Chitra Agrawal, The ABCD's of Cooking
This week’s show: Pizza! Pizza! Pizza! Trust me, this is going to be one delicious conversation on Wednesday’s, August 8, 3 pm ET The Halli Casser-Jayne Show. To get you in the mood, all week I’ll be posting my dear friend and fabulous cook, Chitra Agrawal’s recipes for pizza. This morning we start with her pizza dough. But first a little bit about Chitra:
Chitra writes the food blog, The ABCD’s of Cooking (ABCD = “American Born Confused Desi”), where she shares traditional Indian home cooking recipes using local ingredients. She was taught most everything she knows in the kitchen from her South Indian mother and North Indian father. When she’s not teaching cooking classes or recipe blogging, Chitra can be found making cooking videos and serving Indian street foods (sometimes yummy Indian tacos!) at events and artisanal markets in Brooklyn.
Her cooking has appeared in the New York Times Dining Journal and she is a contributor to Gojee, Honest Cooking, The Daily Meal and Brooklyn Based. Chitra has studied nutrition and cooking techniques at the Natural Gourmet Institute.
CHITRA’S PIZZA DOUGH
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
drizzle of honey
1 1/2 cups warm water, warm to your finger not hot
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
Add yeast and honey to water. Let it sit in a warm place for 5-10 minutes until it starts to froth a bit.
If using a mixer, put in the flour and salt and add in the yeast/honey/water mixture and “knead” on low speed with the hook attachment for 5-7 minutes, adding oil as it mixes. When its done, the dough will have mostly twisted onto the hook and be a bit sticky. (Kneading by hand is good too if you don’t have a mixer strong enough for breads.) All ingredients should be evenly distributed and dough should be sticky and smooth.
Oil a bowl, transfer dough to bowl, cover with a towel and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Dough will have risen/doubled. Punch down to release air and transfer to a floured surface.
Knead and divide. Depending on how thick you want your pizza, you can divide into 2, 3 or 4 parts.
Knead your divided pieces so that they are circular, and leave in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight. Leave space between your divided dough pieces. They will continue to expand. (Pizza doughs can be frozen too for later use)
If you have a baking stone, place it in the oven and preheat oven about 45 minutes before use to 515-550 degrees F. If you don’t have a baking stone, you can use the back of a cookie sheet pan (don’t need to put the pan in the oven like the baking stone though).
Sprinkle your peel or the back of the cookie sheet pan generously with cornmeal. (If using a peel make sure you put enough on there so that the dough slides off easily onto the baking stone.)
Take one section of dough and roll it out so it is just flat and round enough to work with your hands. Flour your hands a little and place the dough across your two fists and stretch it out by moving it around in a circular motion until you get to a diameter of about 10 inches. (Note from me: Another trick is to hold the dough from the top and just hang it and move your hand along the circumference as you continue to hang. This works fast, but there is chance of breakage and not a perfect circle shape.)
Place the stretched out dough on the cornmeal dusted peel or pan. Brush a bit of olive oil on crusts to help brown well and then decorate the pizza (Note from me: good to go easy on the toppings so that the dough cooks through and you don’t have soggy pizza).
Slide the pizza onto the stone (or just leave on the back of the cookie sheet pan) and put in the oven.
Cook pizza for 6 to 10 minutes depending on thickness of crust.
Cool for a few minutes and cut.
-A bench cutter is handy for cutting the bread dough and cleaning the floured surface later.
-A peel is useful for making multiple pizzas, so you can build the pizza on a peel and then transfer it to the oven/your bread stone.
-A bread stone is good for getting a nice uniformly cooked crust.
-A rolling pin is nice to have while making your pizzas. Dough is pretty elastic and a rolling pin is nice to get the dough flat and round enough to work with your hands.