This is the pizza from my conventional oven….
Chickentown is what the locals, over the age of 65, call the 2-mile stretch of valley that our cabin is located in in Southeastern Minnesota. Untouched by the glaciers, it is home to limestone bluffs, trout streams and native forests. Although fly-fishing brought us there originally, we have found more family oriented activities like morel mushroom hunting, bee keeping, farming and rides through the woods on our Ranger. Most importantly, this is where we regroup as a family.
Perhaps it is the Amish buggies and beautiful landscape that has drawn like-minded people from the big cities to this area to pursue wholesome hobbies and lifestyles. Up next to our silo, we have some neighbors that fled Minneapolis several years ago and built a straw bale house on a trout stream. They home school their son, have a few chickens and a huge garden. They recently finished building a wood-burning masonry oven with a bread and pizza oven. When we got a dinner invitation earlier this summer, I prayed for cold weather. When you live in a home without air-conditioning, you can’t just flip on the oven when you feel like it. Cooking is a calculated affair based on the weather. But, I lucked out. It was freezing that early summer night and that meant pizza night!
The recipe for this pizza dough is from the children’s show, Reading Rainbow. Apparently, there was an article about the show on NPR and someone called in to say that one of the episode of Reading Rainbow featured “the best pizza dough recipe”. Looking for a dough that he could count on, our neighbor heard this show and gave the recipe a go in his wood-burning pizza oven. It has become his own.
As anyone who plays around with pizza dough or bread baking knows, doughs can be finicky and mysterious. It is easy to talk yourself out of this extra step in the kitchen when there are so many quick pizza shops and bakeries. However, now that you are in possession of “the best pizza dough recipe”, there should be no excuses. Believe me, I have followed numerous pizza dough recipes over the years and this one is great! The crust is crispy, the bottom stays firm enough so you can pick it up without a flop and the dough comes together very easily (Autumn had a great time kneading the dough).
My neighbor’s pizza stone is rectangular, hence the shape.
Adapted from Reading Rainbow via NPR via my neighbor
Special Equipment: pizza Stone, rolling pin and a pizza peel or large thin cutting board or flat cookie sheet (for sliding the pizza off onto the pizza stone). If you really get into baking, you should invest in a dough scraper. It will help you scrap dough off your work space and be a big help if your pizza needs to be loosened from the pizza peel with flour.
Serves:the amount of dough made 3 large dinner plate-sized pizzas. If you have extra dough, you can store in in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a few days. However, since you have the oven on a mess going, make it all. This pizza reheated beautifully in a covered, non-stick pan over the stove.
1 cup warm water, about 105-110 degress (it can not exceed 140 degrees or it will kill the yeast)
1 T active dry yeast (purchase in envelope or, I buy it in bulk and store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator)
1 tsp white sugar
1 tsp salt
3 cups flour (I always use this ratio of flour for pizza and bread: 2 cup white flour, ½ cup wheat flour, ½ rye flour)
- Mix together the water, yeast, sugar and salt. Slowly add the flour as you mix with a wooden spoon.
- The dough will become to stiff to move with a spoon. At that point, turn the dough-ball out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead.
- When you are kneading bread, a good rule of thumb is to knead it for about 10 minutes to develop a good structure. My neighbor said he only kneads it for a minute two just to pull it together. I gave it about 5 minutes with Autumn helping. As you knead, the dough will get sticky, sprinkle some white flour on it and keep kneading. It should start getting smooth. After about 3-10 minutes, take your dough ball, place it back in the bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rest in a warm place for about 2-3 hours. You can slow down the rise and develop the taste by slowing the rise down in the refrigerator. If you do that, you still need to let it sit so it about doubles in size.
- About an hour before you are going to bake the pizzas, preheat the oven to 500 degrees and get your toppings set-up.
- Divide the dough into 3-4 balls. On a lightly floured work space (including your hands and the rolling pin), roll out a pizza about the size of a dinner plate. Place the circle on the floured pizza peel and give it a shake to make sure it will slide off into the oven. QUICKLY, top the pizza and get it into the oven on the pizza stone. When you slide the pizza into the oven, set the edge of the pizza on the far edge of the stone in the back of the oven and carefully pull the peel back towards you (this takes some practice). Cook about 6-10 minutes.
- Do not get too far ahead of yourself; do not start topping the next pizza until it can placed on the pizza stone. If the pizza sits on the pizza stone too long, it will start absorbing the flour and it will stick.
Pizza Topping Ideas:
1. Our neighbors make their own pizza sauce and had the fixin’s for a greek pizza (feta cheese, sundried tomatoes, red onion and dried oregano) and a Balsamic Vidalia onion pizza (slowly sauteed onion with a pinch of salt and sugar and a splash of Balsamic Vinegar near the end).
2. Because Autumn does not like tomato sauce, I usually do “white” pizzas. My standard white pizzas are: drizzle the dough with olive oil, salt and Italian herbs and top with mozzarella cheese. The night I made this dough at home, I did one pizza with Italian sausage, roasted red peppers and fresh thyme with an arugula salad on top (dressed with a squeeze of lemon juice, good olive oil and a pinch of sea salt). I also did one with Proscuitto ham, pickled jalapenos and green olives.