Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: Extraordinary pizza dough!

This was my first month participating in a new online community I've joined called Daring Bakers. Every month, we're assigned a new baking challenge, and everyone posts about it on the same day. They don't seem to care much about skill level, otherwise I wouldn't have gotten in. It's just a nice way for me to cut my teeth on some new baking techniques.

Challenge #1: Peter Reinhart's Basic Pizza Dough, which is not so basic and involves letting the dough rest for 24 hours and tossing the dough like a real pizzaiolo. I was able to handle the 24-hour rest like a champ but the pizza tossing was a little more challenging. :)

As you can see, I'm not actually tossing it. Katherine was there to help; she was a better pizza-tosser than I was, but I must admit that neither of our pizzas really ever got airborne.

I chose to top the pizza with a ricotta mixture made with homemade cheese, cream, and parsley (first time making ricotta; it turned out okay) and roasted beets. It wasn't the most delicious combo in the world (not to mention the fact that Katherine doesn't really like beets, and I had wooed her over to the house to take pictures of me tossing dough by promising her delicious pizza), but the crust really shone through. Just like the New York Times chocolate chip cookies, this pizza dough is worth the effort.

I did have a little trouble. Having followed the flour and liquid measurements to a tee (or so I thought), I was surprised that my dough turned out unworkably sticky. I had to add at least an additional cup of flour to even work the dough. This doesn't seem to have affected the outcome, but it was kind of frustrating at the time. I wish I had seen 101 Cookbook's post on this same recipe, as she features weight measurements, which are more precise for baking. I'll use those next time. I'm also now realizing that I may have used Active Dry Yeast instead of Instant Yeast. Woops.

The good news is I have three extra dough balls waiting for me in the freezer!

Here is the word-for-word recipe, for posterity.

Basic 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 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar - FOR GF use agave syrup
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. 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.

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

4. 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, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

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 mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose 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 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.

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/260° C).

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/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.

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.

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.

Katherine and I proudly displaying heart-shaped pizza #2.


Dragon said...

Awww, I love the heart shaped pizza. Great job!

MaryMary said...

I adore beets...I've never thought of them as a pizza topping. I am intrigued. Cheers on your first challenge!

Ruth said...

Your beet toppings sounds fantastic! Something I would have never thought of

audaxartifex said...

Beetroot is loved a lot in Australia (in burgers and all sorts of dishes) and this idea will be well used. I supposed you used roasted beetroots? Love the "tossing" pictures.

Eat4Fun said...

Congratulations on completing your first DB Challenge! Very nice looking pizzas... you have this challenge beet! :)

Anonymous said...

beets!! that's such a good idea - i never would have thought of putting them on pizza.