Last Thursday was finally a cool (below-average temperature) day, so I was able to try out Alton Brown's pizza crust recipe from his book I'm Just Here for More Food . I used my stand mixer, which does make pizza dough-making much less messy.
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I have active dry yeast, so I soaked the yeast in the water for a few minutes before I added any flour. Alton's instructions in the book call for up to 4 cups of flour, and I think I ended up using about 3.25 cups in the dough, plus some extra to dust with. After the dough had (come together, rested 15 minutes, been kneaded 5 minutes by the stand mixer and 30 seconds by hand, and) risen for an hour, it didn't really seem like it had doubled in size. I always feel this way, so I wonder if I get my water warm enough to activate my yeast properly. AB lets dough rise in a narrow container, so that it's easier to see how much it rises. I may try this in the future, but at the moment I don't really want the hassle of finding a narrow container large enough to hold the dough.
I kneaded the dough briefly and put it in the fridge for a slow, overnight rise. The recipe (in the book) said it would make 4 personal-size pizzas, so I decided to follow his cooking directions. I divided the dough into four and let two of the sections rest at room temperature for about an hour. Then I shaped the dough to about the size of a dinner plate in the manner that the linked recipe says. I also tried tossing it in the air a little - AB makes it sound easy in his book - and I think I got it a few inches off of my hands a few times. I stopped when it seemed a bit thin already.
AB says to bake on a pizza stone at 500F for about 5-6 minutes. I don't have a pizza stone, so I just used my thin pizza sheets.
He dresses his pizzas minimally. I like lots of sauce, and some stuff. I decided to try it both ways. I made one pizza with olive oil, garlic, fresh thyme, mozzarella, and ham. That made a pizza like this one:
I wanted the other one to be more like what I normally make - saucy, with cheese and meat. It became a standard ham pizza:
I pulled the white pizza out at about 6 minutes. I thought it was done enough, but maybe I should have baked it a little longer. That kind of pizza really isn't my thing. I baked the saucy pizza a little longer - maybe about 8 minutes? - to get the cheese nice and brown.
The saucy pizza was a little floppy in the center - this isn't the kind of pizza that's easy to pick up and eat, even when it's small. I didn't notice this as much with the white pizza. We enjoyed the crust, but I'm not sure that it's very different from the other pizza crust dough I've made in the past. Also, I didn't like how thin the crust was in the center, underneath all the sauce.
Luckily, I had more dough to work with, so I made pizzas again on Saturday. This time I decided to pre-bake them for about 3 minutes before adding toppings. I think this helped, but I still had to bake them a couple of extra minutes to get the cheese browned. This extra baking time made the crust bottom tough to bite through and tough to cut through, since it was still too floppy to pick up and eat.
I don't know how this recipe is different from pizza crusts I've made in the past. It's definitely better than package mixes you buy, which is what we've used the past couple times. Alex liked that the crust from this recipe tasted more like bread than the mixes ever do. I think I don't want to bake my pizzas at such high temperatures, either, because I'll have to bake it longer with the amount of sauce and toppings I like on my pizza. This might have been avoided if I'd made large pizzas instead of individual ones.
I may try this again, making large pizzas. I may try this again but bake it at a lower temperature. I may also just try my old pizza crust recipe which I've learned to adapt.