This slideshow is a step-by-step guide to making a pizza
starting with the dough. The featured pizza is a garlic butter,
mozzarella cheese, Kalamata olives, vine-ripened tomatoes, and goat cheese combination on
a thinly-stretched whole wheat crust.
I start by adding a packet of dry yeast to a large bowl. I usually
use a full packet of yeast, regardless of the size of dough ball
that I want to make.
To prove that the yeast is alive, I add the amount of water needed (in this
case, 3/4 cup) and a tablespoon (or so) of sugar. I then mix the ingredients
together with a whisk. Dehydrated yeast
has a limited shelf-life which can be extended by freezing. Some people
don't think this step is necessary; however, I have used dead yeast
before, and was unsatisfied with the end result.
This is what the mixture of yeast, sugar, and water looks like just
after mixing them together with a whisk.
I can tell that the yeast is alive when I see clumps of material float
to the top of the liquid, and small bubbles begin to form around those clumps.
This usually takes around 10 minutes.
Now, I add about 1/4 of the flour into
the liquid. Actually, I don't really measure how much flour to use here
- when the mixture ends up with the consistency of thick pancake batter,
it's ready for the next step.
Now that I have a batter-like texture, I let the mixture sit for about 30
minutes. This mixture can be called 'poolish,' and the longer
it sits out like this, the more flavor it will get.
I only let it go for 30 minutes because I'm usually constrained
for time (and I am an amateur, after all).
This is what the poolish looks like after resting for around a half hour.
It's now ready for the rest of the flour.
Now I add the salt and oil, and then whisk in the rest of the flour, about 1/4 cup at a time. Well, I
by using the whisk, but eventually...
...the whisk has to be put aside and the hands become involved.
The dough should gradually transform from a sticky mess to a well-formed
ball. I knead the ball by smashing it down with my palm, folding it over
on itself, and smashing again.
If the ball sticks to my palms too much, I put a little more flour in. I keep
kneading until the ball is just the right consistency - it pulls itself away
from the sides of the bowl and from my palms, but it is just a bit tacky.
Now I'll begin the real kneading - I knead the ball for about 5 minutes, and
let it rest about 2 minutes after that.
More kneading - another 5 minutes of kneading, followed by 2 minutes of rest. The
rest is as much for me as it is for the dough.
Even more kneading. I will knead the dough for at least 15 minutes.
Sometimes I use a mixer - but I prefer to use
my hands when I'm not making large batches of dough. I find it easier
to feel when the dough is ready for the next step.
Now the ball is ready for the yeast to do its thing. I cover the ball in a very
thin layer of olive oil to keep it from drying out. I cover the bowl with
plastic wrap, again to keep the ball from drying out. The whole
thing goes into my refrigerator overnight.
Here's what the ball looks like after sitting overnight in my refrigerator.
The yeast was not particularly active in this batch - it could have been the
flour I was using (half wheat, half bread flour), the initial temperature of
the water, or the condition of the yeast before I used it. Sometimes, the dough
will rise so fast that I will have to punch it down after a few hours. This one
didn't rise so fast. Not to worry, the flavor is still there!
Now, I start to get the ingredients ready to go. To make
the sauce for this pizza, I simply
throw some chopped garlic, butter, and black pepper in a small pot and melt it
over low heat. Not pictured are the other ingredients - I've grated some
mozzarella, sliced some tomatoes, and halved some pitted Kalamata olives. I want
the ingredients ready to go when I get the dough thrown out on the screen.
Now, the ball gets a light sprinkle of flour on top for lubrication. I pull the
ball out of the bowl, put the floured side down on the counter, and spread flour
on the other side, too.
I press out the sides of the dough
ball with my palms, leaving a hump in the middle. The result is something
that looks like a flying saucer.
Now the middle part gets smashed down, and the whole thing gets evened out. I'm
using the palms and fingertips of my hands to do the smashing.
Now, to stretch the dough out further, I generously lubricate the bottom of the
dough with cornmeal and rotate the dough while smashing and stretching it out with
I wanted a thinner dough this time, so I floured the top of it and rolled it
out with a rolling pin a few times to get it even flatter. This is the dough
ready to go on to the pizza screen.
This is how thick the dough is after I'm done - looks like 10 millimeters or so.
Before doing anything else, the dough goes on the screen. It might seem obvious,
but it's very hard to move the dough after putting ingredients on top - so it
goes on the screen first.
Using a brush, I apply the garlic butter on the dough, being
sure to go all the way to the edges of the crust.
It's time for the cheese. This was about 8 ounces of grated mozzarella
cheese. Only a thin layer of
cheese is necessary. The crust or sauce should be visible through the cheese.
Halved Kalamata olives are added on top. A whole olive is kind of a lot for
one bite of pizza - it tends to dominate whatever else comes with it. Also,
cutting them in half makes them go further - and they are quite expensive.
A trick to cutting them is to take a handful of them, hold them all down flat
on a cutting board with one hand, and cut them in half at once
with a long serrated knife.
Continuing on, I add some thinly-sliced vine-ripened tomatoes. The best tomatoes, of
course, are the kind you might grow yourself or buy fresh from a farmer or farmers'
market. The grocery store tomatoes are, in my opinion, inferior in taste; however,
it's not always possible to get your hands on good tomatoes. At least these ones
have a beautiful deep red color - and they don't taste
Now, to round out the flavor, I add some goat cheese. It is wise to
use goat cheese in moderation, and to try to avoid putting large chunks on the pizza
in any given spot. I like to break it up into very small chunks
with my fingers when sprinkling it on.
Time for the oven! Quickly, I grab the pizza, open the oven door, and put it on the
middle rack - being careful not to hold the oven door open for too long.
Awesome! This pizza turned out fantastic - one of the best yet.