I loved culinary school. Not only did I get to play with some top-notch ingredients every day, but I was also learning so much about a subject I couldn’t get enough of. Even in the most frustrating moments, like my icing not being even enough, or my buttercream roses continuously looking like tiny cabbages, I was smitten. I always say, if I could just go to culinary school for the rest of my life (without the tuition cost of course), I would be the happiest camper that ever lived. Truthfully.
My favorite class was Candy, where we played with chocolates, brittles, and gold flake. We got to pull and blow sugar into whimsical shapes and create showpieces in bright, edible hues. The instructors were amazingly odd and mad scientist-like.
My least favorite class… Bread. Actually, I enjoyed making the breads and danty breakfast pastries. I didn’t even mind going home reeking of barm, the sourdough starter which smells like a vinegar and yeast swamp bath. All of this was fine and fun! However, this was the first time in my life I had a teacher who could not have been more unhelpful. I have been blessed with amazing teachers in all of my schooling, so this was an alarming departure from my past.
We were making Challah braids (best bread for French Toast btw), and he told me my braid was not up to snuff. He handed me the loaf he had made for a side-by-side comparison. I did not see the difference. I asked where I went wrong, and in a dramatic fashion he responded, “If you can’t see the difference, then you don’t belong here. You should probably be selling socks at Macy’s.” No direction or correction followed this statement. He then proceeded to call me “Socks” for the rest of the semester. He almost spoiled what was to be my fun, savory departure from all the other sweet and dessert classes I had to take. Every time he would call me “Socks” it did make me want to prove him wrong, and I did work harder.
Maybe that was his way of pushing his students towards greatness. Yeah, sure. I will go with that explanation…
I did learn a lot from that instructor (like don't ask questions) about the science behind bread-making. Here are a few of those lessons to help with this pizza dough recipe and other bread recipes down the line:
... Like me, yeast loves sugar. A little sugar mixed into the warm water will help the yeast to “bloom” giving great rise to the dough. I substitute honey in this pizza dough recipe for traditional sugar.
... Salt “kills” yeast. It is important to mix the salt in with the flour before you add it to the yeast mixture ensuring no concentrated amount of salt comes in contact with the living yeast, which will slow the fermenting process.
... Do not over knead your dough! Gluten gives the bread its spring, but if you knead the dough too much, you will over-develop the gluten and create an overly chewy and potentially hard bread when baked… this goes for all cake and cookie batters too! Knead only until the dough just comes together, forming a smooth ball.
... For the same reason as above, do not roll the dough too much when you are shaping. Only roll the dough a couple of times to get to the right shape. You can stretch the dough a little bit more after the roll to get to the right size.
... There is no such thing as too much butter on your bread. Ok, I didn’t learn that in class, but it’s true.
This pizza dough is incredibly easy and tasty. Take it from Socks, everyone can make this dough! Happy Eating!!
Recipe: Honey Pizza Dough
The Bits and Bobs:
1 cup warm water (100-110°F)
1 tsp dry active yeast (roughly half of one packet)
1 tsp honey
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
Mix together the warm water, honey, and dry active yeast. Allow to “flower” for about 3 minutes. You want the yeast to have foamed (that’s how you know it’s alive).
Stir the salt, and both flours together so salt is evenly distributed. Add to the yeast mixture and mix together with floured hands until the dough is “stringy.” Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until a smooth, but tacky ball forms. If you are using a stand mixer, fit with the hook attachment and mix on low for 1 minute, then increase to medium for another 3-5 minutes until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Using the olive oil, grease down a big bowl. Put the ball of dough into the bowl and turn once so its coated with the oil. Cover with a kitchen towel, move to a warm spot in the kitchen, and allow to rise for one hour. It's cold in Boston right now, so I popped the bowl into the [not turned on] oven. The microwave, or set over a gas pilot light works well, too!
After one hour, punch down the dough to slightly deflate it and turn over in the bowl to form another ball. If you would like to make small pizzas, divide the dough into three equal sized balls after punching down, then return to three separate and oiled bowls. Cover the bowl(s) with the towel, and again leave to rise (or proof) for another hour.
After the last proofing, the dough can either be used right away, or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to one day.
Preheat oven to 450°F
Roll dough out to 14 inch round and place on baking sheet sprinkled with semolina flour (will prevent any sticking and help with crisping up the bottom)
Add whatever sauce and toppings your little heart desires and bake for about 15 minutes until the edges are golden brown and cheese is melted.