I’ve written before about my love for homemade pizza. Pizza out at a restaurant? No thank you? Pizza made in your kitchen? Yes, please. Make sure there is plenty, and – this is important – stand back and watch as any semblance of self restraint falls away and I eat my weight in pizza. Be prepared to listen to me complain about how unbelievably full of pizza I am for at least an hour afterwards.
Where was I? Oh, yes – I love homemade pizza. I love the simplicity of the ingredients, I love the smell of the yeast, and I enjoy the process of kneading the dough from a sticky mass into an elastic ball ready to be called pizza. I also love the possibilities that pizza affords a home chef.
I’d like to thank Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums for hosting this month’s DB challenge and for choosing a recipe that allowed us DBers a lot of freedom of culinary expression. I also want to thank her for the belly laughs that the mandated tossing of the dough caused. I must confess: I was an utter and complete failure at properly tossing my dough, but I did document the experiment. In the end, I stretched my dough by hand before topping it.
I topped my pizzas with the following:
Vegan Yum Yum’s Eggplant Creme, zucchini, broccoli, and mushrooms.
Homemade sauce (1 large tomato, fresh herbs – rosemary, basil, oregano, and parsley, 2 cloves garlic, salt and pepper smashed together), Morningstar grillers crumbles, and shredded soy cheese.
Herb sauce (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh basil, fresh mint, garlic, salt and pepper pureed together), tomato, peppers, mushrooms, and broccoli.
Melted semisweet chocolate, agave, bananas, strawberries, shredded coconut, and a dusting of powder sugar.
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 tsp Salt
1 tsp Instant yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1 3/4 cups water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 tbsp agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting
1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl.
2. Add the oil, agave and cold water and mix well 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. The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky.
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.
8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, 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 thick and 5 inches 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)
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 diameter – for a 6 ounces), 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 soy 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 5-10 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 pan 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.