Friday nights in college was often spent in company of my roommates, a movie, a Tony’s pepperoni and sausage pizza, and a Thomas Kemper’s black cherry soda. The pizza would be crisp and crunchy on the bottom, and more often than not, I would scald my upper pallet because I was too impatient to let it cool. In response, I would take a swig from my dark soda bottle and relish the combination of salty and sweet. We plopped ourselves on the carpet in front of our TV and watched movies like Strictly Ballroom, The Major and the Minor, Anne of Avonlea, and any and all Fred Astaire and Ginger Roger musicals. The dialogue from these movies would provide fodder for all sorts of inside jokes: “Happy Face!” “You are soo beguiling!” “I’m sorry Anne!” Typed up, they look rather innocent but said with the right intonation, they were powerfully funny.
I was reminded of these Golden Friday Nights (as I like to think if them) last Monday. The menu for that night was homemade margarita pizzas. In the fridge--an impulse purchase to celebrate the Fourth--were grapefruit Izzy sodas, and to top the whole event off, we had a Miss Marple murder mystery recorded on the TV. Mr. F. and I sat ourselves on the couch with our pizza on a plate in our laps and our soda bottles in our hands and enjoyed a little mystery melodrama. Once again, I thought to myself, “life is good.” While I may have moved upscale in ingredients, there are very few things I enjoy more than pizza, a tasty drink, and a good movie.
Since another Friday has rolled around, and you too might be feeling the siren call of pizza, I will share with you the pizza crust recipe that I used on the a fore mentioned pizzas. It was my first time using that particular recipe (it came from The New Best Recipe by Cook’s Illustrated) and I found it extremely tasty. It calls for bread flour. I would recommend this as it made the dough come together really fast. However, I am sure you could use all-purpose if you don’t have any on hand. We baked this on a baking stone and the crust came out wonderfully crisp.
Pizza Crust Recipe
Makes enough for 3 medium pizzas.
We find the food processor is the best tool for making pizza dough. However, only a food processor with a capacity of at least 11 cups can handle this much dough. You can also knead this dough by hand or in a standing mixer (see the variations that follow). Unbleached all-purpose flour can be used in a pinch, but the resulting crust will be less crisp. If you want to make pizza dough in the morning and let it rise on the counter all day, decrease the yeast to 1/2 teaspoon and let the covered dough rise at cool room temperature (about 68 degrees) until doubled in size, about 8 hours. You can prolong the rising time even further by refrigerating the covered dough for up to 16 hours and then letting it rise on the counter until doubled in size, which will take 6 to 8 hours.
1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups (22 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting work surface and hands
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray for oiling the bowl
1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.
2. Process the flour and salt in a large food processor, pulsing to combine. Continue pulsing while pouring the liquid ingredients (holding back a few tablespoons) through the feed tube. If the dough does not readily form into a ball, add the remaining liquid and continue to pulse until a ball forms. Process until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 30 seconds longer.
3. The dough will be a bit tacky, so use a rubber spatula to turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead by h and for a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball. Put the dough into a deep oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate it.
Pizza Dough Kneaded by Hand
Follow the recipe for Pizza Dough through step 1. Omit step 2 and instead combine the salt and half the flour in a deep bowl. Add the liquid ingredients and use a wooden spoon to combine. Add the remaining flour, stirring until a cohesive mass forms. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic 7 to 8 minutes, using as little dusting flour as possible while kneading. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and proceed with the recipe.
Pizza Dough Kneaded in a Standing Mixer
Follow the recipe for Pizza Dough through step 1. Omit step 2 and instead place the flour and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle. Briefly combine the dry ingredients at low speed. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until a cohesive mass forms. Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and proceed with the recipe.