Of all the Daring Bakers challenges that I have participated in, none have been so well-received by my husband as this one for homemade pizzas, so he would really like to thank Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums for providing him with yet another reason to enjoy pizza for dinner. I, on the other hand, would like to thank Rosa for introducing me to a pizza dough recipe that yields a crust so chewy, crisp, and authentic tasting. All that I need now is one of those fantastic outdoor brick ovens, and I’ll be turning out pizzas that rival those of the pizzaiolo at Settebello–and he’s from Naples! I usually make my pizza crusts from a variation of a recipe found in a certain "shoeless" Food Network star’s cookbook, but this one might just be a little bit better. I simply need to remeber to start it one day in advance! Otherwise, I’ll still use the other recipe, because that version is pretty tasty too.
This month’s Daring Bakers challenge asked us to follow the recipe for pizza crust featured in Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (the full recipe can be viewed on Rosa’s site.) As with every challenge, we were permitted to prepare the crusts gluten-free or the normal way (I opted for normal), and in this challenge, the choices for sauces and toppings were left up to us, although we were to use both sauce and toppings.
So far, not such a daunting challenge, right? Well, I haven’t gotten to the technique requirement yet. For this particular pizza dough challenge, the rules stated that we must employ the tossing method for at least two of the six pizza crusts that the recipe yields. That’s right, we had to actually toss the pizzas from our knuckles into the air, just like those guys do in the pizza parlors. This was the portion that I was most apprehensive about, as I pictured the dough landing either on my head or on the floor, with a big hole torn in the center. In reality, the dough was very "toss-friendly," probably due to Mr. Reinhart’s impeccable method, and I felt pretty darn accomplished after I was done. We were supposed to get a photo of ourselves doing the tossing, but that didn’t quite happen as I was home alone–sorry.
Since I knew that the pizza was going to serve as Eric’s dinner, I decided to not do anything too crazy as far as the toppings were concerned. I stuck to his favorites: herbed crushed tomatoes, diced red bell peppers and shallot, thinly sliced mushrooms and soppressata, and fresh mozzarella cheese. I finished the pizza off with some freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese, a sprinkle of flat leaf parsley, and some coarsely ground black pepper. I own one pizza stone, which worked beautifully, producing a slightly charred, crisp crust and bubbling browned cheese in about 10 minutes. As a final touch, I drizzled the smallest amount of white truffle oil over the top. We just received a bottle of it as a gift, and I have been putting it on just about anything that makes sense–I’m in love.
Now, as I stated above, Eric knows his pizza, and he definitely knows his crust. He’s generally not one for comments while he is eating, but I heard quite a few compliments come out of his mouth between bites. I think that I might be sticking with this pizza crust recipe in the future. There’s still a chance for that photo of me tossing the crust! Here are my comments and observations regarding this challenge:
- This is probably obvious to most people, but before you attempt to toss the pizza crust dough, be sure to remove any rings that you are wearing. I forgot to do this and, as a result, my first crust was not ideal.
- I baked one of my pizzas on a pizza stone and the other on an inverted jelly-roll pan that had been dusted with cornmeal. I found that the pizza stone produced a far superior pizza: the crust was evenly crisp, the cheese was uniformly brown and bubbly,and the toppings were evenly baked. The pizza that was baked on the jelly-roll pan had a crust that was browned on the outside, but still a little underbaked in the center. The same applied for the cheese.
- The directions indicate to bake the pizzas for 5-8 minutes, but my pizzas took about 10 minutes to thoroughly bake.
- I used a KitchenAid stand mixer fitted with a dough hook to mix my dough. I found that I needed several tablespoons extra of the cold water in order to achieve a dough that pulled away from the sides of the bowl but still stuck to the bottom. I do live in a desert climate with almost no humidity, so this could definitely be a factor.