Update: Check out Part II!
Evidently I have an obsession with pizza. I’ve made hundreds of versions over the years. Pizza on pita, Pizza on matzah, on mallawah dough…. And I’ve tried countless pizza recipes. After years of making and eating pizza, I’ve come to one basic conclusion; it all comes down to the dough. Close to 5 years ago a pizza shop I frequently visited closed down. If there was one thing I actually liked about their pizza was their dough. With the owner retiring I figured I have nothing to lose and set out to nudge, plead and shamelessly beg for the recipe. It took some convincing but with his retirement in the horizon I succeed.
The problem was it was all in percentages. 100% flour…1.8% salt…I placed the recipe on my desk and it haunted me for months. I regretted the day I made the decision in Eleventh grade for forgo Calculus. Yet the urge of having recipe took over and late one night I sat down with a calculator and broke down the recipe, bit by bit. Eureka! It was the best dough ever. Some tweaking was done and it was perfect. I then proceeded to tear up every pizza dough recipe I ever wrote down.
Yields: 4 medium pizza pies
2 1/2 lb. white flour (or see note below *)
1 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp sugar
1 package dry yeast (0.2 oz or 2 1/4 tsp.)
2 Tbsp oil
3 cups water
Place all the dry ingredients in mixer bowl and mix for 10 seconds. Add the water
and mix on low for 2 minutes. Add the oil and mix on low for 2 minutes. Turn the mixer to high for an additional 2 minutes.
Divide dough into 4 balls**. Coat each ball well with flour and cover. Let them rise 1 ½ hours.
You then can refrigerate it or freezing it by placing in individual plastic bags. (coat with flour again to reduce stickiness.) Bring to room temperature before using the dough.
* Weight and cup measurements of flour never equal each other. 8 cups of flour sifted is a lot less then 8 cups unsifted flour. If you have a kitchen scale, measure out 2 ½ lb. of flour. Otherwise, use 7 ½ Cup of unsifted flour. If your flour is freshly sifted pack your flour down. If you’re a beginner baker, add up to an additional ½ cup of flour. You’ll have a denser dough, but it will still taste quite good. If you are a more advanced baker, let the dough be sticky. Flour your hands well and flour your working surface well. You’ll be rewarded with an airy light dough.
** For the proper way to shape your dough, follow the directions below for an airtight ball:
With the dough in you hands, flatten it to small disk. Gather all corners into a pouch. Hold the dough so that the gathered edges are in your right hand and the rounded side is in your left. Keep rotating and pulling the corners until you have a seamless ball and no air pockets.
MAKING YOUR PIZZA
1 ball of prepared pizza dough
5-6 Tbsp of pizza sauce
6 handfuls of grated mozzarella or pizza cheese
Using only your hands and plenty of flour (no rolling pin) stretch and pull the dough until you form a 12”-14” circle. Sprinkle cornmeal on baking paper and place the dough on top. Spread 5-6 Tbsp of pizza sauce on top. Sprinkle with 6 handfuls of pizza cheese, or more, to taste. Trim the edges of the baking paper, about 1 inch from the crust. Place the pizza with the baking paper, directly on the pizza stone.
Bake in a preheated oven at 475°F for 13 minutes. Check the crust for readiness (it should be golden brown).
Need a quick Pizza recipe?
My favorite quick version of Pizza these days is “lafa pizza”. Place a large lafa on a cookie sheet lined with baking paper. Spread pizza sauce or ketchup on the lafa. Sprinkle with cheese and your favorite toppings. Bake at 450F until its ready.
Lafah or Lafa is a large Iraqi pita that is of medium thickness, slightly chewy, doesn't tear easily. Mostly used to wrap shawarma or falafel in food stands.
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Photos by Dan Engongoro