making bread/pizza

Several years ago, Mother Earth News published a recipe for a No-Knead artisan bread that was very good, and very versatile.  For our personal use, revised that recipe.  I start with 3 cups of room temp water in a LARGE bowl.  add just some flour, maybe 1/2 a cup, and 1-1/2tbs of yeast.  let that sit and proof for a minimum of 10 minutes, longer (even up to an hour) is okay.  Stir mixture, and then start adding flour and 1-1/2tbs of salt.  Keep stirring until mix is a fairly stiff ball; difficult to stir, but still too wet to knead. The recipe calls for about 6 cups of flour here, but have found that number varies depending on the flour used, the humidity of the day, and other factors, so it is not a measured amount in my kitchen!   It should hold a ball loosely.  I let it go a little looser as I want to add ingredients on the other end.  Then I cover it with a bit of plastic wrap or a plate and let sit over night for baking in the morning.  This can also be mixed in the morning and left to sit thru the day and baked in the evening.

After the dough has risen for at least 7 hours at room temp (can easily go twice that), uncover, and using a sharp knife, scrape the sides of the bowl.  let the dough deflate.  Using flour dusted hands, pull out dough onto a flour dusted surface.  At this point, the dough can be separated depending on what you are making.  Mix in herbs and parmesan cheese to make pizza dough.  Or onion, garlic, herbs, and other seasonings to make a foccacia bread.  Or just shape and bake for plain bread.  This morning made pizza crust and bread.  about 25% of the dough was cut off and let rest while the rest of the dough was turned out onto a flour covered board and some whole wheat flour and wheat germ was kneaded into the dough.  When ingredients were kneaded in to the point the dough was getting sticky again, it was put into a bread pan and set aside to let rest and rise.  This does not have to rise the way other bread recipes require, most of the rising will happen in the heat of the oven.  The pizza crust dough was pushed out by hand, although a rolling pin can be used.  Let rest between each stretch of the dough.  Personal experience has the crust being most crisp if pre-cooked for about 7 minutes before topping.  If you like a soft crust, skip this step and just wrap the dough, shape, top and bake when ready for the pizza.  Pre-baking can be done just prior to using, or days earlier.  This morning, after forming the crust sprinkled with garlic and onion and some parmesan cheese.  Let both rest for a few minutes before baking.

Bake the crust first at 435-450F degrees for 7 minutes and then bake the bread for 30-ish minutes.  Put on rack to cool. bread will slice best when slightly cool.  Pizza can be made immediately from coming out of oven.  To really brown pizza crust, brush with olive oil before topping.  Will take about 15 minutes to cook at 435-450F depending on toppings.  It is not necessary to use a pizza stone, a regular dark metal tray with corn meal sprinkled on it, or parchment paper work just fine.  Cut with pizza cutter or heavy knife, and enjoy!

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