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Simple Pizza or Foccaccia Base

This really works on most anything, including fresh pizza dough, foccaccia dough, or parbaked versions.  Heck, it ought to work on nice split crusty loaves of most anything, like making garlic bread.  If you don't have a favorite recipe and want to start from scratch, here's simple pizza/foccaccia dough.  The trick used here is that the dough is not kneaded or punched down after shaping for the first rise, so the gluten is very relaxed and it's easy to pull it thin after all that long rising time.  The chilling step adds to the flavor but could be skipped if you're really desperate for time.  If you're not so good at shaping the dough to get it really thin (like me), just call it foccaccia.  If you get it really thin & round, call it pizza!

3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
flour milled from 350 grams hard white wheat berries plus 150 grams soft white wheat
2 1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour plus 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast

About 1 1/2 cups cold water

Olive oil (optional, for foccaccia)

In food processor with metal blade, mix together the flour, salt and yeast.  With the processor running, pour 1 1/4 C water into the bowl.  Process until a ball of dough forms, then turn off the processor and let the dough sit for 5-15 minutes.

Check for hydration:  this should be a soft, fairly wet dough.  Add a little more water if needed, and process for another 45 seconds (the dough should be cleaning the sides of the mixing bowl). Add the olive oil, 2-4 tablespoons, if you want a richer foccaccia dough.

Turn onto floured board and knead lightly to smooth all together, and divide into 4 pieces.  Round each into a smooth ball.  Set well apart on a lightly oiled pan and cover with plastic wrap with a fairly tight seal, but allow room for each ball to expand.  Refrigerate for 4-6 hours or overnight.

Remove from refrigerator and let rise, still covered, at room temperature until quite light.  It should take 1-2 hours to warm up and resume rising.  Preheat your oven (with baking stone if you have one) to 500 degrees F while the dough rises.  Prepare the topping while you're letting the dough rise.

Gently stretch each ball into a round or rectangle or whatever shape you can manage, working with floured hands on a lightly floured board.   For pizza, let the rim be a little thicker than the rest.  You should get it to 8-10 inches in diameter if you're lucky.  For foccacia, it can be up to 1/2 inch thick, and whatever shape you prefer.

Place on a peel (if you have a baking stone) or baking sheet dusted with

semolina flour

top with your prepared topping, and bake.

For foccaccia, dimple the surface with your fingers after brushing or spraying with olive (this will help keep the top crust from separating and forming  a giant bubble), and add herbs, salt, chopped nuts, sauteed onions, whatever you like.  Bake the thicker ones about 20 minutes, thinnner ones 10-15 minutes.

For pizza, top with sauce, herbs, cheese, veggies, what have you, then slide onto hot stone or into hot oven to bake 5-10 minutes or  until browned & crisp. 

Serve hot. 

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