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The Secret To Better Homemade Pizza Plus Nancy's Recipe For Buttermilk Rolls, Two Ways

From now on, my my pizza stone is demoted to trivet duty. I've been reading about pizza "steels" for a while now, and last week, in a moment of wild abandon, actually shelled out $42 for a 15"x15"x1/4" plate of carbon steel. 

A professional pizza oven puts out 800 to 1000 degrees of heat while a home oven reaches 550 at best. A pizza steel transfers that 550 degrees more efficiently than a stone. The result: more power to the pizza. Now let's talk dough.

Peter Reinhart's Pizza Quest site seems to be down at the moment. But here's his pizza dough recipe I used, as repeated on The Fresh Loaf.

Bear in mind that this dough should be rested at least overnight in the fridge. I left mine in for three days, and I think the wait was worth it.

Nancy Leson's been baking, too. Here's one of her favorite recipes:

Nancy’s Buttermilk Rolls (Adapted from Dori Sanders' "Country Cooking")

Ingredients:

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Credit Nancy Leson
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1 tablespoon active dry yeast

2 tablespoons warm water

5 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup shortening

2 cups buttermilk

Instructions:

1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles very coarse cornmeal. (Note: I use my KitchenAid mixer with paddle attachment for this step.)

3. Add buttermilk to yeast mixture, stir briefly, and add to flour mixture. Stir until mixture is just moistened. The dough will be very soft. (You may cover tightly and refrigerate it overnight at this point.) Let the dough rest and rise, covered, for at least a half hour, or up to several hours, punching it down as need be during the longer rise.

4. Lightly grease muffin tins. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

(If refrigerated, remove dough from refrigerator and let rise for an hour. Then punch down the dough and knead it briefly, about 2 minutes, on a lightly-floured surface.) Pinch off quarter-sized pieces, roll them into rounds between the palms of your hands and put 3 small balls into each muffin tin. Let rise for 30 minutes and bake about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Makes about 2-1/2 dozen.  

Now, The Flatbread Version

When Nance makes these rolls, she often doubles the recipe, and her son Nate's found a use for leftover dough.  

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Credit Nancy leson
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"Buttermilk flatbread!," said Nance. "It's so good it’s worth making the dough for flatbread alone. Just follow the roll recipe as described through the rise. Once risen, punch the dough down and refrigerate it in a Ziploc bag overnight or up to four days.  

"To make the flatbread, bring the dough up to room temperature, slice off baseball-size hunks of dough, roll into a rectangular shape, place it on a sheet pan and prick it several times with the tines of a fork (to keep it from rising too much in the oven).

"If you'd like, sprinkle with coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper. Bake in a preheated [oven at] 400 degrees until golden brown. Remove from the oven and, if you like, brush it with olive oil or hot chile oil."

"You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six."

– Yogi Berra

Dick Stein joined KNKX in January 1992. He retired in 2020 after three decades on air. During his storied radio career, he hosted the morning jazz show, co-hosted and produced "Food for Thought" with Nancy Leson and wrote and directed the Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen.
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