Pizza Crust Revisited: Food Processor and Freezing

A terrible thing to post,  something I posted 2 years ago. Sort of. Over the last two years I’ve made more and more pizza. I’ve had opportunities to tweak the recipe, tweak the method, and come up with ways to be lazy.

I want to talk about a scenario I know most people with families encounter: You want pizza for dinner. You have all the makings, but for some reason convincing yourself that making the pizza crust is too much work. I’m hear to tell you, “welcome to my March 2012.” But it’s April! I didn’t eat pizza in March. I grew up in a house where pizza was at least once a week if not more frequently, so an entire month without is a little horrific. And this was all because I couldn’t afford to buy pizza, and I was too lazy to make it.

If only there was a way to have premade crusts like you can buy at the store! Guess what! You can. This little post is all about a pizza girl who can.

There are two things I will be covering: How to use a food processor to save time; and How to pre-make pizza crust.

The ingredients for pizza crust are always very simple: flour, water, yeast, salt, olive oil. Yes you can be a little creative about what flours you use (I do 2 parts whole wheat/white wheat and 3 parts all purpose), the sugar (sometimes I use honey instead of white), even the fat (olive oil, butter, veggie oil). You can season the dough with cheeses, italian herbs, garlic, skittles (please don’t). You get the idea. Simple basic ingredients that are usually on hand (if you keep a pantry. . .though for some the yeast would be a stretch).

First thing I do is  to proof the the yeast. How do I determine what yeast I buy? Whichever is the the cheapest for the largest quantity, and happens to be on the shelf the day I remember I need yeast for later that day. Proofing the yeast is basically proving it is still viable. We need live active yeasts. I once killed yeast by pouring boiling water into a mix that had yeast. . . yah, that bread didn’t rise. To proof yeast you mix it in warm water with a little sugar. You know it’s proofed when it get very bubbly. Sometimes a recipe calls for getting a huge head (of foam) an inch or more deep (again that depends on how much water is there)

In my favorite (and slightly dated, but still useful) bread book Beard on Bread by Jame Beard, he has a whole discussion about yeast. In there he specifies that active dry yeast should be dissolved in liquid at a temp of about 100 F to 115F. I never have a thermometer on hand so I tend to wing it. If its too hot to touch my yeast won’t like it. Now in order for yeast to activate–that is, to release the gases that causes the dough to rise–it must have something to feed on. In other words give it a little sugar–that sweetner isn’t just for flavor, it gets the whole boat going. You may ask why some recipes have you mix the active dry yeast directly in with the flours (no proofing) and then mixed with even hotter water 120F to 130F. But in the words of Beard, “perhaps the dough rises faster, but it is at the expense of the final flavor, it seems to me.” If I counted the number of times I considered speed worth the expense. . . well we’re all busy humans and sacrifices must be made.

OF course this time around when I remember to photograph a before and after of proofing, it didn’t bubble that much. Funny because 30 minutes earlier I had a beautiful foam.

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Because I used a food processor, while the year was proofing I went ahead and mixed in my 3 cups of my flours  (out of 5 cups) and salt.

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Then I added the oil.

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 I added the yeast and had fun getting the food processor going. Which in my case require pushing down on the top attachment because somehow in moving (about 3 times) one tiny little piece broke off so. . .ya.

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Whew. Then you blend until it look like. . . well. . . this:

Then you add flour until it starts to pull away from the sides of the food processor. If you were to open it up it might look like you see below.

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Afterwards, you want to keep blending until it becomes smooth.

You have a choice now. I’ve seen people just roll out the dough and make their pizza at this point. Or you can take it out and rise the dough for a half hour before rolling it out.

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Okay everyone. To recap. Here is the pizza dough recipe with instructions for food processor. The original by hand recipe is found in Pizza!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 4 tsp yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 5 cups of bread flour: I  usually don’t have bread flour on hand, all purpose works excellent. If you have gluten on hand you can mix your own bread flour by adding I believe a tsp of gluten for every cup of flour. I have also done a combination with 2 cup wheat flour and 3 cup all purpose flour.
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Food processor: you can use the dough blade or the sharp blade, either work.

Directions:

  1. Mix water, yeast and sugar in a separate bowl and set aside.
  2. Put 3 cups of flour and salt into a food processor and blend.
  3. Add olive oil and blend.
  4. Then add yeast mixture and blend.
  5. Once a wet dough starts to form, add more flour until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the food processor.
  6. Continue to process until the dough looks smooth and satiny.
  7. Let rise 1/2 hour.

I promised that I would talk about freezing the dough. There is a great site, Favorite Freezer Foods, I came across that talk about the different phases you can freeze pizza at. So, here is a sum up of the information there:

  • Freeze after rising: That means right now. You took it out of the food processor, set in a bowl to rise while yo hunted down a container or zip lock bag large enough to handle the dough. If you do this, it is helpful to divide the dough into 2 (or however many pizza you intended to roll out). when it comes time to thaw you’ll pull it out of the freezer and into the fridge the night before, or onto the counter a couple hours before. I think its a huge hassle to do it this way (I’ve done it this way, it take forever for the dough to thaw). But a great tip they had was to flatten into two discs, which will take less time to thaw.
  • Freeze after rolling: Woot! You can roll the dough and freeze it, don’t have to worry about thawing it before using. Roll the dough out onto wax paper on a cookie sheet/pizza pan. You will however have to relinquish whatever pan you roll it onto for the hour or two it takes for the dough to freeze solid. Then wrap up the frozen pizza crust for longer freezer storage. When ready to eat the pizza, thaw at room temp, top and bake at about 475 or 500F for 10-15 minutes.
  • Freeze after par baking: This was a new concept for me. But for anyone who as ever had their crust not quite cook all the way through, par baking is epic. Read below for my own par-baking adventure and how to do it. After par baking, cool completely, wrap in plastic wrap then aluminum foil and freeze on a flat surface for 1 to 2 hours. after that it can be moved to a vertical position for easy storage. To make the pizza, you top the frozen crust, bake at 450 for 10-15 minutes.
  • Freeze an assembled pizza: Add topping after rolling or after par-baking (making sure that topping and crust are cool. Freeze on a cookie sheet/pizza pan for 1 to 2 hours. Wrap in plastic wrap then aluminum foil. To eat, bake at 400 F for a par baked pizza about 10-15 minutes, no cookie sheet required. If the crust wasn’t par baked bake at 450 F on a cookie sheet or pizza stone about 15 minutes.

I decided to try par baking my crusts, both for pizza that day and to freeze for later.

To Par bake a crust preheat your oven to 475F (you need to preheat it). Roll out your dough and bake on a cookie sheet/pizza pan for about 4-5 minutes.

What’s the benefit of par baking? You can par bake a crust if you just want to make sure the crust is done. This way you don’t worry about your toppings burning as the pizza dough takes it’s time cooking.

If you want to freeze the crust, let it cool completely, wrap it in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil.

Be sure to freeze on a flat surface. I made the mistake of assuming no one would go into the deep freezer for an hour. Apparently they did, my pizza crust was moved from horizontal to vertical, and now has a nice wave through it. Yes. . . I’ll need to thaw that before using. It’s probably a good idea to freeze on a pan or even a piece of cardboard, just so people get the hint to leave the crust alone.

I don’t have pictures of my completed pizza, because there were 4 hungry kids, and 2 hungry adults. The stomachs would not wait for the camera. Good luck with your pizza adventure!

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