10 March 2012

Pizza Dough - Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

Over the years, I've slaved more for cookbooks than clothes, make-ups and so on. It hasn't changed. However, I looked at the neatly lined array of books on the shelf. They're new yet so old, so dusty. I realized, I had bought them to look at their pretty pictures.

 My recent book-buy was Peter Reinhart's "The Baker's Apprentice". By "recent", I mean like 5 months ago (scoffs). The book was heavy, pictures weren't the most interesting, and so...many...words... ! Nevertheless, I've decided this I-bought-an-expensive-book-for-pictures-thing has to stop. I opened the book and started reading. Of course, it was an amazing book, why I bought it.

You know when it gets ridiculously hard to understand, your mind just reads through the sentences reading and reading but nothing gets through until you read a sentence that was ridiculously simple at which point you re-connect? Yea. That's a devil. I had to come back to each sentence to really understand Peter. That's persistence, ladies and gents, thank you very much.

Hence, I decided that I will no longer wait and finally use a recipe from the book.

I was never a big fan of the traditional thin crust pizza. I love myself a good thick carbohydrate. As awkward as this may sound, i went against the better judgement of Mr P and made myself some thick Napoletana pizzas. To my humour, it was great!  



Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough Recipe 
4 1/2 cups (20.25 ounces) unbleached high-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 (.44 ounce) teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
1/4 cup (2 ounces) olive oil (optional)
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) water, ice cold (40°F)
Semolina flour OR cornmeal for dusting

1. Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in a 4-quart bowl. Repeatedly dip one of your hands or the metal spoon into cold water and use it, much like a dough hook, to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand. Reverse the circular motion a few times to develop the gluten further. Do this for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet and doesn't come off the sides of the bowl, sprinkle in some more flour just until it clears the sides. If it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a tea- spoon or two of cold water. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50 to 55F.
2. Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with baking parchment and misting the parchment with spray oil (or lightly oil the parchment). Using a metal dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces. Sprinkle flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Lift each piece and gently round it into a ball. If the dough sticks to your hands, dip your hands into the flour again. Transfer the dough balls to the sheet pan, Mist the dough generously with spray oil and slip the pan into a food-grade plastic bag.
3. Put the pan into the refrigerator overnight to rest the dough, or keep for up to 3 days. (Note: If you want to save some of the dough for future baking, you can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag. Dip each dough ball into a bowl that has a few tablespoons of oil in it, rolling the dough in the oil, and then put each ball into a separate bag. You can place the bags into the freezer for up to 3 months. Transfer them to the refrigerator the day before you plan to make pizza.)
4. On the day you plan to make the pizza, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour, and then mist the counter with spray oil. Place the dough balls on top of the floured counter and sprinkle them with flour; dust your hands with flour. Gently press the dough into flat disks. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil, and cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag. Now let rest for 2 hours.
5. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone either on the floor of the oven (for gas ovens), or on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven as hot as possible, up to 800F (most home ovens will go only to 500 to 550F, but some will go higher). If you do not have a baking stone, you can use the back of a sheet pan, but do not preheat the pan.
6. Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal. Make the pizzas one at a time. Dip your hands, including the backs of your hands and knuckles, in flour and lift 1 piece of dough. Very gently lay the dough stretching each piece. If it begins to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue shaping it. Once the dough has expanded outward. If the dough keeps springing back, let it rest for 5 to 20 minutes so the gluten can relax, and try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin.

7. When the dough is stretched out to your satisfaction, lay it on the peel or pan. Lightly top it with sauce and then with your other top- pings, remembering that the best pizzas are topped with a less-is-more philosophy. The American "kitchen sink" approach is counterproductive, as it makes the crust more difficult to bake. A few, usually no more than 3 or 4 toppings, including sauce and cheese is sufficient.
8. Slide the topped pizza onto the stone (or bake directly on the sheet pan). If it needs to be rotated 180 degrees for even baking, do so. The pizza should take about 8 to 15 minutes to bake. If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone to a lower self before the next round. if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone for subsequent bakes.
I used half the recipe with half whole-wheat flour and half all-purpose flour. I divided the dough into 4 pieces, 2 medium and 2 mini versions (so cute). Each has different toppings varying from beef with tomato sauce, Prawns and mushroom with carbonara sauce to chicken slices with white cheese sauce. (Only 1 remained for the better blessing of the daylight.) 
I did not include recipes of the toppings. As Mr P mentioned. Less is more. Just a bit of sauce, meat and mozzarella works best. 
Pizza the new vegetable,
Jes

18 comments:

  1. This looks simply amazing - I have used Peter's recipe also and it is wonderful.

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    1. @: The Cafe Sucre Farine: thank you! Yes, I do respect him a lot. :)

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  2. I'm a carb junkie so this looks great!

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  3. I really want a copy of that book, it sounds amazing! I'm more of a thin crust pizza fan but you might convince me otherwise with these - they look lovely :-)

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    1. @ thelittleloaf: It's definitely worth it. Peter's book worth of the best recipes for all those classic breads.

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  4. Delicious, I love a thicker crust too. Thank you for the lovely comment you left on my blog a couple of weeks ago, sorry it has taken so long to reply. I really love the photography on your blog.

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    1. @ Jo: Like brownies, people feel a certain way about pizza crust! I'm with thicker too! ;) thank you for visiting back!

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  5. I love Peter Reinhart recipes. This looks delicious, even though I'm a thin and crispy kind of pizza person.

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  6. Oh this seems a very very true italian pizza...and I know what I'm saying: I'm italian..
    your version and photos are wonderful !!

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    1. @ kyleen: I absolutely adore Peter Reinhart's recipe. They are always so precise.

      @ Glu-fri: Thank you, that is Mr Peter for ya! hehe... Less is always more, something i will treasure.

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  7. I adore this book.....
    You did a great job here!!! I am so craving this now....

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    1. @ Reem: Thank you! Always a pleasure to make pizza ;) even better to eat it!

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  8. Hey there, thanks for stopping by my blog. Happy to have found yours now! Great looking recipes you have here. What's better than homemade pizza? Not much in my opinion. Looking forward to more posts. I'm your newest follower :)

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  9. For starters your food pictures are unbelievable! I love a good pizza and this recipe sounds like a definite winner!

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    1. @ Stephanie: Always a happy thing to find new sites, steph, especially one like yours! :)

      @ Lindsay: I must say your pictures look amazing themselves! Would love to try out your apple vinegar drink... Always find it unbearable...

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  10. What a great post! I made homemade pizza dough for the 1st time this week and what an adventure. Mine was much more simple and I was actually trying to get a thin, crispy crust but I love your antecdotes. Thanks :)

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    1. @ Alyssa: Thank you! Please do post it up ;)

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