At some point in life, everyone should have the pleasure of making a homemade meal that incorporates a fresh dough. There is something so ultimately satisfying about being intimately hands-on with food, an element of pride about the whole process, that it actually makes the end result taste better. A huge roadblock for many seems to be the idea that making a dough is so incredibly difficult or temperamental that it's not worth it -- but it is, oh!, it really is. So, today, I'm going to lay out three simple recipes for common doughs that will make any meal extra special.
Pasta dough is something people think is only seen in restaurant or Grandma's Italian kitchen. It can absolutely be made at home, but it needs about an hour to rest after you knead and work it. If you're going to become a fresh pasta connoisseur, then you might want to invest in a pasta roller. Otherwise a large workspace, liberally floured and a rolling pin will do the trick.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup semolina flour
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. water
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. On a clean work surface, pour the AP flour, semolina, and salt into a pile. Create a well in the center of the pile.
2. Crack the eggs into the center of the well, and add the EVOO & 1 Tbs. water. Using a fork, break the egg yolks, and then slowly start to stir and combine the eggs and oil with the dry ingredients. DO NOT break the well.
3. Once the dough has formed, dab a little olive oil onto your hands and begin to knead the dough slowly for several minutes until it becomes soft and smooth. If you feel as though your dough is a little tough, incorporate a little bit more water while kneading to soften it.
4. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour for gluten to relax.
5. Roll out pasta as desired, and cook in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes until tender and cooked through.
Pie Crust Dough
Pie dough seems to be something is so easy to buy that people think it's harder to make than it is. It doesn't take very long and if you have cold butter and a food processor you are in good shape. The flaky crust of a homemade pie is something that just tastes better when it's fresh from your counter.
1 cup all purpose flour, plus more for counter
1/2 tsp. fine ground salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
2-3 Tbs. ice water
1. Pulse flour, salt, and butter cubes in a food processor until all ingredients are incorporated and pea size clumps form. Add water 1 Tbs. at a time, and continue to pulse until dough is shaggy and moldable.
2. Turn dough out on to a lightly floured surface, form a ball, and gently knead with the palm of your hand 4-5 times until it is smooth like play dough. Wrap dough in plastic and let rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
3. Unwrap the dough, and turn out again onto a lightly floured surface. Roll it out gently in a circular shape with a wooden rolling pin dusted with flour. Carefully pick up the dough, and press it into a pie dish, crimping the edges, if desired.
4. To pre-bake crust, gently prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned.
I think that the dough people think is the trickiest is the pizza dough, because it involves using yeast and dough rising. Let's go ahead and make that less scary by talking about how it all works. The yeast is hungry and therefore needs a little warm water and sugar to feast on to bloom & activate. Get past that step, and you are good to go. Then, to measure your dough doubling in size, put it in an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and trace a circle with permanent marker over the initial dough ball. When you see the ball grow outside that circle, you know it's working.
1 packet (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (100-110° F)
1 tsp. sugar
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour and more for the counter
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbs. salt
3 Tbs. olive oil and more for brushing
1. Combine warm water, sugar and yeast in a measuring cup and let stand for a few minutes until foamy.
2. Meanwhile, combine flours and salt in a mixing bowl.
3. Slowly incorporate yeast and water into the flour using your hands, a wooden spoon, or a mixer with a dough hook attachment. Stream in the olive oil, and continue to mix until all ingredients are incorporated and a sticky dough forms.
4. Gather the dough into a ball, and rub with a little bit of extra olive oil. Place back into the bowl, and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand until the dough doubles in size, about 40-60 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Unwrap the dough, and gently punch it down a little bit and gather it back into a ball. For an extra large pizza, use as is. For two 10-inch pizzas, cut the dough ball in half.
6. Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface until its about 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to a baking sheet sprinkled lightly with flour.
7. Lightly brush the dough with a little bit of olive oil. Par bake the crust for 5 minutes at 450 degrees F. before adding desired toppings.
Jessica Roy is a specialty chef and caterer, food writer and chef instructor, and owner of Shiso Kitchen in Somerville, where she teaches classes. Follow her at http://blogs.lowellsun.com/yourpersonalchef.