Saturday, November 1, 2008

Daring Bakers: Basic Pizza Dough

Life has been hectic lately but I simply couldn’t pass up a reason to make pizza. I was really psyched for this month's Daring Bakers challenge because it's been a while since I last hauled out made Steven haul out the pizza stone. Thanks for choosing and hosting this month’s challenge Rosa! Even though I made the pizzas, I still screwed up because I didn’t take any pictures. I apologize for the boring all-text post and I’ll try to keep it short.

My go-to pizza recipe is my no knead pizza dough recipe (the no-knead concept definitely isn’t mine but I’d like to think the pizza recipe itself is my own creation, but eh semantics aside). It has great flavor, has a chewy crumb and crispy crust, and involves zero kneading so it requires next to no effort. Everyone can make it because you don’t need a KitchenAid. Good times. The recipe that the DBs are using this month comes from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, which is one of the best cookbooks available for bread baking. Basically, my goal this month was to compare the two recipes.

The Reinhart recipe definitely requires a KitchenAid because even you're willing to to put in some serious elbow grease kneading, the dough will most likely be too sticky to handle so a KitchenAid is really your best bet. Both the no-knead and this recipe involves a long, slow rise (no-knead at room temp vs. Reinhart dough in the fridge), which results in good flavor so neither dough is lacking in the taste department. You can keep the Reinhart dough in the fridge for up to three days and you can transfer the no-knead dough to the fridge after the initial room temp rise for both storage and increasing flavor. While the Reinhart dough is still on the tacky side, it isn’t nearly as sticky as the no-knead dough, making it much easier to work with. On the other hand, the extra water in the no knead dough makes a crispier crust and chewier crumb. In the end, Steven preferred my usual no-knead recipe, which is fine with me because that dough is much faster to make. But the Reinhart dough is still excellent. Really, whichever way you go, you’re guaranteed to have great pizza crust.

Now that you have good dough, you just need good sauce and good cheese. I made the sauce with the roasted tomatoes I made two months ago. The roasting process really brought out the sweetness of otherwise pathetic run-of-the-mill store tomatoes and added a hint of smokiness. Or you can just use a can of decent tomatoes because honestly, who has 6 hours to spare waiting for tomatoes to roast? I certainly don't anymore. It’s also really important to use fresh mozzarella. If you live close to a Trader Joe's or Costco, you can get fresh mozzarella without breaking the bank. I think it'll run you about $5/lb. It simply doesn’t compare to the part skim low moisture bricks from the store - there’s no going back.

Basic Pizza Dough
Recipe from
“The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart

4 1/2 cups flour (I
used 3 cups of bread flour and 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour)
1 3/4
teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1 3/4 cups
cold water
1 Tablespoon sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for

Mix the flour, salt and instant yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer.

Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well. Knead with the dough hook 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 sticking to the sides of the bowl, add a tablespoon or two of flour. If the dough is not sticking to the bottom of the bowl, add a tablespoon or two of water.

The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky (if will stick to your hands), not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

Divide the dough into 4 balls of dough. Brush the tops with a little olive oil, cover and keep in the fridge. Let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days. 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.

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. 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 cold oven. After the pizza stone is in the oven, then preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). 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 a cookie sheet with no lip with some 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 (optional). Instead of tossing, continue to stretch the dough over your hands, or place on the cookie sheet and using your palms to stretch it into the desired thinness. 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.

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 abour 6 – 10 minutes. 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.

Roasted Tomatoes
3 lbs tomatoes

Cut the tomatoes in half and get rid of the goopy stuff (I don’t know what else to call it) and the seeds).

Arrange the tomatoes in a large nonreactive baking dish like pyrex or corningware.

Roast in the oven at 350 degrees F for 4 – 6 hours or until the tomatoes start to shrivel and dry up but make sure they don’t burn. The roasting time will depend on how watery the tomatoes are.

After roasting, allow the tomatoes to cool. The skins can be slipped off really easily. Store in the freezer or use in soup or sauces.

Quick Tomato Sauce

(makes about 3 cups of sauce)

1 28 oz. can diced or whole tomatoes, pureed in a food processor, blender, or put through a food mill
2 tbsp olive oil
2 - 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp oregano
About 1/2 C fresh basil leaves, chopped or chiffonade (optional, if you have it)

Add garlic and olive oil to a (unheated) saucepan or skillet and heat them up together over medium heat. When the garlic starts sizzling and smells fragrant (don't burn it), add the tomatoes, pepper, and some italian herb mix. Simmer uncovered until the sauce is thickened.

Season to taste with salt and stir in the basil off heat.


Rachelle @ Sweet Home Pasadena said...

Yum. This looks so good. I'm thinking of making Saturdays make-your-own pizza night at our house so talk about perfect timing!:)

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Very well done! That sounds so good! Yummy



Anonymous said...

Hey - your pizza looks awesome! I actually make my hubby haul the pizza stone around too. ahem.

I've passed on an award to you - if you're into that thing. Chcek out my post on Chai Cookies for details.


Karol said...

YYUUMMMM!! I found the pizza dough recipe, looks great! You've got such an amazing blog!

Ramya Kiran said...

Hi Amy, I invite you to visit my blog. There is an award waiting for you..;)

George Erdosh said...

I make my own pizza crust and topping too; my only suggested addition to your crust is either generous amounts (about 3 Tbsp) of chopped fresh rosemary or the same amount fresh chopped sage. Not only the herbs give extra flavor to crust but the greens look nice in it too.


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