Life In LC

Basic Pizza Crust

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Some foods are easy to make for small groups, but when you scale them up to 75 portions it becomes tedious.

Students can be persistent and repetitive, they would always ask for grilled cheese, pizza and hamburgers, over and over. I’m not a big fan of making those dishes, they are more time consuming than you’d think when you do everything from scratch. Grilled cheese: make 10 loaves of bread, slice the bread, slice giant blocks of cheese, assemble sandwiches and grill the sandwiches on a big griddle in a poorly ventilated galley in the Caribbean. Maybe that’ll help paint a picture as to why I don’t like making grilled cheese sandwiches for 75 people, you can imagine why hamburgers are even worse. And it’s not even just 75, no starving teenager wants just one sandwich, they want another one.

Out of those three I think that pizza is the most special and easiest so I would only make it when someone would request it for their birthday… and if I liked them. When I did make it I wanted it to be a surprise, be as sneaky about it as I could be. I had a chalkboard in the galley, I’d write the day’s menu on it so I wouldn’t have to me asked 50 times a day what the coming meal was. When I would make pizza I’d put something crazy like “Rutabaga Pie” on the board, then they’d spend all day wondering what that was. The galley was down below and could be closed off from prying eyes so it was easy to make things in secret occasionally. I’d have one or two students who I knew could be trusted guard the door while I was topping the pizzas and then hide them away in the fridge until the last minute.

I really got the students good one time, they had no idea, even the students who were in the galley that day helping me with dishes were oblivious until I pulled the hot pies out of the oven. Everyone in the galley grabbed a tray and we paraded it up to the service area where everyone was waiting for dinner. Surprising people with food, seeing the joy in their face is something that I really love and teenagers always give great reactions.

Luckily I no longer cook for vast hordes of ravenous teenagers on a regular basis and I still enjoy making pizza. When I make pizza at home I have a slightly different approach, it’s more about the texture of the crust rather than making a lot of crust and a different selection of ingredients for toppings instead of just cheese and pepperoni.

Some of the toppings I went with this time, a classic margherita, sausage and mushroom, broccoli with lemon zest and pickled onions and anchovy, olive, capers and salami.

 














Basic Pizza Crust


Ingredients

  • 3 c bread flour
  • 3 c all purpose flour
  • 4 tsp. yeast
  • 2 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 2 1/4 c water

Directions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer mix together all of the dry ingredients, stir together and shake the bowl to create a level surface. To avoid having to wash a measuring cup I press a ¼ dry measuring cup into the flour mixture to create a well the depth of the cup, then pour the oil into this well. Using a dough hook begin to mix the dough and slowly pour in the water. After the initial two cups of water let it knead for a minute and add more water if needed. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of the bowl cleaning leaving no sticky dough behind.
  2. Knead the dough in a stand mixer for a total of 5 minutes, the dough will still be a little rough, not as smooth as a traditional bread dough. The shorter kneading time creates a weaker gluten structure making the pizza crust not as chewy.
  3. Let the dough rest in a greased and covered bowl for at least 2 hours, this dough can be made the night before and left in the refrigerator, doing so will allow for a more flavorful crust. If you refrigerate the dough make sure to leave it on the counter for an hour or two before shaping.
  4. Divide the dough into two or four portions depending on how many pizzas you want to make. Roll and stretch the dough into your desired shape, round or rectangular to fill a sheet pan. If you are having trouble stretching let the dough rest for 5 minutes to relax the gluten and you’ll have an easier time manipulating it.
  5. Lightly brush the crust with olive oil, this prevents it from drying out and makes a beautiful golden brown crust. Let the dough rest while your oven preheats to 500F and you prepare your pizza toppings, at least 30 minutes.
  6. Par bake the crusts on the lowest rack of the oven at 500F for 8-12 minutes depending on the thickness, you want there to be a kiss of color on the edge of the crust and the top feels set to the touch.
  7. Once the crusts come out of the oven top them with your desired ingredients and return to the oven on a rack in the upper half of the oven for 10-15 minutes until the crust is nicely browned and the cheese melted. Let cool for 3-5 minutes, slice and serve.

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