Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Playing with Dough


Hostess Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums gave us a most delicious recipe for this month's Daring Bakers' challenge - pizza dough from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. There was nothing too difficult except that this pizza dough was wetter and stickier than other pizza dough recipes I've tried. I'm not sure the reasoning behind the high ratio of water to flour, but I'm sure Mr. Reinhart had a good reason. Other than the wet and sticky, I really enjoyed making the pizza dough.

Rosa asked us to use any sauce and any topping (or toppings) for our pizza. But other than that she gave us a lot of freedom to use whatever we liked. Sauces and toppings could be savory or sweet, with dairy or without, meat loving or vegetarian. The crust could be gluten free or not. Hubby and I topped our pizzas with all sorts of good stuff. Mozzarella, tomatoes, sautéed spinach, feta cheese, green olive tapenade, pesto sausage, and even chopped broccoli. The pizzas turned out great. I don't think I will have pizza delivered to my house anymore.


Oh, Rosa also gave us one other thing to do. She asked us to toss in the air at least two of the six pizza dough balls and capture the moment on film. Well, not on film, but in a photograph (mostly digital these days), but ya' know what I mean. At first I was apprehensive about tossing the dough since I'm definitely more of a "smoosh and push" the pizza dough kind of gal, but tossing the dough turned out to be really fun. I'm not sure how pizza pros can toss dough and end up with a nice round crust. One of the two I tossed ended up looking more like Italy than a circle and the second one landed on the kitchen floor when I missed the catch on the way down. My husband said we could invoke the five second rule, but being the germ phobic clean freak that I am, I insisted on throwing out that piece of dough.

This post is dedicated to Sher who passed away suddenly in July and was scheduled to host this month's challenge with Rosa. She will be missed. And don't forget that links to the blogs of other Daring Bakers can be found on our blogroll.

RECIPE SOURCE: “The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread” by Peter Reinhart. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. Copyright 2001. ISBN-10: 1-58008-268-8, ISBN-13: 978-158008-268-6.
EQUIPMENT: Stand mixer with paddle and dough hook attachments (optional, see recipe), cooking thermometer, baking sheet, parchment paper, cooking oil, plastic wrap, pizza peel/scraper, pizza stone or pan.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter)

4 1/2 cup (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) unbleached high-gluten (about 14%) bread flour (or all purpose flour), chilled
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast (do not use rapid-rise yeast)
1/4 cup (2 ounces/60g) olive oil
1 3/4 cup (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tbsp 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 three 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 re-flour 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 ounce/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 about 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate the pizza 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.



linda said...

Your pizza looks wonderful!
I would go for the 5 second rule, which germ doesn't die at 500 degrees ;)

Audax Artifex said...

As everybody knows the 5 second rule is only for cooked food, so you were wise to throw it out. Loved the pictures especially the tossing photo.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Great tossing! Your pizza looks delicious! Good job!



VeggieGirl said...


So lovely that you dedicated this to Sher - may she rest in peace.

Sarah said...

great tossing pictures! good job!

DaviMack said...

Wait - you introduced some bugs to some flour (yeast) and were then worried enough about it that you threw out a piece? Umm.

Walking away slowly, now. ;)

Lorrie said...

I agree, this pizza was so much better than delivery! and yes, the 5 second rule always applies :)

Courtney said...

bummer about the pizza hitting the floor. that is too funny though. your pizza turned out great though!

~Amber~ said...

Look at the height on that pizza dough! Your pizza looks fantastic. Excellent job.

Pat said...

Very nice pizza! I had a hard time with the toss too -- now I ahve a greater respect for my regular pizzeria man who makes it look so easy !

Pat in NYC

Gretchen Noelle said...

Great job tossing and that certainly looks like a delicious final product!!

Lynn said...

Green olive tapenade sounds like a winner to me! Excellent.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

That is a great tossing photo! You really aim high!
Yes, I was wonderfully happy with this crust.
Linda might be on to something considering this was baked at 500 to 550°.

Rebecca said...

Your pizza looks wonderful, but what I really love is your kitchen. That apple green paint is so cute!

Engineer Baker said...

I have to admit that I invoke the 5 second rule all the time :) I love the pesto sausage idea.

PheMom said...

I am loving how you launched your dough. I need more practice!

glamah16 said...

What a waste of good dough when it fell on th floor!But I hear you about the germs. Great tossing and excelelnt looking pizzas. And who needs take out now!

Dagmar - A Cat in the Kitchen said...

Great tossing! The pizza looks great! To bad about dropping some of the dough.

Lesley said...

That pizza looks incredible. And your tossing skills are pretty impressive as well!

jo said...

Great job on your pizza and tossing part as well.

creampuff said...

Check out that pizza toss! Nice job on the pizza, Mary!

Tartelette said...

Yum!! Your pizza looks awesome! What a toss...holly molly it went high!!

Anonymous said...

"smoosh and push"...Loving it!!!!! Your pizzas look great and your aerial antics with the dough look positively gravity defying!!!

Big Boys Oven said...

hahahah I know you will not resist playing with those dough! lol! ain't Rosa a doll coming up with this challenge!

Gabi said...

I agree about throwing the dough out -although it's a sad loss. I'm not fond of floor cooties in my crust :)
Your finished pizza looks delectable though!

Ally said...

Great toss! And the pizza looks delicious!

Anonymous said...

Nice tossing! I love the color of your kitchen wall. :)

Peabody said...

Look at you throw that pizza dough.

Andrea said...

Good toss! I like the sound of the tapenade for a pizza topping. Yum!

Jenny said...

Nice picture. :-)

Venus ~ Vi said...

Looks like I am one of the few who had no luck on tossing that dough! Your pizza looks great and I bet it tastes just as good as it looks!

Tara said...

Looks great, and you dont have to love anchovies. ;)

raja said...

I think that this pizza is so delicious , I love the organic food and the pizza is one of my favorite fast food in the world,so I think that it is wonderful.

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