Monday, April 20, 2009

I have pizza envy.


Damn you Michael Rulhman! Damn you and your beautifully presented site. Damn you and your pizza post. Why, you ask, am I damning a man I really admire? Because I’ve been working on this post for a few days and he goes and cuts my legs from under me. There’s a spy in my house, has to be. Or it could be that pizza is just one of those wonderful things that can makes everything in the world seem better, and making it and writing about it just has to be done.

My current little obsession is the pursuit of a spectacular pizza dough. I thought I had found “the one” but now I’m not so sure. I am going to have to try out at least 2 other recipes before I can make a final call. The recipes in question are Rulhman’s dough from his book “Ratio”, referenced in his post linked above, and the Peter Reinhart recipes from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”.

The “one” I am talking about currently is straight off of, from “Jamie at Home”, That’s Oliver, Jamie Oliver. He’s British you know.

Flour, water, olive oil, sugar, yeast, and salt. See the link above for the copy written, all rights reserved exact recipe.

The recipe calls for bread flour or a mix of bread flour and Italian Tipo “00”. I like the blend and I have ready access to 00 flour, (Thanks Tom) so that’s my poison.

The steps are really quite easy, shift the flour and salt into a bowl or on a work surface. I think the bowl is less messy since I also don’t have a huge counter top on which to make a well in a giant pile of flour. (Chasing flour around a counter top is a pain.) All the other ingredients go into a big measuring cup. For a little added flavor I swapped out the sugar for a locally produced honey.
I use Fleischmann's RapidRise yeast, and even though you don’t need to let it bloom, I do anyway.

So pour all the wet onto the dry and mix… By hand is preferred, but you can use the paddle on a stand mixer. In a couple minutes you get a “shaggy” dough, I don’t have a picture cause my hands were encased in dough and I have yet to master using a camera with my elbows. Once you have the dough in a form you can turn out of the bowl, do so onto a nice clean work surface. I have a pseudo-granite topped kitchen cart that I use. I’m considering a having a wooden top made for it, but I digress.

Knead until the dough starts to get smooth and really quite elastic. If you’re kneading by hand your shoulders will clue you in to when the dough is kneaded enough. I know mine do. You can use a mixer to knead with a dough hook but I like the tactile interaction with the dough. I am totally a bread novice but I am starting to get a feel for when the dough is “right”.

When you are done kneading plop the dough into a clean bowl and either dust with flour or spritz with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and clean up your flour coated kitchen. In an hour your dough should have at least doubled in size.


And look something like that.

My next step to to portion the dough. Preferred method to get even portions, is a scale.

I weigh the entire mass.


Divide by 6 and use a bench scraper to cut the dough into equal hunks, by weight.


After all the math involved in portioning I need the calming activity of shaping the dough into balls.


Pull the top of the dough ball down over itself. Kinda like turning a sock inside out. Then pinch the bottom together.


Sorta like that.

I like to further shape the ball by cupping my hands over the ball and moving them in a circular motion on the counter. Lightly force the dough to drag against the counter so that it pulls together in a tighter ball.

Repeat 6 times and then line up the balls into neat rows so you can take a picture,


or if you aren’t an obsessed blogger, just stick em in zip top bags or wrap in plastic wrap.


As the recipe states, you can use the dough immediately or let it rest in the fridge until you are ready to use it. I like this idea. It builds flavor. Flour + water = crackers, flour + water + yeast = bread, flour + water + yeast + time = flavor.

Store the dough in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for… um I don’t know how long it will keep in the freezer cause it’s never around long enough to need to be frozen.

When I am ready to use a dough ball, I take it out  of the fridge and let it warm up a little, 15 – 20 minutes usually does the trick.


Flour the work surface,


and press the dough into a rough disk to start the shaping.


I’d love to show you a video of me tossing dough into the air and spinning it across my shoulders like that guy in the Visa commercial (the music is a little iffy but mad skills) but that’s not happening. I will show a couple pictures of me stretching the dough.




Once the dough is shaped, it goes onto a peel dusted with flour or corn meal. (You can use a over turned cookie sheet if you don’t have a peel. The whole thing a can go into the oven)


Then it’s ready to be dressed.


One of my favorite toppings lately has been pancetta. It helps that I make my own but you can use the store bought stuff. It goes well with shaved garlic.


I use a truffle shaver to get paper thin slivers of garlic, which stick to each other and your fingers like crazy, but it’s worth it.


Little grey sea salt, little fresh ground black pepper, little fresh chopped flat leaf parsley and a kiss of olive oil - and the whole lot is chucked into a 550 degree oven for about 4 to 5 mins.


2 minutes in and the crust is rising nicely and the pancetta has started to render a little.

I intended to pull this pizza at 5 minutes but the phone rang and it turned into 6 minutes.


Little more done than I wanted but still…


Look at that crispity goodness.


Once you have a crust like this under your belt the possibilities are endless. Shaved fennel and shiitake, shaved onions and black cerignola olives, a simple pizza margarita.

I even did a pizza with eggs on it. Parmigiano Reggiano, shave onions, and 2 eggs, (HAH! Rulhman with your single egg… <sigh>), and a little sprinkle of cayenne.


Pizza dough is a thing of beauty. So simple to make and so wonderfully flavorful. It amazes me that Chef B. still makes a boxed dough. And people buy it!!!! WTF?

Get some flour, make some dough, join the food revolution.




cook eat FRET said...

may 9 - there WILL be your pizza in my home again. yes there will. and it will have to be cheeseless. or some of it will.

great post
i saw ruhlman's first though

but i can vouch for you on this because you told me you were going to write this post. yes you did.

Janie said...

Hmmmm... Pizza... That does look fabulous!

we are never full said...

beautiful pizzas! the crust is uber-doughy. although jamie annoys me - he does know how to cook. i'd trust his dough. we also use jeffery steingarten's which is a bit more work than the usual dough.

since we live in nyc, we've been very lazy and for $3 often buy a pound of our favorite pizza joint's dough and save ourselves a few hours. i know, bad... very bad.

theyhadmeathelado said...

these pizzas are to die for: Chris, what can I say? you have mastered the art of dough. crust. deer prosciutto with caramelized fennel. hand-crafted pancetta. yum yum yum.

Becky and the Beanstock said...

Oh, pizza. You're right, it must be made and it must be written about. The dough looks like it could be The One to me 0 but then I don't know what else you might turn out. Beautiful though.

I'm so excited. You write as many words per post as I do -- at least when you're writing about pizza.