Friday, October 12, 2012

Authentic Italian Pizza Crust

Many years ago, I was lucky enough to help my mom work on the family cookbook in time for a family reunion. Most of our relatives, from all over Ontario and Italy, sent us their most treasured family recipes... including my Great Aunt's coveted pizza dough recipe.

Mushroom and Chicken Pizza

Since then, I have used this recipe to make several hundred pizzas, flatbreads, bread sticks, cinnamon buns, and sticky buns. It's incredibly versatile, it freezes well, it tastes fantastic with almost any ingredients, and it's almost impossible to screw up.

On Saturday, Shane and I made thirteen small pizzas. Why so many? They make fantastic freezer food, and we had a ton of vegetables from our visit to the farmer's market. Instead of baking them straightaway, we covered the pizzas in aluminum foil and stuffed them in the freezer to enjoy at a later date - making them a fabulous, healthy, preservative-free, fast food for when we don't feel like cooking or have no time.

Authentic Italian Pizza Crust
Makes 3 large pizzas, or a dozen small pizzas. 


2 1/4 tsp Traditional Yeast
1 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Cups Hot Water
8 Cups All-Purpose Flour + Extra
Extra Olive Oil

For starters, grab a large mixing bowl and add the yeast, sugar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Slowly pour in 1 cup of hot water (water should be very warm, but not hot enough to scald your fingers - shower temperature) and mix gently. Let this mixture sit for about ten minutes until the yeast is foamy and bubbly.

Add a cup of flour to the frothy yeast mixture, and stir. Alternate between cups of flour and cups of hot water. Mixture should take three cups of water total (including the water for the yeast mixture) and as much flour as required to make a soft round dough. At some point you'll have to dig in with your hands to work in additional flour until the dough is no longer sticky. 

Pat dough into a soft round ball in the center of the bowl. coat sides of bowl with olive oil and then drizzle oil on top of dough. Spread oil into top of dough with your fingers. Cover bowl with a clean, damp towel and leave in a warm corner of the kitchen for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has risen double. 

Punch down dough, and it's ready to work with! At this point, you can either freeze it in sections or make some hot, fresh, delicious pizza. Pinch off a piece of dough and stretch it with your hands, flattening and pulling it into a perfect pizza crust shape (if you feel the need to toss the dough in the air like the stereotypical Italian pizza chef, now is the time).

Preheat oven to 425F, and either lightly grease a pan or pizza stone with some olive oil or spread with cornmeal. Flatten dough onto pan. Spread with pizza sauce and desired toppings.

The entire time between putting the dough on the pan, topping it and putting it in the oven should be at least twenty minutes to allow the dough some time to rise once more, this way it winds up being a crispy light pizza dough.

Bake in a hot oven for 20-30 minutes, or until edges of crust begin to turn golden brown and cheese is bubbly and delicious. Enjoy with a glass of red wine!

Yummy variations: I've added many different things to this crust over the years. Half a cup of grated parmesan cheese and a quarter cup of minced garlic make a delicious savoury crust. Or sautée some spinach, pesto and garlic together to make a fun, green-flecked crust.

Hot, delicious hand made pizza.
edit: submitted to Yeastspotting

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