Hello, Baker!

Having completely missed last month’s Daring Bakers challenge, I could not wait to get started on October’s. I was even more delighted when I saw that this month’s challenge was to make our very own pizza dough! The crackers from last month seemed like a neat change from the usual sugar filled recipes, but pizza dough was even better! The point of the Daring Bakers is to challenge ourselves with recipes we wouldn’t regularly attempt, right? Pizza dough seems like such a common recipe, but for me it was far from being on the top of the list of things to try next.

Pizza dough isn’t really something I ever thought I would want to take on again. You see, I had made a very miserable attempt at pizza in the past, when I was completely naive to baking, and it turned out so terrible that I just threw it all away. Of course, thinking back on it, I realize the majorly stupid mistake I had made; I thought I could make an entire pizza from scratch within an an hour or two. Obviously, knowing much better now, that isn’t really possible when you want to make the dough yourself and I can now understand why mine had turned out to be a gross mess of tasteless doughlike mush.

Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums hosted this month’s challenge in honor of Sherry, a daring baker that passed away in July, and I am now very thankful that she stuck to Sherry’s pizza dough idea. Where I live it is almost impossible to find decent pizza so I am now very glad to know that I can easily make my own and actually enjoy it. This pizza dough was actually so good that I wouldn’t mind eating it completely plain and I’m also pretty sure that it would make excellent bread sticks!

The original recipe for this pizza dough came from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread” by Peter Reinhart and Natalia of Gluten A Go Go also provided us with a gluten free version.

Basic Pizza Dough

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

  • 4-1/2 cups unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled – FOR GF: 4-1/2 cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon Instant yeast – FOR GF use 2 teaspoons
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
  • 1-3/4 cups water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar - FOR GF use agave syrup
  • Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

DAY ONE

  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.
    FOR GF
    : Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then 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.

    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.

DAY TWO

  1. 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.
    FOR GF: On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator. Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to rest for 2 hours.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.
    FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter – for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).


    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.

  4. 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.
    FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
  5. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
    FOR GF: Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.


    NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

  6. 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.
    FOR GF: Follow the notes for this step.


    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.

  7. 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.

For now, I’ve only made two pizzas. One for my dad with pepperoni and mushrooms and one for me with my unoriginal favorite vegetarianfriendly toppings of mushrooms and black olives. Both used mozzarella cheese and were sprinkled with a decent amount of basil and thyme to add some extra flavor. The rest of the dough was safely placed in the freezer for future pizza making fun.


Dad’s mushroom and pepperoni pizza. (As you can see he likes to layer the toppings.)


A piece of my pizza with mushrooms and black olives. Mmm!

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14 Comments

  1. celine on October 29, 2008 4:33 am

    what a tempting-looking pizza, and a brilliant idea it was to dedicate the challenge to Sherry.

  2. jo on October 29, 2008 7:46 am

    Delicious looking pizzas and the pictures are amazing.

  3. Rosa on October 29, 2008 3:06 pm

    Your pizzas look absolutely delicious! Very well done!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  4. weyn on October 29, 2008 3:50 pm

    I hope to be challenged this November! I love how the cheese melts beautifully, forming those strands. I hope there’s Smell-a-vision already invented. :(

  5. weyn on October 29, 2008 3:51 pm

    I love your theme, by the way. :) It’s simple with the right amount of color.

  6. Lisa on October 29, 2008 4:52 pm

    Love your pix! And love that you just did traditional ole pizza toppings. I’m sure the fancy ones taste good too – but somehow I felt a strong need to keep my pizzas traditional and not too frou-frou. :)

  7. Tanya on October 29, 2008 11:25 pm

    I love how rustic your pizzas look! Great choice of toppings. :)

  8. Hillary on October 30, 2008 10:24 am

    Mushrooms and black olives are two of my favorite pizza toppings. Mmm! Looks so good!

  9. Veggie Wedgie on October 30, 2008 12:48 pm

    Pretty pizza.

  10. Tarah on October 30, 2008 4:55 pm

    Delicious!! <3

  11. Arundathi on November 1, 2008 12:49 pm

    Gorgeous!! :-)

  12. clumbsycookie on November 1, 2008 1:03 pm

    I really love all the flavours of your toppings! How great!

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