Welcome 2014! Still Loving Pizza. A Go-To Dough

Well, another new year has arrived.  It came quickly and as I get older, the years seem to pass faster.  With the passing of this holiday, I'm feeling more and more the truth that our time with our babes, living in our nest, is finite.  We have a new driver in the house and with that further step in independence, Chris and I have lost a step in opportunities to talk, hash out, confide in, investigate, coach, counsel and share with Maggie.  The dinner table has always been our gathering place and we really make it a priority to get there together as often as possible.  With each year, dinner has become all the more important in our day.  Yes, it's obvious we love to eat, so if I can use food to lure everyone to come to the huddle, I have won a little.  There's a little football analogy for you as part of my current obsession with the Seahawks.  

I've pinned down a favorite go-to pizza dough recipe.  It's a slight variation on one I've posted before and have used consistently for months now.  It has never failed.  It's a good combination of texture, flavor and importantly, ease.  So, with this year's first post, I go back to an old favorite.. pizza.

3 1/4 cups bread flour or "00" flour 
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cup warm water

As for the flour, I've used both bread flour and 00 flour.  The 00 flour will give you a slightly lighter dough, but bread flour works just fine.
Place the dry ingredients in a bowl of a standing mixer.  Using the hook attachment, turn the mixer on medium to mix the ingredients.  Combine the olive oil and water and slowly pour into the flour mixture with the mixer on the number 2 setting.  Add a little more water if necessary if the dough does not come together.  Once the dough comes together turn the mixer up another notch and knead the dough for about 6 minutes.  
Lightly coat a large bowl with olive oil.  Place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  
Let sit for at least 3 hours and up to 6.  It should have risen to about 3 times its original size.
About an hour ahead of cooking, turn the dough out onto a well floured surface.  Separate the dough into 4 equal sized balls.  Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel and then with plastic wrap and let rise again for about 30 minutes.  

It being January and raining here, we are not pulling out our fabulous Weber kettle pizza setup to cook the pizzas.  Instead the oven will have to do.
Set your oven to 500f.  Place the rack on its lowest position.  Put a pizza stone onto the rack and let it heat up for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
On a well floured surface, use your hands to pull and work the dough into approximately 12 inch rounds.  Use as much flour as you need to easily work with the dough.
For the quickest turn on the cooking process, I prepare all the pizzas so they are ready to go in the oven and cook them one at a time and serve them as they come out.
To do this, I use 4 cutting boards or flat wood boards.  Sprinkle each board liberally with a cornmeal and flour mixture to keep the dough from sticking to the board and so that you can easily slide the pizza off onto the stone.
Before you slide the pizza off, loosen the edges by peeling it back a little. Test and see if the pizza will slide a bit before you open the oven door to put the pizza in.  
Slide the pizza onto the stone and bake for 5-10 minutes.  You'll have to just keep an eye on it gauge when you think the dough is cooked.

The toppings are all up to you!  The Emerton favorite is homemade tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil.  But tonight I'm trying a couple new toppings as well.  

Radicchio, pine nuts, guanciale and Emmental
Slice radicchio into 1/2" thick slices.  Toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast in oven at 375f for 12 minutes. Top pizza with shredded Emmental, then the radicchio, pine nuts and guanciale.

Portobello, pancetta and Comté
Slice portobello mushroom into 1/8" thick slices.  Top pizza with shredded Comté, the portobello and then the pancetta.

All is well with pizza night.  


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