I was anxiously awaiting what the Daring Bakers Challenge would be for October. We’ve made lots of gooey, sweet things in the past, and last month was a nice Lavash Cracker. I was hoping for another savory item this month, but wasn’t holding my breath. But when I saw the challenge post, I was lucky-pizza and toppings. I’ve made lots of homemade pizza in the past, so I thought this would be a very simple challenge-until I read that you have to use the tossing method to make the crust, and take a photo of your tossing in action. Okay, I thought, this could be fun.
The challenge was to use the tossing method for at least 2 pizza crusts, then to use both a sauce and topping to complete the pizza.
So I invited another couple to come over and have a Pizza Party with us. The recipe says it makes 6 crusts, but since there were just 4 of us, I decided to make 4 different kinds of pizza. The first pizza was a fig jam, proscuitto, and gorgonzola pizza. The second one was a browned ground lamb, carmelized onion, tzatziki sauce, calamata olive, and feta cheese pizza. The third one was marinara sauce, gryere cheese, crispy pancetta, roasted garlic, and carmelized onions. And the last one was your basic margarita pizza-marinara, fresh basil, and mozzerella cheese. All of them were great, and I couldn’t say which our favorite was, as we finished them all!
GORGONZOLA, PROSCUITTO, AND FIG JAM PIZZA
GRYERE CHEESE, PANCETTA, CARMELIZED ONION, & PORTOBELLA MUSHROOM PIZZA
LAMB, TZATZIKI SAUCE, FETA, AND CALAMATA OLIVE PIZZA
Even if you have made lots of homemade pizza dough in your past, you need to try this recipe. It was just wonderful-light, thin, and crispy. The dough was very soft and very easy to roll or press into a circle. My tossing skills were lacking, so I did best with a combination of draping over my hands and letting it stretch, and using a rolling pin.
The dough recipe is from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart. I am giving directions for making in a food processor, but the cookbook also gives directions for making by hand.
~ BASIC PIZZA DOUGH ~
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches in diameter).
4 1/2 cups unbleached high-gluten (14%) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled 1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1 3/4 cups water, ice cold
1 tablespoon sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting
1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer.
2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well with the paddle attachment, on low speed. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 – 7 minutes. 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.
3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with parchment paper.. Lightly oil the paper.
4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces.
5. 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.
6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and lightly rub with oil. Enclose the pan in plastic food wrap.
7. 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 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.
8. 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. 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 thick and 5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle with flour. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.
9. 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).
NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.
10. 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.
11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches) 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
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.
14. 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.