February 28, 2009

Black Pepper & Garlic Pizza Dough

1 cup warm water
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 oz active dry yeast
2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon freshly coarsely ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil

coarse-grain cornmeal for dusting
olive oil for greasing the bowl
mozzarella cheese and/or a combination of mozzarella, asiagio and Parmesan
assorted toppings (pictured: green olives stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, onions and pepperoni)
pizza sauce


Pour warm water into a small bowl. Add sugar, and sprinkle in yeast. Stir the mixture until the yeast is dissolved. Let yeast stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. At the same time, soak the garlic in the olive oil. Microwave the oil (with the garlic) for 15 seconds after at least 10 minutes of soaking. Discard the garlic or use it in the sauce.

Place the flour the bowl of a stand mixer. Add salt, olive oil, black pepper and yeast. Using the dough hook and mix until the dough becomes a fairly smooth ball. At this point you can fold the dough onto itself a couple of times if you'd like. Coat the inside of a medium bowl with additional olive oil, and place the dough in the bowl, smooth side up. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 40 minutes. Remove plastic wrap, and use your fist to push down on the center of the dough. Fold the dough in half four or five times. Turn dough over, folded-side down, cover with plastic wrap, and return to the warm spot to rise again. Wait until the dough has doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500. Place 16-inch (or larger) pizza stone on lowest shelf position, for 30 minutes.

Punch down the dough and transfer to a clean surface. Divide the dough in half, and knead each half four or five times into a ball. Place one of the dough balls back in the oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Lightly flour a clean surface, place the dough ball on top, pat into a flattened circle, cover lightly with plastic wrap, and let rest 5 minutes*. Begin to flatten and push the dough evenly out from the center until it measures about 7 to 8 inches in diameter. Leave a 1/2 inch border of unflatted dough around the edges of the circle. Lift the dough off the surface, and center it on top of your fists. Rotate and stretch the dough, moving your fists until they are 6 to 8 inches apart and the dough is several inches larger. Then place your fists under the inside of the outer edge, and continue to stretch the dough until it reaches about 12 inches in diameter. The dough will drape down over your forearms. Start over if the dough tears or gets to thin. Do this carefully, preserving the raised edge. Sprinkle cornmeal all over the surface of a pizza peel or parchment paper.

Place the pizza dough into a circle on top of the cornmeal-dusted peel. Distribute pizza sauce on the dough, leaving the 1/2 inch of raised dough bare. Sprinkle with cheese and toppings. Slightly tilt the peel (or a parchment paper covered upside down baking sheet), and place the front tip of peel on the back side of the stone. Slide the pizza off the peel (or slide the pizza with the parchment paper off of the baking sheet), centering it on the stone as best you can. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling. Repeat with remaining dough.


I like to cool the pizza for a minute on a wire rack before serving. This helps the cheese set up a tiny bit so it doesn't pull off when you slice it. Using a thick sauce helps with that as well.

*Even thought it is tempting, especially if you are hungry, don't skip this step, it really helps the dough maintain elasticity so it doesn't tear when you stretch it.

My thoughts:
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I've been craving pizza for days! I was tempted to pick up some pies from Baltimore staple Matthew's Pizzeria but thought it might be more fun to make my own. It has been a while since I've made homemade pizza but it was worth the effort. I think that this dough was my most successful so far. In the past we've mixed the ingredients in the food processor then kneaded by hand but this time I decided just to dump all of the ingredients in the Kitchenaid and see what happened. The result: a perfectly elastic and tasty dough in less time with less effort. The garlic infused oil and the black pepper add some flavor the crust without being over powering, it sort of just accents the flavor of the sauce. It really was the best pizza dough I've ever made.