Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: A different kind of pie

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums. The recipe was originally chosen by Sher from What Did You Eat who passed away unexpectedly in July. This post is in memory of her.

The challenge this month was to create pizza dough using following the recipe (with the allowance of going gluten free if desired) and to toss at least two of the pieces of dough. Included in the tossing challenge was the requirement of photographing the high-flying fun.

The rules were pretty simple -- follow the dough recipe as written and top with both sauce and toppings. What sauce and what toppings were entirely up to us. How fun!

Now, I must admit that I was nervous about flinging the dough into the air never having done this move before. But in the end, it was rather fun! Thanks to Matt, my wonderful boyfriend, for taking the photos of me throwing the dough ... and for encouraging me to "throw it higher!"

One thing I definitely learned from this challenge is that I tend to make some pretty silly faces when throwing food in the air:

I was so paranoid about dropping it on the floor. I guess I was concentrating really hard because I kept sticking my tongue out without even realizing it! What a weirdo!

Some other things I learned from this challenge are:
1. Dry active yeast is not the same thing as instant yeast but will still produce a decent crust.
2. Develop gluten more by kneading longer. This will allow the crust to stretch more.
3. 6-7 oz portions are single serving size unless you go quite thin. I will divide into 4 pieces next time.
4. Only put semolina under the pizza, otherwise the extra will burn and smoke your house up. I had to stand waving a kitchen towel at my smoke detector trying to keep it from going off and pissing off my neighbors.
I was quite surprised that it didn't go off considering the billowing smoke clouds floating through my living room ...

All in all, I really enjoyed this challenge. It was my first attempt at pizza dough but it certainly will not be my last! I am excited to try out different recipes and other techniques. Although, I must say that this was a great recipe. Matt does not particularly care for pizza but expressed several times how great the crust tasted!

Basic Pizza Dough
Source: The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches)

4 1/2 cups (20 1/4 ounces) unbleached bread flour, chilled
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup (2 ounces) olive oil or vegetable oil (optional but tasty)
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) water, ice cold (40° F)
1 tablespoon sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

Day one:
Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer. (For those of you without stand mixers, check out Rosa's page for instructions.)

Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well with the paddle attachment on low speed until the ingredients come together in a sticky ball of dough. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5-7 minutes. (Longer may be better for good gluten production.) 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.

Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with parchment paper. 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 and put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to three days. (For long term storage, pour a few tablespoons of oil in a medium bowl and dip each of the dough balls into the oil, so that each is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate zippered freezer 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:
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 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.

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). (If you don't have a baking stone, you can use a cookie sheet or pizza pan -- just don't preheat them like you would a stone.)

Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan or pizza
peel with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take one 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.

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. If you have 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.

When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches for a 6 ounce piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan or peel, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan/peel.

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.

Using the peel, shimmy the pizza onto the baking stone or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes. After 2 minutes, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly roll 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 roll pan.

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.

Pizza #1: Red pepper pesto sauce with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella

Red pepper pesto sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 beefsteak or plum tomato, sliced
Fresh mozzarella (amount to your liking)

Spoon a small amount into the center of the pizza dough and smooth with the back of the spoon covering most of the crust in a thin layer of sauce -- leave the edge plain. Lay a few thin slices of tomato on top of the pesto and then top with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Follow baking instructions above. (This is a bit wetter than the rest of the recipes I tried so you may have better luck moving it closer to the heating element in your oven.)

Red Pepper Pesto Sauce
Source: Rachael Ray as seen on
Two Novice Chefs, One Tiny Kitchen
1 cup drained, packed roasted red peppers
2 small cloves garlic
1 (3-ounce) jar pignoli/pine nuts
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, a couple of handfuls
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it

Combine roasted peppers, garlic, pine nuts, parsley, salt and pepper and cheese in a food processor. Turn the processor on and stream in the extra-virgin olive oil to form a thick, pasty sauce forms. Adjust seasoning and transfer sauce to a large bowl.

The pesto is delicious and a nice variation on a classic. This pizza was a simple but crowd pleasing combination.

Pizza #2: Mexican Pizza

Mexican Pizza
Salsa (homemade or from a jar)
Black beans
Roasted chicken, sliced or shredded
Mexican cheese blend
Scallions, sliced on the bias
Sour cream, for topping
Guacamole, for topping (homemade or store bought)

Spoon a small amount of salsa into the center of the pizza dough and smooth with the back of the spoon covering most of the crust in a thin layer of sauce -- leave the edge plain. Sprinkle on a small amount of black beans and then lay on the chicken. Top with the cheese and bake according to the instructions above.

Once removed from the oven, top with the scallions. Top individual slices with a small dollop of sour cream and guacamole.

Pizza #3: White sauce with bacon, bleu cheese, ground beef, and onions

White sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 medium onion, cut into half moons and sauteed
3 sliced thick cut bacon, cooked, drained and chopped
1/4 pound ground beef, browned and drained
1 to 2 ounces bleu cheese
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Spoon a small amount of sauce into the center of the pizza dough and smooth with the back of the spoon covering most of the crust in a thin layer of sauce -- leave the edge plain. Add the sauteed onions in a thin layer then top with ground beef and bacon. Next, sprinkle on the bleu cheese and Parmesan. Follow baking instructions above.

Pizza Blanca Sauce (White Pizza Sauce)
Source: Shawn's Recipe Kitchen

2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

In a saucier, melt butter. While whisking, add flour and cook for a couple of minutes (to get rid of flour taste). Slowly whisk in milk, adding gradually to make a sauce. Stir in spices and cheese.

Pizza #4: Sausage, apple, and sage pizza with cranberry sauce

1/4 to 1/2 cup jellied cranberry sauce, warmed
4 fresh sage leaves, chiffonade
1/2 apple, sliced wafer thin (a vegetable peeler does a great job) and tossed in lemon juice to prevent browning
1 link sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casing and browned
Cheddar cheese, shredded (amount to your liking)

Spoon a small amount of sauce into the center of the pizza dough and smooth with the back of the spoon covering most of the crust in a thin layer of sauce -- leave the edge plain. Sprinkle the sage over the sauce and top with the apple slices. Add sausage and cheese. Follow baking instructions above.

Be sure to check out the blogroll to see what the other Daring Bakers came up with!


  1. That main picture of you tossing the pizza dough is one of my favourite tossing photos so far - I love how you're in focus and the dough is high up in the air, blurry from spinning.

  2. Thanks Y, it was a lot of fun doing that!

  3. I agree with Y. I wish I had the courage to put up the photos of me tossing the dough up. It's just too embarassing. Good job!!

  4. I have to say, I love all the pizzas you made, but the sausage, apple and sage pizza with cranberry sauce is Thanksgiving stuffing pizza heaven! Awesome idea, and I bet it tasted incredible! This is one I'm going to try :)

  5. Thanks Lisa Michelle! The fresh sage really made it taste great and slicing the apples wafer thin was key!

  6. Hi Holly,
    I had to laugh about your tongue. You're not a weirdo... I do that too. Every time I'm concentrating. I had no idea either until my husband pointed it out to me. So welcome to the fold :-)
    Your pizzas look lovely.
    I may have to try your THanksgiving pizza later on this month.
    Jane of

  7. Thanks, Jane. I'm glad I'm not alone!