This month marked my second daring bakers challenge.  And while I was yet again hoping for something crazy, I can’t complain about pizza.  I love it, and it happens to be my husband’s favorite food.  We got a pizza stone not too long ago, and have been making our own pizza (and dough) ever since.  I don’t think I can go back to delivery pizza.

I actually have worked at 2 pizza places in my day, Pyzzz in CT, and Spiritus in Hyannis on the Cape.  I never mastered the art of tossing the dough, but I came up with some delicious combinations, if I do say myself.  Oh, and the dessert pizza at Pyzzz….to DIE for.  So good.  I’m going to have to try and recreate that some day.

So the recipe for the dough is a little more complicated and takes longer than the one I normally use, but it’s a keeper.  Instructions below:

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

Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

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.

Flour a work surface or counter.  Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. 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.

Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

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.

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: I usually do about 450.

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.

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 (you can also use parchment paper).

Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

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.

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.

For my toppings I marinated some chicken strips in buffalo sauce, and sauteed in oil, and then covered with more sauce.  I chopped it up, and added it to an already sauced and cheesed pizza, along with a bit of gorgonzola, for delicious buffalo chicken pizza (and it was a crowd pleaser, well, crowd of 3, my friend Kathleen came over for dinner).

I also made pesto (and somehow forgot pine nuts, it was still good, don’t know that recipe from memory yet apparently), and used that, mozzarella, romano, and some roni.  That one was good, although I think we neglected it a bit and it cooked longer than it should have (we were consuming buffalo chicken pizza instead of paying attention to the oven).

Can’t wait to see what next month brings!

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