
There are probably as many ways to dress a pizza as there are Italian descendants living in the United States. Ellen included a homemade pizza sauce recipe in her original post, as well as other suggested toppings. For my first crack at Ellen’s recipe, I decided to make a caprese pizza with garlic, olive oil, basil, grape tomatoes, chopped fresh spinach, mozzarella, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, salt and pepper. Topped with shredded rotisserie chicken and parmesan cheese, it was fabulous.
I actually made the second pizza from this recipe two days later. I just refrigerated the other dough half in a ziploc bag while my first pizza was baking. At Ellen’s heeding, I let the dough ball come completely to room temperature before rolling it out. (She actually recommends rolling out the half not to be used and partially baking it for five minutes before allowing to cool and then freezing for later use.) My second crust took a little longer to roll out into the 12″ circle, but otherwise it baked up and tasted just as great as the first day’s crust.
I am now so excited to makes Ellen’s Friday Night Pizza Crust a regular at our home. Come on and give it a try. Then let us know what toppings you like to put on yours.
March 19, 2013