It was requested that I move this pizza dough talk from the SF board here to General topics. Not sure I did this right -- the link to the SF thread is below.
As I promised, I'm posting below the extremely difficult recipe for Neapolitan pizza dough, that made the best pizza crust I've ever tasted.
Neapolitan Dough (paraphrased from Cuisine at Home magazine
Makes 4 8-inch pizzas
1 1/2 cups warm water, 105-115 degrees Farenheit
1 TEASPOON (not tabelspoon)active dry yeast. Do not use bread machine or fast-rising or fresh yeast.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 TABLESPOON sea salt (don't substitute table salt)
Combine the water and yeast - let it sit, that is "proof" until foamy, for 5-8 minutes.
Mix cake and all-purpose flour with the salt in the bowl of a standing mixer using the dough hook. Pour in the yeast mixture, and knead on a low speed for 30 minutes. Yes, an entire half an hour.
Shape the dough into a round, and put into a lightly oiled bowl. Turn the dough to coat.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap; let rise 4 to 6 hours in a warm place -- an oven with the pilot on is good, but not a warmed oven otherwise it will slightly bake on the bottom.
Punch it down, and roll into 4 balls. Brush the balls all over lightly with oil, cover completely with plastic wrap, and let rise another two to four hours.
When risen the second time, form them into rounds by pressing your fingertips into the dough, leaving the edge puffy to create a ridge around the outside. Grasp this ridge and pick the dough up and work around the circle, letting the dough dangle. This will stretch the dough.
I can't make this go into nice neat rounds -- they are always mishapen. This is not easy dough to work with, so however you can get it stretched, don't worry about aesthetics, just top it and bake it.
Also, it goes without saying -- put a pizza stone on the bottom floor of your oven, and preheat at the highest setting (500) for at least 1/2 hour before putting this pizza in. It usually, in my experience, sticks, so use plenty of corn meal on the pizza peel and stone.
This is NOT FOR BEGINNERS. It is a major pain, but the flavor.... oooh so wonderful.
The combination of the soft flour, the small amount of yeast, the complete lack of sugar or oil in the dough itself (though added as a coating) and the sea salt, with the long, long rising time creates something that you thought couldn't come out of just flour and yeast and water. It's a truly wonderful thing.
I also have some easier, pretty darn good, (but not the level of this Neapolitan dough) recipes for pizza dough that I've used for years. They are adaptaptions, slightly changed, from published recipes, customized as I saw fit to improve taste and ease of execution.
After-Work Pizza Dough
Makes 2-3 14 inch pizzas
1 1/2 cups warm water 105-115 works best (use a thermometer)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cake fresh yeast, or one package active dry yeast
3 1/3 to 3 1/2 cups Gold Medal unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of "Better for Bread" flour
1 tablespoon coarse or kosher salt
3 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
Proof the water, sugar, and yeast for 5 minutes. Add oil to the yeast mixture.
Mix flours and salt together.
Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and knead for 10 minutes. You can do this by hand or in a mixer with the dough hook. This will be pretty sticky so lightly dust with flour as you scrape it out othe bowl.
Put dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for one hour.
Punch down and divide into 2 or three pieces -- make these into balls and place on a flour work surface. Brush with oil (this is optional depending on how sticky it is) and cover with plasti wrap or invert bowls over each ball. Let rise 45 minutes. Heat the oven and the pizza stone up while these are doing their second rise. These are most easily shaped with a heavy rolling pin. Cook them for at least 10 minutes, or until its' very brown around the edges of the crust.
Not-As-Quick Food Processor Pizza Dough
I've taken this with a couple of slight changes from the Cook's Illustrated Italian Classics Cookbook.
This makes 3 medium or two large pizzas, and doesn't cook up as thinly as the above two recipes, no matter how thin you stretch or roll it.
1/2 cup of warm water 105-115 degrees
1 envelope rapid-rise yeast or bread machine yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 to 1 1/4 cups water at room temp
2 tablepoons extra virgin olive oil
20 ounces (slightly less than 4 cups) bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons regular (Mortons, table) salt
Spread the yeast onto the 1/2 cup warm water. Let it proof for five minutes. Add the room temperature water and oil and stir.
Put the flour and salt into the workbowl of an 11-cup food processor with the steel blade. Pulse a few times. Continue poulsing and pour the liquid through the feed tube. Don't use it all -- leave at least 1/4 cup in the bottom of the measuring cup. Gauge the consistency of the dough by how it forms into a ball while pulsing.
Turn it out onto a floured board make it into a smooth, round ball. Put the dough into a deep oiled boal and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until double 1/2 to 2 hours. Form as usual, stetching to make a 12-14 inch pizza. This will probably have to bake for 15 to 20 minutes, and it cooks up to medium thickness -- not superfat but not thin either. More bread-like due to the bread dough. Doesn't have the nice round flavor of regular yeast, as rapid-rise doesn't develop as good a yeasty flavor.
And, as I said on the SF board, my favorite pizza sauce -- though I have tried valiantly to make my own for a long time -- is Muir Glen canned (organic!) pizza sauce. Yum.
Happy pizza baking -- if anyone uses these let me know how it goes. Any any pizza-baking veterans out there, if you try this Neapolitan dough, I'll be interested to hear any tips you have for handling the dough and shaping it.