Finally, after months of reading everyone's stories about The Daring Bakers I finally joined. I was initially hesitant, not knowing if my skill level was high enough given some of their amazing challenges (Opera cake-eek!). But as luck would have it, the first month's was pizza. Phew I said but then read on, not only would we be making pizza, we would be twirling our own dough. Eeek! The only twirling I've ever done in my life is to show off an outfit so this was most certainly new to me. But that's the whole idea of Daring Bakers: to challenge yourself.
The pizza can be made in stages and the mixing was interesting, certainly using less yeast than I've used before. The dough sat in my fridge for 1.5 days and when it was ready, I tried to throw one to no success. The dough was too delicate and I had spread it too far. Also I had no idea about the actual throwing technique, only remember vaguely it done on tv. So I watched a youtube video of how exactly a professional pizza maker makes it (and promptly freaked out, he was so good and fast!). I saw that using your knuckles to push out the dough to the edge to form a high border before trying to throw it helped, the dough on the inside was thin and almost see through and to the point of breaking, while the outer remained thicker and easier to pick up a slice. Flour is also your greatest friend when it comes to tossing so that the pizza doesn't stick to your hands. I didn't get mine close to being a circle, as I had an oven tray and not a round pizza stone, it wouldn't have done even if I had wanted to.
I racked my brains trying to think of an appropriate Italian topping, after all we were making pizza the authentic Italian way. The first thing I thought of was a potato topped pizza. Friends that have been the Italy swear by this creation, and insist (and I do mean insist) that it is only topped with paper thin slices of potato, rosemary and salt. No cheese shall even touch this pizza if you were to make it like they do in Italy. I had to put some sort of sauce on this to qualify for the challenge so I used an aioli (garlic mayo) spread thinly on the base.
The key to this is how thinly you slice the potatoes, if they're too thick, then they won't cook in time. You need to slice them as thinly as you can and they should be translucent-use a mandolin if you have one so that they are even. I enjoy the art of potato arranging so that it looks like a shell pattern on a wallpaper.
Below is the non gluten free version of the pizza recipe and I follow this with the utterly simple directions on making the potato and rosemary pizza (for a gluten version, please check out the blogroll with all of the other Daring Bakers). Don't scoff and don't be put off by the lack of cheese, it's absolutely wonderful on this thin and perfectly textured pizza dough with the slightly crunchy base from the cornmeal. Sometimes the simple things in life are often the best (shhh just don't tell my husband!).
Basic Pizza Dough
Original recipe taken from The Bread Bakers 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 its 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
Step 1 - Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).
It's a tornado of dough!
Step 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.
Step 3 - Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.
Step 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.
Step 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.
Step 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.
Step 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 tablespoons 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.
The expanded balls of dough after being in the fridge for 1.5 days
Step 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.
Step 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.
Step 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 isnt as effective as the toss method.
Step 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.
Step 12 - Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
Step 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 5-8 minutes.
Step 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.
Potato and Rosemary topping
For each pizza you will need
1 tabelspoon aioli
1 large potato (in a regular shape if you're a slave to aesthetics, yes I did choose the nicest one of the lot)
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tablespoon of olive or grapeseed oil
good sea salt (I use Maldon flakes)
Step 1 - When the pizza dough has been laid out on the baking sheet lined with cornmeal, slice the potato (don't do this too ahead of time, it will discolour). Spread aioli thinly across base.
Step 2 - Using a mandolin or a very sharp thin knife (I used my Global flexible knife) slice paper thin pieces. Don't worry if you get half slices, you can still use those but you want to try and get as many whole slices as possible.
Step 3 - In a small bowl, place oil, rosemary needles and potato slices. Mix carefully to coat potato with hands or tongs. Spread out potato pieces overlapping pieces of potato. Place in oven and bake for 8-9 minutes.
Step 4 - Add sprinkle of salt once done and slice and serve.