Monday 27 October 2008

Daring Bakers: Pizza

I honestly can't remember the last time I had pizza. Not that I don't like it, but besides our indulgence in sweets, we try to eat pretty healthy. But, given that this was a Daring Baker's challenge, I had the perfect excuse to indulge in a pizza or two (or six, if you made the whole recipe).

Although I've made pizza at least once before, I seem to remember it being more involved. Despite the fact that this recipe requires some planning ahead - really only so that you can let the dough have its overnight rest - its really easy to put together. No hassle, no fuss.

The tossing of the dough, called for in the recipe, also sounds more challenging than it is. Where I struggled was actually sliding my pizza off the back of my jelly pan onto my baking stone. Guess I didn't quite put enough cornmeal on the back of my pan.

I topped my pizza with Parma ham, artichokes and mozzarella cheese. For something so easy to make, the results were incredibly good. M was particularly impressed with the crust which he was surprised that one could do in our dinky home oven. 

For me, this recipe is definitely a keeper and it just might get me to increase my pizza consumption!

Pizza dough
From The Bread Baker's Apprentice


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
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.

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. 

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9 1/2 inches or 23-30 cm in diameter)


Dana McCauley said...

Pizza is like a food group at our house - I think we eat it more often than almost any other recipe i make!

Your challenge seems to have worked out very well.

Lorrie said...

Your pizza turned out great! I love your toppings!

Ally said...

Ham parm and artichoke sounds like a delicious combination!

Lynn said...

I think your pizza looks great.

Engineer Baker said...

That looks wonderful, and I love the topping combo. Nice that you had an excuse to indulge :)

Unknown said...

Glad it worked out so well for you! It looks great :)

Molly Loves Paris said...

The pizza looks great. Thanks for the details about making the pizza. My grandchildren think that pizza is one of the main staples of life. When I was a kid I used to make pizza for my siblings (six brothers), It took me a long time to make it, and it took them 5 minutes to eat it. I found that very discouraging. Instead I should have felt encouraged.

Heather B said...

Love the artichokes on the pizza! Great job!

Liliana said...

Love you pizza toppings. Your pizza looks great.

giz said...

I also hadn't eaten pizza in ages but it seemed easy enough and the results were pretty amazing. Your combo is great - artichokes on anything is a winner for me. Great job!!

Jodie said...

Ooh, I love how your cheese looks so cripsy! Yum!