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Re: pizza crust (LONG)

Greg Fonda <gregfo@microsoft.com>
Wed, 22 Mar 95 13:50:54 TZ

|  I tried to make pizza crust.  I even spent a bundle for the pan.  But when I
| tried to roll it out it wouldn't give.  I did everything the recipe said to
| do but it seemed to have a memory of it's own and wouldn't stretch out.  Can
| anyone help me.

I had this exact same problem...so I sent out some mail to a local alias
asking the same question...here is a stellar responce I got from
Robert Reichel.

I worked in a pizzaria in New York during High School, and this is how we did
it there.  I make pizza about once a month.

What usually messes people up is that their dough is not round to begin with,
and is not of uniform density throughout.  If the dough is not uniformly dense,
you end up with it stretching easier in some directions than others, and you
end up with a lot of holes and thin spots.  Not good.

The key to success is a procedure called (amazingly enough) "rounding" the
dough.  I do this after the first rise, when I divide my large dough up into
two individual doughs (my pizzas are always born in pairs, it's easier that way
and you have a backup in case you mess one up).

So you take your dough out of its warm place and dump it on the counter and pat
off all the excess olive oil.  It will have a rough texture from the gasses
that have built up, and it will be puffy.  Punch it down on the counter to get
all the gas out of it, and divide it in half.  Use a scale, and if one is too
big, just cut a little piece off and jam it into the cut part of the other
piece.  Your goal is to try to keep the outside surface of the dough intact and
smooth, so you don't want to stick random pieces of dough to it.

Push the dough down on the counter and incorporate any little pieces you've
glued on to bring it up to weight.  Then, keeping the outside surface up at all
times, gently fold the dough over on itself in a downward direction.  Pretend
your stroking the top of an upright mushroom, with the heel of your hand at the
very top and your fingers pointing down.  As you stroke, the gluten sheet at
the top will stretch and relax.  Curve the stuff that comes down with your
fingers like you're shoving it up into the base of the mushroom.  Rotate 45
degrees and repeat, being careful not to tear the gluten sheet.  So it's

Once you've gone around a few times and the dough is a nice tight little ball,
scrunch the bottom together into a sort of nipple shape, so that it holds
together.  If it doesn't hold together, your dough is too oily, pat some off
and try again.

What you should end up with is a nice firm ball of dough with a round top and a
slightly flat bottom that doesn't unravel when you put it on the counter.  Let
it sit for a couple of minutes, and then oil a small bowl, plop the dough top
down into the bowl so the top gets oily, then flip it over so the bottom
gets oily, and then with the flat part of your fingers push the dough ball down
into the bottom of the bowl so it's like a pancake.  Cover with saran wrap and
allow to rise.

By the way, the only cookbook I've seen that describes this procedure well is
"The Italian Baker" by Carol Field.  Excellent book, highly recommended.

When you're ready to make the 'za, dump the dough out onto a floured surface
and pat off the olive oil.  Push it down into a pancake and flour both sides.
It should be perfectly round at this point.  The trick is to keep it that way.

Push it down with the flat of your hand like the hands of a clock, keeping it
round as you go in circles.  It will spread out as much as it can this way, and
should remain circular if your surface is will floured (don't be afraid of too
much flour at this point, you can always bang it off later).

Cup your left hand around the edge of the dough so that your little finger is
parallel to the edge, and with the fingertips of your right hand push down into
the edge making a trench about 1/2" from the edge.  This will be your crust.
Go all the way around as evenly as possible.

Pick the dough up by this trench and put your fists under the dough so that
it's hanging on the knuckles of the back of your hands.  Pull you hands ever so
gently apart, and inch or two at most.  This, combined with the weight of the
dough, will cause it to stretch.  Give the dough a little toss clockwise and do
the same thing.  Here again it helps if everything is well floured.

Pull, flip, pull, flip, very gently.  It helps to have a light source in back
of you so you can see thin spots developing.  Avoid holes, stay away from thin
spots if you can.  Once it's to the size you want, flop it down on your peel or
screen or pan and tug it into shape.  If you've done everything uniformly
around the circumference of the dough, you should have a perfectly round pizza
with about the thickness of a bedsheet.  Once you get good at it this all takes
about 20 seconds start to finish.

Flipping pizza is a good show, but in my opinion doesn't do much, so don't
worry about it.  It's not hard, but you occasionally tear a dough, so unless
you really trust your dough I wouldn't advise it.