Monday, July 11, 2011

Eat Alberta 2011: Slow Rise Pizza Dough

I was very excited to secure a spot in Yann Chartrand's slow rise pizza dough making class at Eat Alberta this year. Yann is a master breadmaker and owner of Treestone Bakery in Edmonton, so he would be an ideal person to teach us to master our own breads or, in this case, pizza doughs. And really... who doesn't love pizza?!

We were breaking the rules and making this dough in our one hour session but were able to take our little dough balls home and give them a bit more time and kneading to bring them through a roughly three day fermentation process. (If we could wait that long...)

Working in the world of bread, often means that the cups and teaspoons need to be set aside... ratios and weights govern your task here. Your flour can be heavier and densier, requiring less to meet a 300g portion in your recipe. Or conversely, your salt could be lighter... If you've ever embarked on bread or pizza dough making with cups and measures and been disappointed with your result, this could be one of the reasons. Now, I don't have a fancy electric scale, but I do use a kitchen scale... and I haven't been disappointed with my results yet. I urge you to grab a kitchen scale (could be a mere $15) when you're next out and about. It will be worth it.

300g flour
6g salt
5g yeast
(1g malt but I used 5g of sugar)
200g water

Those weights work out to 100% flour as your base, 2% salt, 1.75% yeast, 1% malt or (my) 1.75% sugar and 67% water.

Temperature is very important. All of your ingredients should be at the same temperature. Yann said that ~25C is best but I'm either working in a cool kitchen in winter or a warmer kitchen in summer... so I just do my best to make sure that my ingredients are room temperature. No climate control here. But you may require more or less rising time according to the temperature.

Put your warm water into a bowl, then add your yeast and its food (whichever sugar product you have). Mix your dry ingredients separately. Gradually add your dry ingredients into your yeast mixture and start bringing everything together. It's going to look a mess...

When the mixture becomes too heavy to mix, start kneading it with your hands. You are likely going to think that you have way too much water (I certainly did and was reluctant to incorporate the full 200g) but you don't! The flour will open up and absorb that water like little sponges... soon, as you continue to knead and work the dough, you will find yourself with a smooth ball. And besides, what is the worst that can happen... you just sprinkle a bit more flour on your dough to counterbalance too much water. The world is not ending here.

Add water bit by bit until everything comes together. If your dough cracks, it is too dry. Form your dough into a ball, by cupping your hands and pulling the dough along your work surface.

Coat the dough with olive oil, place it in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rise for an hour at room temperature, then punch it down.

If you're going to exercise some patience and are making this dough in advance, then you can put cover it again and place it in the fridge. Take it out a few hours (so that it comes back up to room temperature) before you are going to work on it again. (If you're making this to use later that same day, then repeat the rising process right then... rest for an hour, then punch down again.) Yann recommends this to continue over that three day fermentation period, in which the dough and its flavours will continue to develop and evolve.

Now, it is time to shape your dough... put the dough on a lightly floured surface and sprinkle a bit of flour on top. You can stretch and shape by hand, pulling from the center outwards to make a large pie. Or you can use a rolling pin, still working from the center outwards but aiming for whatever thickness you like best.

I dust my pizza pan with some cornmeal. I love the crunch and bit of sweetness that it adds. Not a necessity though, if you don't have any. Then, place your pie on your pizza plate.

Let the dough rise another 30 to 60 minutes (depending on room temperature).

Using a fork, punch some holes in the surface of the dough to let air escape from beneath it. (Honestly, I forget to do this most of the time and I am totally fine with the results... sometimes I get a big bubble but not too often. Luck of the draw, I guess.)

Top according to your taste and mood... on this occasion, I used a tomato sauce base, my spicy Italian sausage that I made in another Eat Alberta session and smoked mozzarella.

Yann says to bake your pizza in the oven at 400 - 450F for about 20-25 minutes until the crust turns a light brown. I typically go with a middle of the road 425F for about 20 minutes, then 5 minutes on 500F (since my broiler doesn't work) to get that cheese bubbling.

This recipe will be a go-to for me from now on... I even whipped up a batch this morning while writing this post. Today's experiment included a combination of all-purpose and spelt flour. I'll keep you posted!

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