Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pie time

When I first started this blog last December, I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to blog about.  I do a lot of baking, and like experimenting with recipes.  I do cook as well, every day.  We very seldom eat out--saves money, and I generally like doing it.   Of course, there are days when dinner consists of pretty simple things like frozen ravioli.  =)  I enjoy trying new savory recipes and do sometimes make notes about them in my notebook.  But the vast majority of my notes are about things I've baked, and I ultimately decided that I would just blog about baking.  Of course, sometimes dinner involves baking, too.

If I had to pick a favorite food, it would definitely be pizza.  I love pizza.  In pretty much any form, but my favorite is thin crust pizza.  That's one thing that I miss about the east coast.  Austin tends toward Chicago-style pizza.  But we do have a few options, including a great New Jersey transplant.  We make pizza at home on a weekly basis, all from scratch.  People always seem so surprised when I tell them that.  "You make the crust?  Yourself?  Every week?"  I can't quite duplicate real pizzeria crust, since my oven only goes to 550 degrees F, but I keep trying. Using my baking stone helps as well.  And I've learned to make a big batch of dough and freeze half of it, so I don't actually have to make dough every week.  =)  Over time, I've played around with different recipes, and pretty much settled on my go-to dough.

And then came the October Daring Bakers challenge.  This month's host was Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums, and she chose Pizza Napoletana from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  I have this cookbook, and have liked everything I've made from it so far.  The pizza was on my to-do list, but I hadn't gotten to it yet.  Rosa gave us a lot of flexibility, but did set a few requirements.  Something saucy.  Some sort of topping.  And tossing.  Yes, tossing the dough, as opposed to rolling it out.  With pictures. =)

One thing that's different for me about this dough recipe is that it uses cold water.  I've used room temperature water, but not cold.  Peter Reinhart had an article in Fine Cooking earlier this year that had some tips in in that I applied to my usual dough recipe, including a slow rise in the refrigerator.  This recipe has you do the same.  I actually don't do an overnight rise--I make the dough first thing in the morning and leave it in the fridge all day (usually at least 10 hours), and that seems to work quite well.  The recipe also calls for less yeast than I'm used to, which helps make for a thinner crust. 

Since I make pizza every week, I was able to try this dough a couple times during the month.  The first time, I made it as written, except that I didn't add any sugar.  I was making it from my copy of the book, which doesn't have any sugar in the recipe, and I didn't realize that until after the dough was already made.  As directed, I divided the dough into 6 balls.  I put three in the fridge to rise and put the others in the freezer.  When it came time to shape the dough, I couldn't believe how easily it stretched.  It was actually a little too thin.  I always shape dough by stretching it over my hands, not rolling, but there was no chance of tossing--it was just too stretchy.   But we topped it and baked it and it made for some very tasty pizzas.  

Which leads me to another thing that people can't believe.  My favorite pizza is plain cheese.  Tomato sauce and mozzarella, maybe with a little parmigiano reggiano on top.  Whenever I'm in a group that's ordering pizza, people give me a hard time because I want pizza with no other toppings.  But you know what?  It always gets eaten, and not just by me. =)  I do like mushrooms on occasion, but one thing I don't like is pepperoni, which is why my husband and I make our own individual pizzas.  He loves everything, but usually goes for pepperoni and black olives at home.  And he adds provolone cheese and maybe a bit of romano on top.  A few years back he switched to turkey pepperoni and loves it because it's less greasy.  

The frozen dough from that first batch worked fine as well, but I decided to tweak a few things when I made my second batch of dough a couple weeks ago.  When I made it the first time, I used all bread flour and the full 2 ounces of olive oil.  I cut the oil back to one ounce, hoping to make the dough a bit less tender.  And I tried one of the side-bar variations in the recipe and substituted white whole wheat flour for 10% of the bread flour.  I also increased the yeast just a little bit.  After kneading the dough in my mixer, I put the whole batch of dough in one of my dough buckets and put it in the fridge for the day.  That evening, I divided it into 6 portions of dough (and froze half of them).  

The verdict?  I liked my variations better--the dough was easier for me to work with.  I liked the additional flavor and texture from the whole wheat flour.  It's amazing how just a small amount can make a difference.  I'll probably continue to play around with the recipe--for one thing, I like some semolina flour in my pizza dough.  But I'm sticking with the cold water and smaller amount of yeast (my old recipe used 2 teaspoons).  On the whole, this was a very successful challenge for me.

Check out Rosa's blog for the original recipe and complete method.  Here are the ingredients for my variation:

2 ounces white whole wheat flour (King Arthur)
18 ounces bread flour (King Arthur)
1 3/4 teaspoons table salt
1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
14 ounces cold water (from the fridge - 40 degrees F)

And here's my standard sauce recipe:

Easy Pizza & Pasta Sauce

3 to 4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 to 3 teaspoons olive oil
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch of kosher salt

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds (don't let it brown).  Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Stir in the seasonings, including salt to taste.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Leave the sauce chunky or puree it with an immersion or regular blender until smooth.

And don't forget to check out the Daring Bakers blogroll for more wonderful pizza ideas!


  1. Gotta love Jersey pizza! Your pizza looks delicious and the dough rose much better then mine. I must have done something wrong. Definitely a keeper!

  2. Your pizza came out great. Well done!

  3. Your pizza looks great. Save me a piece.

  4. This looks so delicious! I can just taste the deliciousness of all that cheese on top!

  5. Yummm May I please have a slice!? We are going to New Jersey for Christmas. Im looking fwd to some great pizza and of course a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich! YOur pictures are wonderful!

  6. I have seen nothing but good reviews so far on this pizza dough. I guess I will have to add one more thing to the pile of to try recipes!

  7. The first topping my boyfriend mentioned was pepperoni - needless to say, I made us separate pizzas :) And plain cheese isn't really plain. It's a classic for a reason!

  8. You did a great job and great photos!

  9. It looks delicious! My was so thin and elastic as well, that tossing was a no go! Great work and you cupcakes look yummy too!

  10. Cheese is my favorite. Your pizza looks delicious!

  11. I enjoyed this post, Di. I love making pizza, and I'll have to try some of your recipes. Your pizza looks great! I always want plain cheese, too. I like other stuff, but you can't beat the classic!

  12. wow you make the pizza so simple to make and delicious too... I think i will make some when i finish with my wedding cake projects! :)

  13. wow your pizza turned out so much better than mine!

  14. Your pizza looks great to me! We are also regular pizza makers but were happy to experiment with something different. Great job, cheers!

  15. I was intrigued by the comment that less yeast makes for a thinner crust.

    One thing I liked about this recipe was the absence of "yeast taste" in the finished product.

    This was a great recipe and you certainly adapted it to your likes and dislikes. Very impressive!

  16. That looks wonderful and your pictures look fabulous. I love that last one with the cutter.

  17. I like your variations on the crust. I sometimes add whole wheat flour to my standard recipe, but I'm never satisfied with the end result. Based on your experience, I think I will make this one again and substitute ww flour and see what happens.

  18. I like how you stretch the dough on your knuckles. Thanks for including your variations since you are definitely a defacto pro at this pizza making thing!

  19. You make pizza every week? Can I come live with you? Your 'za looks great, and I liked the way you contrasted the two variations. When you find a winner stick with it.