29 October 2008

Daring Bakers- I Love You or How I Made the Best Pizza Ever

Well the title pretty much said it all. I had given up hope of ever making a decent pizza at home but thanks to Rosa from Rosa's Yummy Yums, host of this month's challenge that's all changed. This was the easiest dough to put together-- the recipe even calls for cold water so there's no chance of accidentally killing the yeast. The overnight rise in the fridge allowed the flavor of the dough to develop but I think the secret was patting the dough (in pizza size balls) out into disks before the second, room-temperature rise. That made it so much easier to toss the dough into a the pizza form. I say toss the dough like I'm a piazzola or something but the truth is that my first attempt at tossing the disk on my knuckles to stretch it out went a bit too well too quickly resulting is a torn mess that was paper thin in some parts and an inch thick in others.

I was a bit disheartened but just mashed it back into a ball and started on the second dough. This time I treated the dough very carefully as I realized how light and delicate it was. I floured my hand and very gingerly picked up the dough disk and set it on top of my folded knuckles and started using a gentle outward and upward motion of my hands to stretch and rotate the dough. Once it was thin enough (which for me is pretty much paper thin) I set it down on a floured cookie sheet and topped it with olive oil, fresh chopped tomato, torn fresh basil and mozzarella cheese, all in very small quantities.

The pizza stone was fired up in the oven and I attempted to transfer the pizza from the sheet to the stone. That attempt was quickly thwarted as the pan was too big for the oven (ah the joys of my old kitchen). I didn't know what to do but felt I had to make a quick decision before I let all the heat out of the oven so I stepped back and sort of threw the pizza off pan and onto the stone. It made it about 2/3 of the way on the stone and the rest was on the floor of the oven and hanging out the door. There was no way I could move the pizza at that point, so I just folding over the part that was hanging out and left it to cook.

After about 5 minutes the toppings were bubly and more importantly, the crust had achieved the much vaunted state of crispy blackness**- you know, the one where the crust is crispy and golden-brown except for a few spots that have gotten black and crisp? Not burnt-- just so crisp I never thought I could achieve them in my home oven.

Well-- to sum up this long story-- this dough is amazing and you must make it at home. Also-- do yourself a favor, get a pizza stone.* My cost about $15 at Target and now I'm planning to bake all sorts of yeast breads on it.

*Well, after my incident, you may want to invest in a pizza peel too.

** I was so impressed by the crispy blackness I though it should be the picture for this post. Oh- my kitchen table is not usually so messy but I made the pizza a few days before we moved...

Pizza Dough
Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

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

4 1/2 C. (607.5 g) bread flour or all purpose flour
1 3/4 t. Salt
1 t. Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (60g) Olive oil
1 3/4 Cups (420ml) ice water
1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting (I just used AP flour)


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl.

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well in order to form a sticky ball of dough. 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.

The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky.

3. Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

4. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

5. You need to refrigerate the dough overnight. Your options are to place the dough on a oiled baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap or to put each dough ball into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. The point is that the dough must be separated into individual balls and shouldn't touch each other.

6. Put the dough 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 tablespooons 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 refrigerator.


7. 2 hours before you make it the pizza, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. 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.

8. 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).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

9. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. 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.
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.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

10. 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 to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

11. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

NOTE: Your crust is very thin-- it can't support a 'pizza hut' set of toppings. Less really is more here.

12. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes or until toppings are bubbling and the bottom is brown and crisp.

13. Remove from oven and eat!


kat said...

We love our pizza stone & paddle too, they come in handy for making bread as well as pizza though have had the same not getting it all on the stone problem as you. I'm glad yours turned out so well, we wanted to like it more than we did

Michelle said...

Your pizza looks great as well! It was a fun and easy challenge. We enjoyed it, wish I could have been a better tosser!

Dragon said...

I echo the pizza stone love!

Jeanine said...

Glad to hear that your pizza turned out well too. I was thinking i need a pizza stone now too. Wonder how many will be sold to DBers now that we've all got an amazing dough recipe?? LOL

Medhaa said...

this was a lovely challenge, pizza looks great

glamah16 said...

This was an excellent pizza, and I have beeen making them for years. Its a keeper. I need to add you to my blog roll!

Tara said...

Ugh I have GET to get a pizza stone! Looks yummy!

Tara said...

Oh and PS... I open my pics with office photo viewer (ight click > open with > choose program) and go to "photo editing" and re-size it until its okay. Save into "my pictures" and youre good. Thats if you have a PC of course.

Elra said...

Pizza stone is great, I have one as well and I use it all the time to bake my bread and off course pizza. I like simple pizza in general, and yours is one of them. For this challenge, I experiment with different kind of topping, but I still like a simple margherita or arugula and prusciutto.

Lynn said...

I do agree with you, if you are going to make pizzas a stone and peel are necessary investments. Your pizza looks great. Sounds like you enjoyed this challenge. Great job!

Fran Z said...

Great job!

ARLENE said...

It's great having a stone; I need to buy a peel--I almost had a disaster, too, but just baked the pizzas on the pan on the stone.

Vera said...

I don't have a pizza peel... yet :) I used parchment paper. It was very easy to slide the pizza directly on the parchment (dusted with cornmeal)onto the hot stone.
I also loved the crust, delicious!

zorra said...

My first attempt ended like yours, so I did use the rolling pin for the second one. ;-)

Tartelette said...

You did a fabulous job on the challenge! I love my pizza stone so much now it is nice and darkened over the years that I even use as a serving platter for rustic bread and cheeses!

Jen said...

Vera-- I tried baking my last dough on parchment paper last night and it worked like a charm. Thank you!

Thank you all for the comments-- I love hearing from you.

Vitor Hugo said...

Jen, thank for the comment! :)

Indeed. This recipe is so simple, but really delicious. Way better than delivery! :D

Must try for everyone! :)