Yeast intimidates me a little – OK, a lot. A few years ago, when I had more time, I made our bread on a somewhat regular basis. It was good, but never too consistent. The recipe I used the most made three loaves, and I baked it once a week. I don’t think that would last even one day around here now! The older kids have such a passion for the smell of yeast and working with a lump of dough! I think it’s because they remember our afternoons in the kitchen and the overflowing bowls of leavened dough.
A friend of mine, Salam, stopped to visit last week. I was telling her about my fears with yeast, but she didn’t sympathize! She seemed so confident in her recipe, her skills, her results! I was intrigued and pleaded with her to stay and make it with me. This isn’t the first time I’ve gleaned massive amounts of kitchen knowledge from her! Last winter she came to teach me how to make cheese! – I know, she’s a sweetheart! She told me a couple secrets to the no-fail, no-fuss dough recipe, that has worked every time. We’ve made four pizza braids since she was here, and we’ve loved them!
I’ll let you in on her secrets to fool-proof dough:
sift the flour
use buttermilk, kefir, or milk with a dash of vinegar (even when recipes call for water or milk)
sprinkle cornmeal on your pan for a crisp bottom
This recipe is only 30 minutes hands-on. The dough comes together in a stand-up mixer or in a food processor. No kneading by hand means no flour messes all over the counters or sticky doughy hands – YES! My family loves all things pizza, and this braid is the easiest twist (pun intended) on a pizza.
If you don’t know what to make for dinner tonight, I bet you’ve got these ingredients in your kitchen right now. We’ve served this pizza braid piping hot, but really the children prefer it after it’s been resting awhile. So, you can bake it early in the afternoon, and still serve a finger-linking supper a couple hours later! Don’t you love make-ahead meals?
This recipe makes two pizza braids, two large pizzas (14-16 inches), or three 10 inch pizzas.
3 1/2 cups flour, sifted right into the mixer bowl (or food processor)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups cultured milk (we used kefir, but buttermilk or milk-vinegar mix is perfect too)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon or 1 packet of instant or active yeast
a pinch of sugar and a couple teaspoons of warm water (around 110 degrees)
a sprinkle of cornmeal
melted butter or oil with garlic salt, Italian seasoning and parmesan to brush over the top of the braid (optional, but yummy!)
your favorite pizza sauce
your favorite topping and shredded cheese (we do pepperoni or salami)
In a small bowl, mix warm water, sugar and dry yeast. While it bubbles up, sift the flour into your bowl, add salt and cultured milk (if you slightly warm it, your dough will rise a little faster).
Add the yeast mixture and turn on the mixer with the hook attachment (I hear paddle works great too). It will begin to slowly come together into a ball, detaching from the sides. Add bits of flour if it’s still sticking.
Add the olive oil, and continue to let the machine knead for about 10 minutes total. So easy!
Add a little oil around the dough and on the sides of bowl. Cover it with clear wrap. Set it in a warm, dark (or cover with towel) place for 45 minutes to 1 hour. It should double.
With floured hands, take it out of the bowl and feel it, if it’s sticky, dust it with more flour. Divide the dough in two for the braids (or three for smaller pizzas).
Let it rest for 10 minutes while you grab the ingredients for the filling (or pizza toppings) and turn your oven on to 400 degrees.
Stretch out the dough with floured hands gently to prevent holes in the dough. Grease and sprinkle cornmeal on your cookie sheet (pizza stone is great too). Lay the stretched dough on the pan and cut two inch diagonal slits into both sides of the dough.
Spread sauce down the middle of your dough. Add shredded cheese and toppings on top of sauce.
Fold strips up and over pizza filling, alternating sides to get a braided look. Brush the top of the braided dough with olive oil and then sprinkle with the garlic, Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes then cut into slices and serve. Freezes great and reheats well too!
with love. Damaris