The holidays came and went at the Cheese house and a beautiful time was had by all. The kids converged on the home front for a few days and the Soldiercheese brought along his girlfriend. We laughed, we cried, we made a failed attempt at pizza crust.
Christmas Eve arrived and we had some of our favorite folks over to help celebrate. After a couple of hours of Wii bowling, some holiday spirits and a lot of laughs, we enjoyed traditional homemade lasagne with meatballs, italian sausage and garlic bread. I don’t know why I only make it once or twice a year – normally on Christmas and Easter. Cooking lasagne came at the end of a very busy couple of weeks that involved holiday work parties, a crazy stomach virus and running around doing errands. I made a conscious decision not to write about the making of the lasagne, or take any pictures. I thoroughly enjoyed making the sauce the night before Christmas Eve, and making the rest of the holiday meal on Christmas Eve morning. We’ll have to wait until Easter for the recipe and pics, folks.
Back to the failed pizza crust attempt. The crust was thick, doughy and overwhelmed the toppings.
The most fun part of the process was using the beautiful cherry-red KitchenAid mixer I got from Mr. Cheese for Christmas. It came with a little handbook showing various recipes, one of which was ‘Crusty Pizza Dough’. It should have been more appropriately titled “Crusty, Doughy, Heavy and Dense Pizza Dough”. The consensus was – no good.
Fortunately, my dear Soldiercheese gifted me with a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated magazine this holiday season. Lo and behold! There, on page 8, is a recipe reading “Foolproof Thincrust Pizza“. Since the dough calls for proofing in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, we mixed it up yesterday and have been taking peeks at it ever since. “What’s it doing, Babs?” Asked Mr. Cheese. “It’s sitting there, hon.”
I won’t publish the recipe here because it IS baking after all and we all know there is a super-precise, scientificky method to baking things correctly. I am not a savvy enough baker to alter the ingredient list, so if you are interested in the exact recipe, try the link above and join Cook’s Illustrated’s website. My own personal variations would have to do with the timing of the process. For example, in step one of the recipe, we are told to process the dough until just combined, about 10 seconds. No way. I tried this even on the lowest setting and it took about a minute. Maybe the test kitchen folks were using a super high-speed processor but for normal folks at home, your dough will not combine the dry ingredients in 10 short seconds.
The only other variation we made was the oven temperature. The recipe tells of preheating the oven to 500 degrees for an hour, with a pizza stone in the oven. We don’t have a pizza stone so we used regular non-stick baking sheets. The recipe called for using the back of the baking sheet if you don’t have a stone. Why? It does not explain why. We used the front side of the baking sheet and the pizzas turned out perfectly. For oven temperature, I am not comfortable setting the oven that high for such a long period of time so we preheat the oven to 425 degrees right before we were ready to cook the pizzas.
We used the left-over red sauce that I made from scratch, for our Christmas lasagne. Each pizza was then graced with a few dollops of ricotta cheese, mozzarella and a sprinkle of parmesan and garlic powder.
Results are in! We cooked the pizzas for exactly 17 minutes each, turning the pan around once, midway through. The cheese bubbled up a perfect lightened brown and the crust darkened at the edges but didn’t burn. The absolute key here – was it crunchy and thin? YES!
Every few bites Mr. Cheese would utter “hon, I really love this pizza!” Nephew Cheese would have preferred more sauce on his but said the crust had a good, light crunch to it. That’s the exact result we wanted. It cooked all the way too, so there was no seeing a partially raw dough underneath the sauce and toppings. I see where the folks at Cook’s Illustrated made sense of letting the dough proof overnight, as the actual flavor of the crust was pretty darn tasty. Overall, the recipe was a complete success! Now, I must figure out how to freeze large batches of pizza dough.