29 October 2008

Pizza Dough

How excited was I to see that pizza was the official October Challenge for the Daring Bakers? Pizza dough is so easy, and you can get mad-creative with toppings. I saw the announcement and gloated about how much time I’d have to come up with some spectacular combination of exotic flavors... And then I barely made the deadline (what can I say, October totally got away from me). Granted, taking photos with no lightbox late in the evening does not make for the best photo opportunities, but I made do.

The “trick” to this challenge was that we had to toss the dough like the pros do, and get photographic evidence of this. Pizza dough I can make in my sleep, but tossing the dough? Yeah, I officially suck at that. That dough never got more than an inch from my knuckles and it usually got holes in it – oopie. But! I gave it the old college try, as evidenced by the photo below. Thanks to Hubs for capturing this stunning action shot:

Yeah, see? The late evening is not the best for shooting.

I decided to make a bunch of small pizzas with random toppings. One was what I call “autumn margherita style”, with fresh mozzeralla and garlic and sun-dried tomatoes with a touch of dried basil. Another was classic veggie, with lots of mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, black olives… The third was the Hub’s creation, some thing with man toppings (I have no idea, was in a cold-induced fog), and the last was roasted chicken with garlic, bell peppers, and onions. Yum! I was going to make dessert pizza but decided against it at the last minute, given all the Halloween candies I already consumed that day. C’est la vie, I’ll give it a go next time I make pizza…

A big thanks to Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums for hosting this challenge. And don’t forget to check out the other Daring Bakers’ versions this month – there are a ton of mouth-watering pizza combinations out there!

Pizza Dough
(from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart)

4 1/2 c. unbleached high-gluten bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. instant yeast
1/4 c. olive oil
1 3/4 c. water, ice cold
1 Tbsp. sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

Day 1
Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

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. 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.

Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

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).

To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

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.

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.

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 refrigerator.

Day 2
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. 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 and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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 pan.

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.


Lynn said...

Wow, you were really ambitious. Your pizzas look terrific. I am very impressed. Great job!

Meryl said...

Very nice tossing!

Engineer Baker said...

I love the classic margherita, and I'm impressed that you could even get a fuzzy tossing photo - mine failed every time!

Jo said...

Great job on your pizza. I enjoyed this recipe very much.

Sarah said...

How fun. I didn't know part of the challenge was to toss the dough. Your toppings look yummy.