Some weeks ago, as happens often around here, I found myself at a loss as to what to make for dinner. That morning, I threw together some pizza dough. It rose until dinnertime, and then my little munchkin happily helped me load it up with sauce, sautéed onions, pepperoni, black olives and cheese. Within 20 minutes, we had a warm dinner everyone likes and I could argue that I fulfilled my daily “teachable moment” quota.
As I have mentioned in regards to bread making, I’ve been making this dough so often that it’s fairly routine. And I have my husband’s grandmother to thank.
Shortly before Grandma passed away, she sat me down and proceeded to impart some of her kitchen wisdom. Since Grandma also tended to call me Fran and was getting on in years, I wasn’t sure what to make of this, but she insisted on writing down her pizza recipe. One of my prized possessions is small piece of yellow notebook paper with her recipe, as dictated…
6 cups flour
2 packages yeast in ½ cup warm (115 degree) water
½ teaspoon salt
1 to 2 cups water
½ cup olive oil
She then added that I should mix everything together, knead until it "feels right," and coat it with some more oil. It should rise at least an hour – until it doubles. Then just fry or bake and top.
Some days later, I eagerly tried this and, well, it didn’t work. But I tried again. And again. I watched Food Network shows about pizza, and I looked up recipes on the internet. Finally, I came up with something admittedly more like focaccia than pizza, but we like it.
And I have Grandma to thank. Not only did she give me an actual, family recipe to pass on to my daughter, but she gifted me with the inspiration to try something new along with a lovely memory of her. Sadly, she died before I could tell her about how much I enjoyed her recipe, but we remember her with love when we make
Grandma’s Pizza Dough
With some tweaking by Tania…
2 packages yeast in one cup warm water + pinch of sugar
3 teaspoons kosher salt
½ cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
5 cups flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 to 2 cups water as needed
1) Dissolve 2 packages (check expiration dates) of yeast into one cup of warm (110 to 115 degree F) water. Add a large pinch of sugar and let bloom (about 5-10 minutes).
2) Pour yeast into a large bowl. Add salt, ½ cup olive oil, flour, and corn meal. Mix well. Add between one to two cups more water, as needed, until the dough is sticky but comes away from sides of the bowl into a ball. A stand mixer with a dough hook is great for this step.
3) Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Form into a ball.
4) Pour about a tablespoon olive oil into a clean bowl, add the dough ball and turn until all sides are covered with oil. Loosely cover bowl with cloth and set in a warm, dry place to rise for 2 to 4 hours. Dough should at least double in volume.
Grandma fried her dough, but we haven’t tied that. So:
5) Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
6) Stretch dough on one, lightly oiled half-sheet pan. Let dough rest in between stretches if it won’t take shape. The pan will NOT be completely covered with dough.
7) Top with your favorite toppings so long as they are not too wet.
8) Bake for about 15-18 minutes. Edges will puff a bit and the crust should be a pale golden color. Serves four to six people well.
Notes: Dough can be refrigerated for later use or frozen. Recipe can be halved. Dough also works for calzone. Cornmeal and up to 2 cups AP flour can be replaced with whole wheat flour.