October Daring Bakers’ Challenge – Pizza Dough
Pizza is probably my all-time favorite food and something that gets purchased or made in my house on many occasions. In fact, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love pizza. If you’ve recently joined our fan page on Facebook, you saw our first thread was all about your favorite pizza joint in Sacramento, and our friend Rick Kushman from the Sacramento Bee wrote about pizza in a recent “Good Life” column. But have you ever tackled pizza in your own kitchen? I’m not talking about purchasing Trader Joe’s dough (although delicious!), but real kneading, rolling and tossing of pizza dough. Well, that was the Daring Bakers’ Challenge this month, and I was happy to oblige.
This wasn’t as difficult as previous challenges, but it did make my kitchen (and me) a mess. Since making the dough was more complicated than purchasing it, I decided to go simple with the toppings and went for the classic Margherita pizza. Paired with a Caesar salad and a glass of red wine, it was the perfect meal.
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 all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 3/4 cups water, ice cold
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting
DAY ONE (Yes, it will take you two days to make this, but it’s worth it!)
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 evenly 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. 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). Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball. 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 three days.
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 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).
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. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches in diameter) 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. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 8-10 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.