#25. Holy Pizza!


In week #25 of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge we make pizza. When I first bought this book, in May, I was flipping through it, looking at the pictures.  My heart skipped a beat when I got to page 208 and saw our bread guru, Peter Reinhart, tossing pizza dough in the air.  I have always wanted to do this and was so excited to learn how. 

I frequently make pizza and my go-to dough recipe comes from a little book titled, “Pizza” by James McNair.  The ingredients are fairly similar to Peter Reinhart’s recipe.  The main difference between the two recipes is that James McNair’s recipe follows the traditional route of dissolving the yeast in warm water, whereas Peter Reinhart has us using ice-cold water.  James’ dough rises for 1 1/2 hours and then you are ready to make pizza.  Peter has us refrigerate the dough overnight.  This supposedly gives the dough better flavour as well as relaxing the gluten in the dough so that it is not too elastic to work with.

After my resounding success  using ice water and an overnight fridge rest with Peter’s Pain a l’Ancienne, I was sold on the concept of “cold” as a method to develop flavour.  Peter describes the process as “delayed fermentation.”  So even though this pizza would take 2 days to make, I was excited to discover a new flavourful dough.  Most people think that pizza is all about the toppings.  In fact, the reverse is true.  If you have a cardboard crust,  even the most wonderful toppings in the world won’t save it.

This pizza dough can be made with either unbleached all-purpose flour or unbleached bread flour. The bread flour has a higher gluten content, thus making the dough a little tougher and more elastic.  Peter recommends adding a bit of olive oil if you opt for the higher gluten bread flour.  He says it helps to tenderize the dough.  Never one to pass up the opportunity to add more fat to my diet, I opted for bread flour with olive oil!

The dough came together very quickly.  The texture is silky and supple.  I refrigerated it overnight and took it out the next day, about 2 hours before we were planning to have dinner. Once the dough came to room temperature I got my camera all set up on the tripod and set it to the timer mode.  I was planing to have a shot of me flipping the dough into the air.  The timer was set to catch the flip in the air at just the right moment.  I was so excited to capture this moment on film.

I dipped both hands in flour to coat them so the dough would not stick.

I got ready to toss.  I placed the  disc of dough over my fists, not my fingertips, as instructed in the book.  It became clear, immediately, that this dough was not going to be airborne.  It was such a soft dough that it slumped over my wrists and continued to make a downward slide over my arms.

I quickly transferred the dough to my pizza peel, which I had coated with semolina flour, to facilitate sliding the pizza off the peel and onto the baking stone which I had heating in a 550 degree oven.

Using my hands, as gently as I could, I managed to spread it out into a very rustic circle.

Then I added the toppings.  I decided to forgo tomato sauce.  I sprinkled it with Monterey Jack, Asiago and Parmesan cheese.

Next came slices of fresh tomato.

Finally I topped it off with chunks of fresh buffalo mozzarella.

I planned to top it off with fresh basil once it came out of the oven.

It slid quite easily into the oven.

I snapped a quick picture after it had been baking for 5 minutes.  Almost ready!

And then it all began to go horribly wrong.  I ran into a problem when I tried to remove the pizza from the oven.  I guess the dough had stretched a bit too thin in some spots, because when I tried to slide my pizza peel under it, to remove it from the oven, it wouldn’t budge.  The cheese had melted through a hole in the crust and was now stuck to the baking stone.  I finally wrestled it from the stone and here is what we ate for dinner.

The crust was light and crispy.  It was delicious.  I may try this one again as I am determined to get my dough airborne.  To be honest, I didn’t notice that much difference between my usual crust and this cold fermented one.  Maybe I should do a side by side comparison to see if it’s really worth the extra fermenting time for this dough.

12 thoughts on “#25. Holy Pizza!

  1. Mags

    I’m laughing hysterically at your plan to photograph yourself spinning your dough in the air. I knew immediately that wasn’t going to happen…LOL! I thought the same thing when I made it and had the exact same thing happen. Great post!

  2. Peter Goring

    I’m visiting Vancouver for a few months to play with my new grandson and sitting a friends house. It appears the #1 book on the cook book shelf is the Bread Maker’s Apprentice. Perhaps you’ll inspire me to open it on some rainy Vancouver day

  3. Daniel

    I also vote for the side by side comparison. I actually do not have a go-to pizza recipe- partly because we have an amazing pizza place a short walk from our place!

    At least half the pizza looked great! I bet all of it tasted great, though.

  4. baking mama

    I also wondered how Peter was able to toss this dough as it is too wet and soft. But I agree with him completely about the “less is more” when it comes to pizza.

    My husband loves this pizza which reminds him of the pizza crusts we had in Europe: thin, chewy, crunchy, and delicious.

    I can’t wait for the photo of the airborne dough and the side by side comparison.:)

  5. Anne Marie

    Looks like we are all excited by you slaving away in the kitchen doing a side by side comparison! I found the dough a little too challenging to work with, but am thinking about trying it again for my sons who are coming home from college

  6. jennabess

    Oh how I wish I had been home to watch you attempt to toss the dough in the air, in fact I bet if I was home you would have made me take the picture!
    Miss you and your bread
    xox Jenna
    p.s. Nice nail polish mom!

  7. Jeff

    I had a similar problem with another one of the doughs I turned into a pizza. Although mine was not a result of stretching it thin but rather when I put it into the oven from the peel some of the sauce dumped over and glued it to the stone. Took forever to clean up and caused minor smoking issues.

    Our pizza turned out alright but definitely going to have to remake it because I was not really happy with the end result.

  8. Angela

    The pizza’s look delicious! I usually place the dough in the fridge overnight…always worked for me…so I don’t have anything else to compare to…

    Great pics & great blog! I need to get around to commenting more..thanks so much for always leaving nice words on mine!

    Happy Holidays!


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