Sunday, April 19, 2009

That One Pizza (10/19)


I made this pizza with some of the marinara sauce I had leftover from the lasagna rolls. The toppings include chicken sausage and grilled onions and I'm not sure what else. Spinach? Cotton? Don't ask me to remember these things.

I can't remember which recipe I used for the dough but I'll leave you with my current one, which comes from Peter Reinhart's much-lauded "The Bread Baker's Apprentice." This recipe makes a whole mess of dough that I freeze. When the mood hits I get very excited, remember my dough is frozen, disappointedly move it to the fridge, wait 24 hours, then make pizza. Other than that my method is perfect.

This recipe was also the November Daring Bakers' Challenge, so that might hint that it's fairly lengthy. Other than the proofing times, though, it's a pleasure to work with and is really helpful for those people like myself who like to make a big mess in the kitchen all at once, instead of several little messes.

It really is worth the time. The dough is soft and pliable and bakes into a crusty, chewy bread. Making the entire batch for one night is great for a crowd and allows all kinds of crazy variations. I brought a tray of these relaxed balls (I love being able to say these things) to a friend's house and spent an evening testing a buttload (sorry) of pizza toppings. Some of my favorites are a slather of pesto and slices of mozzarella, baked until bubbly then draped with prosciutto and fresh arugula right out of the oven; some sweet butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar; and a generous glaze of garlic-infused oil under studs of crumbled feta, melted mozzarella and dollops of freshly strained ricotta. What can I say, I'm from California. I eat salad on pizzas.

Basic Pizza Dough
from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

Dough Ingredients:
4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread
flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) olive oil or vegetable oil
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 tablespoon sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in
the bowl of your stand mixer).
2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a
large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in
order to form a sticky ball of dough.
3. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is
smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too
wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry
add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.
NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and
mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear
the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the
dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears
the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl,
dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just
tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.
4. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking
paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.
5. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough
into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).
NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper/cutter, dip the
scraper into water between cuts.
6. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry
and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.
NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the
flour again.
7. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them
generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in
plastic food wrap TIGHTLY.
8. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight
or for up to thee days.
NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you
want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case,
pour some oil (a few tablespoons only) in a medium bowl and dip each
dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then
put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for
no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza,
remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the

1. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make
it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator.
Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil.
2. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with
flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into
disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter.
Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds
with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.
3. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone
on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible
(500° F/260° C).
4. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum
flour or cornmeal or flour. Flour your hands (palms, backs and
knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper.
Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully
stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by
giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has
expanded outward, move to a full toss.
NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
NOTE: During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your
hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then
continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble
tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always
springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for
the gluten to relax fully, then try again.
5. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm
in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the
back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum
flour or cornmeal or flour to allow it to slide and not stick to the
6. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No
more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.
7. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake
directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8
NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate
180°. If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move
the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the
contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you
will need to raise the stone or jelly.
8. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board
or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5
minutes before slicing or serving.


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