Magazine article Sunset

Pizza Perfect

Magazine article Sunset

Pizza Perfect

Article excerpt

Throw a party with pizzeria-style dough from a champ

Tony Gemignani throws pizza dough like a Harlem Globetrotter works a basketball. he can propel a wheel of dough across his shoulders and spin two rounds at a time, as well as toss and catch them blindfolded.

Tony started developing his technique in 1991, when he and his brother, Frank, opened Pyzano's Pizzeria in Castro Valley, California. To entertain children at the restaurant, Tony started tossing the dough and doing daring tricks with it. he was a natural. When he entered the World Pizza Games in Las Vegas, he won first place three years running. Then he tackled the World Pizza Championship in Italy. Initially the Italians were dubious that anyone from America could present a serious challenge, but after Tony took the top prize two years in a row, they asked him to be a judge. Now he coaches the U.S. team.

"Tossing the dough creates a crust naturally," Tony says. "As you spin the dough in the air, it dries, so it will be crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle." There are several other critical steps in Tony's dough-making process, some of which actually make his pizza handy to produce for a party. he uses a high-protein, high-gluten flour for strong structure (which makes the dough very easy to handle), good browning, and deep flavor. he wakes the yeast up with warm water, then calms it down widi ice-cold water so the dough can rise gradually in the refrigerator overnight and produce consistent results under varied conditions. The sauced rounds can even sit for a few hours before being baked, so it's not a problem if you have only one oven.

One or two days before your party, mix up the easy sauce and dough (make extra dough, in case some lands on the floor). When your guests arrive, toss the dough and assemble the pizzas-it's fun to do as a group. And if you're a bit of a klutz and flunk the tossing test, you can still make extraordinary crusts by just stretching the dough to size.

To schedule a session with Tony Gemignani, call Pyzano s Pizzeria (510/881-8878). Visit www.uspiziateam.comfor information.

Tony's Pizza Dough

PREP TIME: About 20 minutes, plus at least 10 hours to rise

MAKES: Dough for 2 pizzas (14 in. each)

NOTES: If making more than two pizzas, prepare separate batches of dough.

1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast

1 cup warm (90° to 100°) water

1 cup ice-cold water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

About 5 ¼ to 5 ½ cups bread flour

1. In a small bowl, with a fork, stir yeast into warm water. Let stand until yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes.

2. In another bowl, mix cold water, sugar, and salt until dissolved; stir in oil.

3. If using a heavy-duty standing mixer with a dough hook, place 5 ¼ cups flour in a large bowl. Stir the yeast mixture again to blend, then add to flour along with cold-water mixture. Beat with the dough hook on low speed until mixture is smooth and not sticky, 14 to 16 minutes. (Don't let dough climb up into motor drive; if it threatens to, stop mixer and push dough down. If machine labors, stop and wait a few minutes for motor to cool, then resume.) If dough remains sticky, add 2 more tablespoons flour and beat 2 minutes longer; if still sticky, add another 1 to 2 tablespoons flour and beat until nonsticky and smooth.

If using a heavy-duty food processor, make dough in two batches, using half the ingredients for each: Place 234 cups flour, half the yeast mixture, and half the cold-water mixture in processor bowl and whirl until dough is smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes. (If machine stops, wait a few minutes, then resume.) If dough is still sticky, add 2 to 3 more teaspoons flour and whirl until dough is smooth. Transfer to a floured board.

4. Scrape dough onto a lightly floured board; cut in half (omit cutting if using processor). …

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