pizza dough discussion

The Boston Globe posted a pizza dough recipe today that I’m having an issue with.

Granted, I’m just a home cook.  I have no formal culinary education and everything I learn is through books and videos and discussion boards.

It sounds like what’s going on in this recipe is an autolyse before the yeast is added.  However, my understanding of autolyse is that it is traditionally just flour and water (and maybe some starter).  The rest of the ingredients are added after the autolyse.  In particular, salt would cause the gluten to tighten, hindering its development and hydration.  So adding salt to your autolyse defeats the purpose of autolyse.

What do you think?


fig pizza

It’s probably a good thing for this blog that I’m friends with Tammy. Since the original co-conspirators of this blog have moved onto different places and hobbies, I think it got a bit lonely around here without people to talk to about cooking. Plus, she takes lovely food photos.

Anyway, I was at Tammy’s house on Friday and I made three pizzas from scratch for us and some friends. They were roasted garlic pizza with garlic sauce, bell pepper/monterey jack cheese pizza with red sauce, and fig pizza with garlic sauce.

Tammy took a lovely photo of the fig pizza, so that’s the recipe that you’ll get today.

I always make my own pizza dough now. So far, my favorite pizza dough recipe comes from Sarah Moulton. For Friday, I had modified it to suit my mood, but it’s a pretty solid recipe regardless.

Quick Pizza Dough
-Sara Moulton (via FoodNetwork)

* 2 to 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (this time around I had used a quarter bread flour, a quarter white whole wheat, and half AP flour)
* 2 to 2 1/4 tsp of SAF instant yeast
* 1/2 teaspoon sugar
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl whisk together 3/4 cup of flour, yeast, sugar, and 2/3 cup hot water (this is about 130 degrees F according to Sarah – I just used hot water from the tap but I recommend taking the temperature of your hot water from the tap so that you can file it for future reference – you can go below 130F without any harm but don’t go over 130F or you risk killing your yeast). Stir in the oil, 1 1/4 cups of the remaining flour, and the salt and blend the mixture until it forms a dough. Knead the dough on a floured surface, incorporating as much of the remaining 1/4 cup flour as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic.

The dough may be used immediately, but for better flavor it is best to let it rise once. Put the dough in an oiled bowl and turn it to coat it with the oil. Let the dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until it is double in bulk, and punch it down. (I was letting my dough rise over night, so I cut down my yeast by half.)

For the white garlic sauce, I tried my hand at an Emeril Lagasse recipe.

  • 1 cup whole milk (I used 2% milk with no problems)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 to 2 heads of roasted garlic

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Chop off the top of the garlic head to expose the top of the garlic cloves.  Rub with cut side with some oil, and put the garlic head on a pan with the cut side down.  Bake it in the oven for about an hour.  Then, take it out and let it cool enough for you to handle.  Remove the garlic cloves, and set aside.

Gently heat your milk until barely simmering, and set aside.  (Or if you’re me, stick a small sauce pan of milk in the oven after the garlic is done and let the remaining heat warm up the milk while you go about your business.)

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter. When foam subsides, add flour and stir until smooth. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring. Do not allow flour to color. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking to combine. Add the salt and cayenne and increase the heat to medium. Cook the mixture, whisking continuously, until the sauce comes to a boil and is thickened. Remove from heat and add your roasted garlic cloves.  Whip out your favorite immersion blender and go to town.  (For a garlic sauce, one head of roast garlic is enough.  But for this pizza, I kind of wish I had used two heads of garlic.)

Transfer to a small bowl and cool slightly, placing a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.

Now, onto the pizza!  You will need slice figs (green or black), some gorgonzola cheese, some mozzarella cheese, and some white truffle oil (if you have it).  Heat your oven to 425F, or use 450F if you can.

Roll/stretch out you pizza dough, and over with a layer of garlic sauce.  Layer some gorgonzola down, as much or as little as you like (I am not a gorgonzola fan so I used as little as possible), put some mozzarella down, top with figs, and drizzle with a little bit of the truffle oil.

I don’t have a pizza stone.  I don’t think it’s necessary.  I like to either put down parchment paper on a cookie sheet, or use a well-oiled cookie sheet.  Feel free to put some cornmeal on the pan if you have it, to keep the dough from sticking.

Put the pan with the pizza on the bottom of your oven for 5 minutes to get a nice toasted bottom, and then move it to the middle of the oven to finish cooking.  If at 450F, it’ll probably only take another 5 minutes to cook.  If at 425F, I think it’s about an additional 10 minutes?  I don’t know.  Tammy and I just kept checking the pizza after what felt like an appropriate amount of time, instead of actually timing anything.  At home by myself, I’m better about putting a timer on but that’s because I usually wander off to check my email.

Overall result?  Quite yummy.  Having said that, I was a little disappointed.  I’m sure if Tammy hears me say that, she’ll think I’ve gone crazy.  To be honest, I was trying to re-create a pizza I had a couple of months ago at Za, a gourmet pizza and salad restaurant in East Arlington, MA.  I forgot to add caramelized onions and fresh parsley to my pizza on Friday; I accidentally mixed up the jack cheese with the mozzarella; and I think I could have gotten away with a second garlic head in the sauce.  But that’s just me nitpicking.  Everyone was quite happy with their pizza dinner.  ^_^

~ Mikan

Photo below from Tammy Raabe Rao.

invasion of the SAF yeast

Just in case anyone is curious, I only use SAF instant yeast when I make my doughs. And I’ve been making a lot of doughs lately. Sorry I couldn’t come up with a wittier title.


So, challah #2 wasn’t all that special to me. Challah #1 was courtesy of Beth Hensperger’s book “Bread Made Easy” while challah #2 was from, and if you get the chance to look at the ingredients, they aren’t all that different. It was, if I recall, a difference in the amounts of fat being used. The No-Knead Challah was mild in comparison to Ms. Hensperger’s, and Asano-mama and I agreed that challah #1 was tastier. And honestly, I don’t mind a little kneading.

There’s only one photo of challah #2… mostly because it looked uglier than challah #1. Also, I realized after the fact that I think I braid my breads backwards from the traditional braid. haha!


At that same time, I had another yeast experiment going. I decided to make Chef John’s No Knead Pizza dough ( see It’s a solid recipe, and I think my permanent way of acquiring pizza dough. Yeah, it only costs maybe a dollar at my market, but I feel more accomplished if I make it on my own (plus, I’ve been hearing that slow fermentation has better nutritional qualities, but I haven’t researched that yet). It does require a whole day to rise, especially in my cold New England kitchen, but it’s not that hard to think “Geez, I want pizza for dinner tomorrow – Let me make a batch of pizza dough.”

If you follow Chef John’s instructions, you end up with four individual pizza crust servings. He means thin crust. I prefer to think of it as two servings to make a thicker crust. At that point, I’m not sure if I could eat a whole pizza on my own (that’s a bit of dough!), but your mileage may vary.

pizza dough

pizza dough

As for toppings on the first pizza that I’ve ever made from scratch, I used tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, jack cheese, and slices of red bell pepper. It was beautiful, it was perfect, and I devoured it all in twenty minutes.

red pepper pizza

red pepper pizza

But that wasn’t the end to my madness. Baking means a warm kitchen during the winter, so I baked some more.

This time, I went back to my trusty “Bread Made Easy” book, and picked out a recipe for a holiday sweet bread. The recipe makes two loaves, one of which I left plain and the other I put in dried figs. I had also replaced the orange extract with almond extract, which I couldn’t tell in the end because it was too subtle compared to the flavor of butter.

plain on the left, figs on the right

plain on the left, figs on the right

The plain loaf was a gift for a co-worker, so I only have pictures of the fig loaf sliced.


Sel de la Terre has an amazing fig loaf, but it’s not so sweet and they use fresh figs. While my fig loaf was good, I really wanted the Sel de la Terre version. I guess it’s something I need to further work on.

The last bread I made was an experimental red pepper hummus bread. Again, my recipe was courtesy of the Foodwishes video blog ( All I did was replace the amount of pumpkin with an equal amount of red pepper hummus. There was a little bit of kneading involved because I was having trouble getting the dough to come together with just a mixing spoon. I also doubled the yeast so that I could make it all in one day.

Overall, I’d say it was pretty successful… except the part where I seemed to have burnt half of my bread. That was embarrassing! After five loaves of bread, I finally messed up. And this bread was meant for a party too. I probably would have presented my slightly burnt loaf if it weren’t for the fact that the party was for a dear friend of mine, nickname “oh cake”, who is currently a culinary student. There was no way that I could place my ugly loaf next to her lovely food presentations! XD

(“oh cake” is currently blogging about her time in culinary school if anyone is interested –>

Despite my red pepper hummus bread being ugly, it photographed rather well.




So, that’s been the bread adventure so far. I think I am experimenting with mahleb in my bread tomorrow. Tonight, the plan is to make some roasted veggie soup.

If anyone wants either the challah or the holiday bread recipe for Beth Hensperger, please comment. I’d post it now, but my book is on the other side of the room from me and I’m currently hiding in a sleeping bag for warmth.

~ Mikan