The reason I joined DB was because I wanted ti be challenged in my culinary experience. This month’s challenge is the exact representation of why I joined the DB-ers! Far and beyond my abilities, and definitely above my wildest dreams of accomplishing, I had to make pizza from scratch! It was scary yet exciting! Alan was ecstatic when he heard what the challenge would be this month and was looking forward to it.
Sadly, this challenge did not turn out the way I’d pictured in my mind! The dough was perfectly ok. It was simple and easy and I was quite happy with how it turned out. Day 2 was when disaster struck! Tossing the pizza?! You’ve gotta be kidding me! I can’t toss a frisbee if my life depended on it so what makes you think I can toss a pizza! There were a lot of “oohs” and “aahs” when the tossing was happening. Alan had a go at it and wasted one of my pizza balls as half of it ended on the floor and the other half in the sink! Mine wasn’t too good either but we all had fun. All 4 of us at home were in the kitchen trying to catch a bit of the fun and it didn’t turn out too bad.
The baking was the beginning of my failed challenge. As mentioned many times, I use a turbo oven. This oven’s good for baking cakes and simple tarts etc. But when it comes to things which require browning/baking on both sides, it’s not your ideal oven. Most of the time it’ll cook the top, leaving the bottom undone if it’s not flipped over. That being the case, our first pizza was half cooked! Learning from this, I baked the base first for my second pizza but the end result was that it became too crispy and turned out more like crackers than pizza! Needless to say, the third was half cooked as I’d already topped it with the filling while baking the first so had no choice but to bake it face up. Even after baking for more than 30 minutes, it was still half cooked. But because we were all starving at home, I decided to take it out and serve. Before my own eyes, I saw the pizza fall apart! All in all, fun as it was, I failed in this month’s challenge! In conclusion, I shall not attempt to make my own pizza again until I get a proper oven. I believe everyone in my house will concur with me that it was the equipment and not the chef’s fault this time round!
My first choice of topping is an Australian favourite at many of the pizza joints here – Garlic and Herb Pizza Bread. It’s generally served as an entree and it’s topped generously with fresh garlic, herbs and a mixture of mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan cheese.
My second choice was a favourite of ours – Smoked Salmon Pizza. The base of the pizza is baked first, then removed from the oven. Spread with a layer of sour cream, top with red onions, smoked salmon, capers and a sprinkle of dried dill tips.
And my last choice was a half and half. I spread the base with tomato paste and topped each half with different ingredients. The first half was topped with fresh tomatoes, hot salami and pineapple chunks, and the second half with chicken and red and green capsicum. Finish with a generous sprinkle of cheese and you are good to go!
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 (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
- 1 3/4 Tsp Salt
- 1 Tsp Instant yeast
- 1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
- 1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
- 1 Tb 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 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.
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 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/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.
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 abour 5-8 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 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.