Ho-Hum Breakthroughs

For those of you getting tired of me crying “I’ve finally done it!” with my Chicago-style deep-dish pizza crust recipe, you might want to just go ahead and move on to Creampuffs in Venice now (anyway, Ivonne’s got a pretty wicked-looking Nutella panino up there this morning). But I did make a pretty significant improvement to it over the weekend.

For a few weeks now I’ve been concerned about the richness of the crust. It was a criticism a few canny pizza bakers expressed early on with the recipe, though I wasn’t sure what to do about it. The dough has to be moistened somehow, but too much water makes a wheat flour dough tough. My solution: use fat instead, solid fat at first, liquid fat since about April. But two weeks or so ago, when a Friday night dinner guest pointed out that the pizza tasted a little more like pie than she’d hoped, I went back to the drawing board.

I’d been down this road before of course. It’s an fat/water see-saw. I need between 5 and 6 ounces of liquid in the dough to make it workable. More than about 2.5 ounces of fat and the crust starts to taste greasy, but more than about 2.5 ounces of water and the crust starts getting tough. Then in struck me: if water makes flour-based pie crusts tough, then maybe the thing to do is quit worrying about the water and turn my attention to the flour. I’ll take a bunch of it out. This is a corn meal crust recipe after all, ain’t it? What have I been so sheepish about all these months? So I bumped up the corn meal percentage from less than a third to almost half and: bingo. A lighter, more tender, more flavorful and not-at-all greasy tasting corn meal pizza crust.

Lord I was proud of myself. Of course there is the issue of graininess, since corn meal is much coarser than flour, a problem I solved with the “soaker” method I told you about (that is, combining the corn meal and water that the recipe calls for in a bowl and leaving it to soak overnight). Though since there isn’t terribly much water in the recipe to begin with, it’s more of a “moistener”, but heck it works. The revised recipe will be up in a few moments for those who are interested.

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