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How to make Italian pizza dough

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Is there anyone out there who does not like pizza? Very few, I daresay. It's the quintessential American family dinner takeout. Delicious as the American pizza is, authentic Italian pizza is almost like an entirely different dish.

Yes, it has the traditional round crust and toppings. However, Italian pizza dough tastes much different, at least to the discerning pizza lover.

The taste is difficult to describe, with a slightly, and pleasantly, sour flavor, with a crispier, thinner crust. It's not as chewy as the American style. As for toppings, the Italian cook uses a gentle hand when spooning on these ingredients. Whereas Americans believe more is better, Italians enjoy savoring the individual toppings, which are few in number. A five pound pizza is an oxymoron in the Italian kitchen. Such a concoction would no longer be a pizza.

After experiencing pizza in Italy, I set out on a quest to replicate this gastronomical delight. Eventually, an Italian friend shared some of her secrets. Although the type of flour used in Italy is not available here in the states, she told me how to make pizza dough that's close enough to the Real Thing. Life hasn't been the same since. If you'd like to make pizza dough that rivals the best, follow these simple instructions for a brand new taste you'll want to enjoy again and again.

All you need for two 10-inch pizza crusts is one package of dry yeast, a half cup of buttermilk (which gives that slightly sour flavor) and two cups of unbleached flour. When you make pizza dough with buttermilk, you need not add salt. However, you can make pizza dough with regular milk as well, but then you'll need to add about ½ teaspoon of salt.

To the yeast, add about ¾ cup of warm water, about 115-120ºF and dissolve in a medium bowl. Add the buttermilk and stir to combine. Add the flour, reserving about ¼ cup, and knead for about 10 minutes. Use the reserved flour only if needed to form a smooth ball of dough. Coat the dough with a tablespoon of olive oil and place the pizza dough in a clean bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place – the top of the frig is good – for about an hour. Punch down the dough, knead lightly and reshape into a ball. Let the dough rise again until doubled in size. Divide the dough and roll each portion into a 10-inch round. Preheat the oven to 500º while you do the toppings.

Go easy on your toppings. Mix ½ cup each of marinara sauce and Italian style tomato paste and spread thinly on the crusts. For an authentic taste, limit your toppings to one meat, one or two veggies and fresh mozzarella. Bake the pizza for just 9 to 10 minutes. (TIMExplore.com)

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