Valentine’s Day is coming up . . . I don’t know about you, but, for me, Valentine’s Day has never been about going out on a date to an overcrowded restaurant. Rather it has been a day to show your family how much you care about them. Nothing extravagant. Just a simple meal at home. My husband agrees that we can go on a date anytime, so why make the night stressful by being forced to endure reservations galore at restaurants meeting max capacity? I’m not dismissing this holiday as completely commercial . . . Celebrating chocolate and love simultaneously can’t be too bad.
Growing up, my dad always got us (his daughters) a single rose, and he continues this tradition now with my daughter–she, however, gets a pink rose instead of red. My mom always greeted me with a stuffed animal and chocolate on Valentine’s day morning. It’s those simple gestures and memories that stick with you throughout the years.
When I was little, I was always big into tea party planning, especially Valentine’s themed tea parties. It’s no surprise that my daughter now loves to plan tea parties, too. For the past couple years, she’s requested heart-shaped pizzas, heart sugar cookies and pink drinks. Pizza is not so much fancy as it is fun for kids to enjoy and be a part of. My son eats more mozzarella by the handful than he distributes to his personalized pizza. My daughter loves to snitch some dough here and there while I knead it. I’ve never tried pizza dough, but it just seems weird to eat it before baking. Cookie dough, now that’s a different story.
You could say I’ve made a few pizzas in my day. A lot of people that have had my pizza (and loved it, I might add!) say they haven’t gotten comfortable making their own pizza dough, but I really hope this photo recipe combination helps take the fear out of this dough’s process. Visuals are always helpful when making something that relies on stages of transformation.
Serves: Two large pizzas or four personal pizzas.
- 2 cups of warm water (about 105 to 110 degrees F)
- 4 1/2 teaspoons of Active Dry Yeast (or two packets, one packet=2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 5 teaspoons sugar
- 5 cups of bread flour
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- cornmeal for dusting pizza peels
Place pizza stone in convection oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.
Note: Preheating your stone is one of the most important steps in creating a crispy, not soggy crust.
First put the two cups of warm water in an eight-cup glass bowl (so that the dough will have room to rise). Then add the Active Dry Yeast along with the sugar and gently stir with a fork. Set fork aside and let the sugar feed the yeast. When this mixture gets nice and foamy as shown in the picture below, y0u’re ready to add the bread flour.
Add the bread flour on top of the foamy yeast combination. Then add the salt on top of the flour and gently combine the dry ingredients before incorporating them into the wet mixture.
Note: Bread flour is a must! Don’t substitute all purpose flour-it doesn’t create the same crispiness.
Once the wet and dry ingredients are combined, drizzle two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over top. Stir gently to moisten dough.
Now lightly flour your work surface and knead the dough. You could use a stand mixer for this, but I like doing it by hand (mainly because it’s one less dish for me to wash by hand). Kneading is really just pushing the dough in one direction, folding the dough over itself and then pushing the dough in the same direction again until the dough become elastic. You’ll know it’s elastic when you press your finger into the dough, release your finger’s pressure and then see the dough bounce back releasing the indentation. But there’s always YouTube to clarify. Kneading Dough
Once the dough is elastic, place it back into the glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm draft-free area. Fun fact: This traps the carbon dioxide bubbles created by the growing yeast, which causes it to rise.
The rising of the dough will take approximately 30 minutes.
Note: I always seem to be pressed for time during seasons like harvest where I’m sometimes required to come up with a meal last minute when circumstances in the field change unexpectedly. As a result, I’m always finding shortcuts. To speed up the rising process, fill a 9×13 brownie pan 2/3 full with boiling water and set on the rack below the bowl of covered dough in an oven that is turned off. This extra step nips 10 minutes off your wait time and 10 minutes can mean a lot when your kids are more demanding than the guys in the field.
Split the risen dough into two sections to create two pizzas.
Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness and fold into quarters. Now you’re ready to transport the folded dough to your pizza peel.
Give your pizza peel a good dusting of cornmeal to prevent dough from sticking.
Unfold pizza dough and let the edges of the dough hang over the edge of the pizza peel. My finished pizza technique emulates the way you’d make an apple crostata–folding the outside edge (about 1 inch or so) of the dough over the toppings. Besides making the pizza more like a stuffed crust, it also keeps the toppings from shifting when you slide your prepared pizza onto the hot stone.
Add your favorite toppings, take the hot stone out of the oven and slide your prepared pizza to the hot stone. Place back in oven and bake at 450 degrees for 13-15 minutes.
Note: I use the convection mode when I bake most things because it circulates the heat more evenly, but you can alter the time if you don’t use this setting. Also, don’t overthink the part when you have to bravely slide your pizza from the pizza peel to the hot stone. There’s no turning back. All I can say is that you’ll get the hang of how much momentum you need to create in order to not under slide it or over slide it.