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We're Just Here For More Food

Alton Brown is a real scientist in the kitchen.

His latest teaching manual, "I'm Just Here For More Food," is less about food and more about the six major mixing methods one should master to become a better baker.

His philosophy is: If you can conquer the alchemy of how ingredients are integrated in recipes, you can easily become a true star in the kitchen when it comes to baking.

On The Early Show, he demonstrated how to make a great pizza dough and explains how the gluten (a protein found in wheat) in the flour is activated by kneading and stretching the dough.

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Wheat flour is the only type of flour that contains the two proteins that form gluten when water is added and the dough is worked. Gluten is what gives the dough its plasticity (bend) and elasticity (stretch). The key to creating the perfect pizza dough is to be sure the dough has been kneaded enough to form a perfect balance between the proteins.

If you can control the gluten in the dough, then you have accomplished the most difficult step in the process.

One of the biggest problems with dough is that folks generally under work it, which then results in a dough that has not captured enough air and doesn't have enough bend or elasticity. It's like bubble gum - well-chewed gum is pliable and makes great blown bubbles. Under chewed gum is tight, hard and difficult to stretch.

Here is the recipe excerpted from Brown's new book.

Serves 1 to 2 persons

This recipe never lets me down. I never have to add additional flour or water and the overnight rise always delivers the flavor and texture I'm after. Although I developed this specifically for pizza, and other flatbread applications, it makes great breadsticks and rolls - even small torpedo-shaped loaves. It can even be coaxed into crackers if properly docked.

The Liquid
1 1/4 cup water

The Dry Goods
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
8 cups all-purpose flour
1 envelope instant yeast
1 tablet chewable children's vitamin C (optional)

The Extras
Olive oil for the bowl
Cornmeal for dusting the peel
Toppings of your choice

Add the dry ingredients starting with the liquid and sugar, salt and then flour (reserving some of the flour). Mix for 2 minutes on low, or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, adding more flour by the tablespoon as needed.

Rest the dough 15 minutes, then knead at 35 to 40 percent power for 5 minutes, or until the dough is well developed.

Remove the dough from the mixer bowl and knead by hand for about 30 seconds, then work the dough into a ball. Place the ball in a large metal bowl with a little olive oil. Toss the ball around to coat. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and set aside for one hour or until the dough ball nearly doubles in size.

Fold down the dough, patting it into a disk, and place it back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and park it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, remove the dough and cut into four equal portions. Shape these as you did the mother blob, folding the dough in on itself. If you plan to have pizza that day, leave however many orbs you like on the counter, cover them with a clean kitchen towel and leave for an hour to bench proof. The others should be wrapped in plastic wrap, or stored in zip-top bags in the refrigerator for up to a week. If you want frozen pizza, you're better off rolling out and par-baking the crust and then freezing. Thaw the frozen crusts before you finish them.

While the dough is proofing, preheat your oven at its highest possible temperature (or light up the grill).

Prepare the dough:
- lay the orb on a lightly floured counter and partially flatten
- work the disk in your hands, rotating it so that you form a lip on the dough
- start tossing the disk back and fourth between your palms
- now lay the dough cross the back of your hands, and gently stretch while rotating
- now toss with a twist
- and catch

Dust the peel with cornmeal and place your dough on top - and top it. I keep most of my pizzas very simple: olive oil, a little cheese, a few toppings like herbs and olives. I don't use tomato sauce very often.

Slide the pizza onto the pizza stone in the oven. These pizzas don't take more than 4 to 5 minutes to become bubbly and golden brown. Allow to rest for 3 minutes before slicing.

"Excerpted from "I'm Just Here For More Food." Copyright 2004 Be Square Productions. All rights reserved. Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang

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