Easy Peasy Pizza Pie

I love homemade pizza. My husband got me a pizza stone awhile back, and I love it. I find more ways to use it almost every time I bake. Hands down though, my favorite way to use my pizza stone is to bake pizza. We love homemade pizza at our house. When we first started making pizza I would buy either the premade pizza crusts or the pizza dough packets (where you add water and stir). Both of these yielded good pizzas. Awhile back a Daring Bakers challenge was pizza dough. This was a great recipe, but it took planning, since the dough had to sit in the fridge for 24 hours.

I knew there had to be a pizza dough recipe that was instant. After all, those dough packets I got at the store called for only a 5-10 minute rise time. I wish I could take credit for developing this recipe that has become my “go-to” when we get the hankering for pizza. Erin from Lee Lou  Ann had the perfect recipe I had been searching for. It takes 10 minutes of knead time and 10 minutes of rise time. This allows you 20 minutes to shred your cheese, brown your meat, mix your sauce, preheat your oven, have a beer or a glass of wine, whatever you need to do to get ready for pizza time.

Easy Pizza Dough
(from Always in Season)
4 to 4 1/2 c. flour
2 envelopes fast-rising dry yeast
1 t. sugar
2 t. olive oil
1 3/4 c. warm water (110 degrees)
1 t. salt

Put water in mixer bowl. Add yeast and sugar, stir with fork and let sit until creamy. Add oil and half flour and mix with kneader hook. Add remaining flour and salt, knead for 8-10 minutes. Let rest, covered with towel for 10 minutes. The dough may be punched down, placed in a resealable plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator for 12 hours or frozen at this point; return to room temperature before proceeding.
Divide the dough into 8 portions for 6″ crusts or 2 portions for large crusts. Top with sauce, cheese and other toppings. Bake on pizza stone or cookie sheet at 450-500 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

TIPS FOR PERFECT PIZZA:
* Roll your crust thin and dock (poke wholes) with fork. Brush lightly with olive oil.
* Crank up the temp on your oven. I preheat my oven and pizza stone to 550 degrees F.
* Par-bake your crust for 5 minutes before topping.
* Limit your toppings to no more than four. Too many toppings will make your dough soggy.
* Use sauce lightly. I like to do cheese down first, then meat and veggies, sprinkle of Parmesan and pizza spices
* Once pizza is topped bake for another 8 minutes, or until cheese is melty and bubbly.

If you follow these tips you will have a delicious crispy crust pizza. My husband thinks that this is the best pizza ever! We are looking forward to giving it a try on my in-laws BGE!

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

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My most recent trip to the library I brought home Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. After flipping through it several times I realized that this is a book I need for Christmas (hint, hint). I made only the Master Recipe, in two different shapes: Boule and Baguette. I have renewed the book several times, because there are so many other recipes I want to try. I know soon I will have to return it, it would be so nice to have a copy of my own (hint, hint).

The bread is truly easy to make. It is a wet dough that you store lightly covered in your refrigerator, you pull off a hunk of dough when you are ready to bake. Last month we went over to a friends house for dinner, when I asked what I could contribute to the dinner, I was asked to bring bread to eat with the chili. It was so easy, I grabbed a couple grapefruit-sized hunks of dough from the fridge, shaped into baguettes, let rise and bake. It really took no effort on my part. How wonderful is that? Homemade bread without all the effort. The authors say that the master recipe can be stored for up to 14 days and it will become more sourdough flavored the longer it sits. I can not tell you if this is true, because the bread is so good, I used up all my dough after two days (actually less than 48 hours).

The Master Recipe: Boule
from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

Makes four 1 lb loaves
3 c lukewarm (100 degrees F) water
1 1/2 T granulated yeast (I used dry active)
1 1/2 T kosher salt
6 1/2 c unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method

Mixing and Storing the Dough
In a large, resealable food storage container, mix water, yeast and salt. Add in all the flour (no kneading required!). Mix together (I used a strong wooden spoon) until everything is moist. You should be able to mix the dough together relatively quickly. Allow dough to rise in bowl on the counter for 2 hours (up to 5 hours), you could use the dough after this rise if you wanted to. Refrigerated dough is less sticky, so, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Ready to Bake
Cover your pizza peal with cornmeal (I do not own a pizza peal, so instead I use parchment paper). Sprinkle your dough with a little flour. Pull up and pinch off a grapefruit sized (1 lb) blob of dough. Add a little more flour, so the dough won’t stick to your hands. Stretch the dough around to the bottom to make a ball shape, this will take a few seconds to achieve. The end result will be a smooth ball of dough.  Put your ball of dough on the pizza peal to rise for 40 minutes (does not need to be covered).  Twenty minutes before you are ready to bake preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.  Place your baking stone in the lower third of your oven, and a empty boiler tray on the top shelf. Once the bread is ready to go into the oven, dust the top with flour and make 1/4 in. slash marks in the top with a bread knife.  Quickly transfer bread to pizza stone, and add 1 c hot water to boiler tray. Quickly close the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until bread looks brown and crusty. Cool completely before slicing.

Focaccia Bread

As the weather gets cooler I begin to crave hearty foods, like homemade soups and breads. Awhile back I made Old-Time Beef Stew and with it I served some homemade focaccia bread. Sasha, now 2 1/2 loves to help in the kitchen, and I thought this focaccia would be the perfect opportunity for her to help.

I used Michael Chiarello’s Potato Foccacia recipe for the dough, and instead of topping it with potatoes I used dried thyme, rosemary and cheddar cheese. It was great for dunking into our stew.

For the Dough:

1 envelope active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup lukewarm whole milk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt, preferably gray salt

Combine the yeast, sugar, and milk in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 1/2 cup of the flour. Stir well, cover with a towel, and let rest in a warm place for 25 minutes.

Mix in the olive oil, salt, and 1 cup of flour, until well incorporated. Add the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough adheres to the hook. It should remain soft and slightly sticky. Continue mixing for about 6 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Remove from the bowl, shape the dough into a ball, flatten slightly, and put into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat. Cover the bowl with a towel and put in a warm place for about 1 hour, to let the dough rise until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a baking sheet.

Lightly flour the dough and punch it down. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly until smooth. Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 12 by 10 inches. Brush off any excess flour and transfer to the oiled baking sheet. Brush the dough with olive oil and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

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Dimple the dough by poking your fingers into it. Add dried herbs and cheese.

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Please don’t lick your fingers until you are completely done dimpling the dough!

Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown and the bread is crisp on the bottom. Let cool in the pan to room temperature. Cut into squares, “fingers,” or triangles to serve.

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Here Sasha is enjoying all her hard work.

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