I am always drawn to the food television shows or magazine articles about stocking your pantry with things that you have made yourself, or how to make fast and delicious meals on the fly from whatever is in your pantry. Yet it seems that no matter how many of these shows I watch or magazines I read, the pantry staples focused on are never the same ones that I always have stashed away. I’ve come to the conclusion that our pantries are often as individual to us as our fingerprints are; shaped by our own backgrounds, be this cultural, economic, geographic, etc. So I am not going to make the assumption that any of you have the same pantry staples as me. But if I might make one suggestion… you really should have some pizza dough in your freezer at all times. This is free advice, and therefore worth as much as you pay for it. Do with it as you will. In my opinion, good quality pizza dough is worth its weight in gold in terms of quick meal preparation.
You can use the pizza dough, of course, to make your own pizza, but that is just the beginning of the world of things that you can make with your own dough stashed away in the freezer. I use it to make flat breads to serve with homemade hummus and other meze (small plate dishes from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines), a knock-off version of naan (a delicious Indian flatbread), bread sticks, garlic knots, calzone, flatbreads topped with oven roasted vegetables, and the possibilities continue. In fact, if you have any suggestions for how to use pizza dough to create other dishes, please share! I would love to hear your ideas and to expand my own possibilities.
If you do want to use the dough for its namesake and make your own pizza you won’t be disappointed. It is infinitely cheaper to make your own pizza than to order out, and you would be surprised by how a little bit of food goes a long way to top your creation. Let me warn you, however, that once you realize how few toppings your local pizza place is actually giving you compared to what they charge, you might be a bit perturbed.
The best part of all of this (except for eating your creation, of course) is that if you make a large batch of pizza dough you can freeze it in individual portions for up to a couple of months. I like to make a large batch of dough that creates roughly six portions. I freeze these individually in plastic bags, defrost them as needed, and when my supply gets low I whip up another batch when I can. Then when I find that I am in need of a dinner idea but don’t have much on hand, one of my first thoughts always goes to pizza with either a white or red sauce (and yes, I have used jarred marinara here in a pinch… no haters, please), and any number of combinations of the few food items I might have on hand. You will see some of my pizza creations appearing here over the next few months. After all, I did just stock my freezer with some dough… To get your feet wet, try the Harvest Moon Pizza posted recently (Pebble Beaches and Pizza). I hope you love it as much as my family does.
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
3 c. water
1 tbsp. honey
2 packets active dry yeast (or 4 ½ tsp.)
4 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. bread flour (preferably whole wheat)
2 c. all purpose flour
3 tsp. salt
Olive oil, for oiling the proofing bowl
Pour the water into a microwave safe measuring cup and microwave for 1 minute or until hot to the touch. Don’t burn yourself, but the water should be very warm (around 100 degrees F or just over). Add the honey and the yeast to the water and stir to combine. Set the measuring cup aside for 10 minutes to let the yeast proof… aka get foamy. If you yeast doesn’t foam up, then try reheating the whole thing for a few seconds in the microwave. If it still doesn’t foam, then you may have had a bad batch of yeast and you’ll need to start again.
Method 1: Electric Stand Mixer
Combine the flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Once the yeast has proofed, pour it into the bowl with the flours and the salt. Starting at the lowest speed, combine the ingredients and then let the machine “knead” the dough at the speed recommended by the manufacturer (mine suggests not going beyond speed 2 for doughs) for 6 minutes.
Method 2: By Hand
I have done this by hand many times, and there is something immensely satisfying about hand kneading your dough. However, it does take a bit more time and counter space than the stand mixer method. To do this by hand, simply combine the flours and salt in a large mixing bowl. Once the yeast has proofed, stir it into the flours until relatively well combined. Then turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand, adding as little flour as possible, for about 15 minutes. The dough should be elastic and only a little tacky to the touch.
Both methods come together here…
Once the dough is kneaded, whether by hand or machine, get a large bowl to allow the dough to proof or rise. Drizzle a little olive oil around the bowl’s walls. Form the dough into a large ball, place it in the oiled bowl and then flip it over so that the dough is oiled on all sides. This will keep it moist during the rising process. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and then cover that with a clean dish towel. Set the bowl aside in a warm place to rise for about one hour or until doubled in size.
Once the dough has proofed, gently press it down to deflate or degas the dough. Let it rest for about 5 minutes and then form it into individual portions. This batch should make 6 regular-sized pizzas, or you can use different portion sizes to create larger or smaller pizzas. Divide the dough up evenly, form each portion into a ball, and unless you are using the dough immediately place them into individual freezer bags.
At this point the dough can be frozen for 1-2 months and used as needed. From frozen, simply remove one of the portions the night before you want to use it and let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight. If like me you forget to do this step, do not fear. Simply remove the frozen dough from its plastic bag and place it on a microwave safe plate. Then microwave the dough for 1 minute, and let it sit in the microwave oven for 5 minutes. Then check to see how it is doing. If the center is still frozen, give it another 30 seconds in the microwave followed by another couple of minutes to rest. Then use the dough as desired.
Once the dough is thawed, or if you use it right after proofing, simply place your portion on a lightly floured work surface and roll it out or hand stretch it to your desired shape and size. Then proceed with any pizza or flat bread recipe of your choice. Enjoy!
Click here for a printable version of the Whole Wheat Pizza Dough recipe.