Pizza Dough: A Blank Canvas

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I love a good pizza, but I don’t always want to go out for one and I’ve gotten fed up with the too-expensive, ho-hum pies delivered by our local pizzeria. If I want a decent pizza at home, I’ll need to make one. And that means making my own pizza dough.
pizza-dough-blank-canvasBut it’s no chore. Making pizza from scratch is simple and invites culinary creativity. You can play with the dough by experimenting with different types of flours (we’ve found a combo of all-purpose and whole wheat flours, plus a long proofing time, yields a hearty yet light-textured crust). Even if you opt for a premade crust or dough (choose a whole wheat version, if you do), you can make it all yours with the toppings you choose.

In fact, toppings are where the fun takes off. We polled the Nourish Network Facebook community to find out what our fans like on their pizzas. The top 3 vote-getters (drumroll, please…):

  1. Prosciutto, ricotta and caramelized onions
  2. Pepperoni (a classic)
  3. Spinach, green olives and tomatoes (tied with pepperoni!)

People also shared their personal favorites, like chicken, artichoke, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, or artichoke hearts and salami (hmm…I sense a theme: artichokes!). Turns out, we have many inspiring pizza components on Nourish Network:

The Sauce

Of course, the sauce is optional, especially if you want to make a pizza bianca (white pizza), but it adds a nice layer of flavor. Tomato sauce is a classic, and our Easy All-Purpose Tomato Sauce or Kelly’s “Sneaky” Veggie-Laden Marinara Sauce would do the job nicely. Also think beyond tomato. Pesto (like our Spicy Sage and Parsley Pesto or Asian Pesto) adds a zingy kick. Or you could try our Spanish-Leaning Spinach Dip, which has a lovely creaminess that lets you get away with using less cheese–I’d like this one topped with a light sprinkling of grated Manchego cheese and thinly sliced Spanish chorizo. Come summer, try our Roasted Red Pepper Romesco as a smoky alternative to tomato sauce.

The Cheese

It’s easy to go overboard on cheese, but if you combine it with other strong-tasting ingredients, you can use less. Also opt for high-quality, flavorful varieties like pecorino Romano, goat cheese or feta.

The Extras

There’s no limit to what you can add to your pie–sausage, pepperoni, roasted or sauteed veggies Tamara Murphy’s Wild Mushrooms Roasted in Parchment would make a beautiful topper; I love roasted beets. Lia’s Swiss Chard with Grated Garlic is simple and stunning on a pizza. Nourish Network advisor Rebecca Katz suggested using it with red chili flakes, a grating of fresh nutmeg and feta or goat cheese.

With a combo like that, maybe I should open my own pizzeria.

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Long-Rise Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Whole wheat pizza dough can be heavy, but we’ve found that using a combination of flours and a long rise gives the yeast plenty of time lighten the texture. This no-knead method is based on Penni Wisner’s no-knead bread. You can double this pizza dough recipe and freeze the extra to make pizza another time (thaw the frozen dough in the refrigerator overnight).

Long-Rise Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Prep Time: 18 hours

Total Time: 18 hours

Yield: 2 (10- to 12-inch) pizza crusts

Long-Rise Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  1. 6 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (approximately 1-1/3 cups)
  2. 3 ounces white whole-wheat flour (approximately 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons)
  3. 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  4. 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
  5. 6 ounces (by weight) warm (100 F to 110 F) water (about 3/4 cup)
  6. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

Stir together flours, salt and yeast in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Create a well in center of flour mixture and pour in warm water and oil. Stir with a wooden spoon until it gets too stiff to stir, then switch to a rounded bowl scraper until you have a sticky, ragged mass. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 18-24 hours.

15 minutes after mixing dough, scrape around the edge of the bowl with a bowl scraper, pulling the dough into the center. Repeat (if you have time) 15 minutes later. (If you have time during the first 2 hours, fold the dough over on itself every half-hour: After a couple of repeats, the mass will come together into a smooth, wet dough. The folding also helps distribute the yeast more quickly.)

When the pizza dough is very bubbly (18-24 hours), scrape it down with the bowl scraper. Dust a counter with flour (more heavily if the dough seems really wet). Scrape the dough onto the counter; dust the top with more flour. Divide the dough in half. Place 1 portion on the work surface (cover remaining portion to keep it from drying out). Fold the dough over onto itself—pick up one side and fold it to the middle, then the opposite side, then the top, and then the bottom. Press down lightly, adding more flour as needed, and repeat the folding one more time. Flip the dough over and shape it very gently, cupping it between your palms and rotating it, into a ball. Repeat with remaining portion. (At this point, you can either roll the dough out to use, or put each portion of dough in a plastic zip-top bag and freeze them to use another time. Thaw the dough overnight in the refrigerator.)

Dust a pizza peel or rimless baking sheet with cornmeal. Gently shape 1 pizza dough portion into a 10- to 12-inch round on a lightly floured work surface (you can do this by hand or with a rolling pin). Transfer the dough to the dusted pizza peel or baking sheet. Pile on the toppings and transfer the pizza* to a hot pizza stone preheated to 500 degrees F on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake 9-12 minutes or until the toppings are bubbly and the crust is golden.

Notes

The pizza should easily slide from the cornmeal-dusted peel onto the stone, but this is a maneuver that can take some practice. An alternative is to shape the dough, transfer it to a square of parchment paper that’s slightly larger than your pizza, top it as desired, and then place the parchment paper with the pizza onto the hot stone.

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