I’m a Daring Pizza Baker!
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It’s official, I’ve finally joined the Daring Bakers! And of all things, my first Daring Baker challenge was…pizza!

Pizza? That’s supposed to be a challenge?? Those were my first thoughts when I started reading about this month’s daring baker challenge.  And then I got to the part about how we would have to toss the dough in the air.  Ah yes, I thought. Therein lies the challenge!

You see, I make pizza all the time, but I refuse to toss the dough.  In fact, I pride myself on not tossing the dough.  I developed a method of pressing out the dough on parchment paper that creates a nice, round, perfectly thin pizza crust.  And once I perfected my method, I never thought I would have a reason to do it any other way.

And then I joined the Daring Bakers.

I will never again underestimate a Daring Bakers challenge.  I made the dough, I tossed the dough, but it wasn’t easy. And it wasn’t pretty.  Perhaps I’d become a better pizza dough thrower if I practiced a few more times, but now that this challenge is over, I’ll gladly go back to my favorite method of shaping pizza dough.  No more tossing for me!

With the assistance of my husband, I tried to get photos of some pizza tossing action.  But, we never seemed to be able to get a shot of the pizza in the air.  Here’s the best we could do:

I promise the dough did go up in the air.  The dough also flew off to the side and landed on the counter in a crumpled mess a few times.  Did I mention that I hate tossing pizza dough??

The biggest problem I had was that the dough stretched too much, too fast.  I love thin crust pizza, but when I tossed the dough, I ended up with a pizza crust that I could see through in spots!  But in the spirit of the challenge, I used that super extra thin dough and turned it into pizza!

And despite the fact that it had a few holes here and there, it turned into some mighty fine pizza!

Now let me go back to the beginning and tell you a little more about this month’s Daring Baker challenge.

This month’s challenge is hosted by Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums and the recipe comes from Peter Reinhart’s wonderful book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

The rules were that we had to follow the recipe exactly and that we had to try hand tossing the dough for at least two of the pizzas.

The recipe is a two day affair because it uses a cold fermentation method for maximum flavor development.  In short, you want the dough to sit in the refrigerator overnight because it will taste better.  If you want a scientific explanation of why, you should buy the book, it’s a great one!

Here’s the recipe we followed:

~ BASIC PIZZA DOUGH ~
Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

Ingredients:
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
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

~ Day One ~

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

2. 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.

3. Flour a work surface or counter.  Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. 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).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them.  Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. 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.

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

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil (a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.

~ Day Two ~

8. 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.

9. 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: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. 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.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.  During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully, then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. 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.

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

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. 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.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. 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.

So far, I’ve made three of the six pizzas, and they’ve all been really great!  Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve had problems with the dough becoming too thin when I toss it, but the flavor of the crust has really been superb!

I normally bake on parchment paper directly on the baking stone.  I use parchment paper rather than dusting the peel with cornmeal because it just seems less messy!  But since the recipe specified using cornmeal or semolina to dust the the pizza peel, I did use that method for my first pizza:

This dough was hand tossed but it had to be tossed several times because it kept flying off to the side and landing in a crumpled mess.  I eventually got something that resembled the shape of a pizza and quickly transferred it to the cornmeal-dusted pizza peel.  I topped it with a garlic cream sauce, grated mozzarella, goat cheese, artichoke hearts, and toasted pine nuts.  These were ingredients that I just happened to have on hand.

I slid the pizza onto the stone in my oven that had been preheated to 550 degrees.  I’m pretty sure my oven never reached 550 degrees, but it was pretty hot.  Here you can see the pizza on the stone, viewed through the dirty glass on my oven door!

It took only about six minutes to bake, and the result was gorgeous (and delicious)!

The second and third pizzas were baked this afternoon and my husband got to help out this time around!  He opted for pepperoni and pineapple and I decided to make a traditional Pizza Margherita.  For the tomato sauce, I just heated a can of crushed tomatoes with one clove of minced garlic, a couple tablespoons of olive oil, salt and cracked black pepper.

I tossed the pizza dough then my husband got busy with his toppings:

As you can see, I opted for parchment paper this time around.  The cornmeal worked fine but it gets all over my oven and eventually burns.  We slid Justin’s pizza in, parchment and all, and baked it for about 7 minutes.

As you can see, the paper turns brown, but the pizza bakes so fast, the parchment doesn’t have a chance to burn.  That was some greasy pepperoni!  Justin actually blotted it with a paper towel after I took this photo!

Next up was my pizza!  This time around, the dough got so thin, it actually tore in a couple of places.  I just pressed it back together and added my toppings:

For my pizza margherita, I used the tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, a quick dash of olive oil, salt, and a bit of dried oregano.  I baked the pizza for about 6 1/2 minutes and then topped it with chopped fresh basil.

Bellissima!  Now, that’s my kind of pizza!

Yes, the crust was a little too thin in parts, and this last pizza did end up with a hole right in the middle.  But it was honestly the best pizza I’ve had since I left Italy!

Although I don’t foresee any pizza tossing in my future, I will definitely be using this pizza dough recipe from now on!

Thank you, Daring Bakers!

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44 Comments
  1. Emon

    Yum! Now I gotta go get me coupla slices although they won’t be, I am sure, as good. Congrats on completing the dare!

    5:55 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  2. Andrea

    Congrats on a successful challenge and for tossing the dough! Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

    6:03 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  3. maris

    I’m having so much fun reading all these daring bakers pizza posts. I’ll definitely be making pizza this weekend!
    PS – I’m totally with you on the toppings. . . that last pizza sounds unbelievable!

    6:16 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  4. Fit Bottomed Girls

    Your pizzas were gorgeous!!! I have a whole wheat recipe that I use in my breadmaker, but it usually comes out pretty thick and it’s hard to toss. We need something that’s in between my dough and yours! :)

    6:55 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  5. Ben

    Hey, welcome to the fun bus :-p Congratulations and great job :)

    7:05 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  6. Ivonne

    Congratulations on your first DB challenge, Nicole! I’m so glad that you joined! I had some interesting experiences tossing the dough as well but the end result was worth it. Your variations are gorgeous!

    7:10 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  7. Sarah

    Wow, those all look amazing! I still have yet to try making pizza myself…I used to buy premade pizza dough, but haven’t recently because I feel like I can make a better dough myself…and then I never do! Love your toppings & pictures!

    7:15 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  8. Shari

    The pizza tossing was a daring challenge. Mine had a hole in it after tossing, but I did give it a try. It was a hit at our house too.

    7:21 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  9. Dragon

    Congratulations on your first DB Challenge! Your pizzas look amazing. Great job!

    7:27 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  10. Dayna

    Hey, you wouldn’t have spent some time in Italy, would you?
    That’s some nice looking pizza!
    Welcome to the DB fun!

    7:27 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  11. Mary

    Your margerhita pizza looks so classically italian…phenomenal. Cheers on your first DB challenge!

    7:31 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  12. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    Lucky you — you have a great sous chef! Congrats on your first DB challenge.

    7:49 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  13. Rayrena

    Holey moley! They all look so gooey and yummy! I’ve been wanting to try a pizza dough that rests overnight but am never organized enough. I might just have to hunker down now and give it a try. What better way to spend the weekend than eating pizza?

    8:04 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  14. Zoë François

    Your pizza looks fantastic! Congrats on your virgin challenge it was my first DB too!

    8:50 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  15. Erik

    Nice to meet another fellow West Coast blogger! Welcome to the Daring Bakers. Great job on your first challenge, nice choice of toppings. I agree with you, I don’t see dough tossing in my future, but it was fun to try at least once!

    9:09 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  16. kellypea

    Congrats to you on your first challenge! Two perfectly round and beautiful pizzas. The toppings look delicious, and I now know I absolutely have to have a peel.

    10:21 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  17. Gretchen Noelle

    Lovely job! Glad you really enjoyed the pizza crust – though I do agree, mine got thin in parts as well. Welcome to the Daring Bakers!!

    10:37 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  18. Hypnosis

    thanks for the inspiration! and i dig that last pic,with the half eaten pizza!!!

    10:52 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  19. Cristine

    Your pizzas look wonderful! Congrats on your first challenge! I had so much fun with this one!

    11:01 pm  Oct 29th, 2008
  20. Rosa

    Your pizzas look fabulous! Great tossing! Very well done!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    1:01 am  Oct 30th, 2008
  21. HoneyB

    All the pizzas look great! Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

    P.S. My oldest son’s name is Justin also. Great name! :)

    3:17 am  Oct 30th, 2008
  22. RecipeGirl

    The tossing was fun though, wasn’t it? I actually got it to work without it falling apart. See my blog for an action shot of ‘dough in the air!’

    Nice topping choices & pics. Great first DB challenge!

    6:28 am  Oct 30th, 2008
  23. Jude

    Welcome to the daring bakers! I’m really liking your kitchen setup over there. So neat and organized.

    8:56 am  Oct 30th, 2008
  24. jenny

    Welcome to the daring bakers! I used the same trick with the parchment, although it did nearly set on fire so I cut the corners off!

    9:01 am  Oct 30th, 2008
  25. Ruby

    OMG, I’ll be right over. My fav is the Hawaiian pizza! Justin looks so involved in the pizza making process…how cute!
    I would love to set up a pizza oven next to the bbq on our patio. hehe

    9:02 am  Oct 30th, 2008
  26. Jen

    Great job on your first challenge. I have a question for you though– does baking the pizza on parchment paper prevent the crust from getting really crispy and sort of black in little spots? It seems like it would be much neater overall to do it on the paper but the crispy blackness is my favorite thing about pizza so I would hate to loose it.

    9:59 am  Oct 30th, 2008
  27. The Secret Ingredient/Season to Taste

    Those are some gorgeous photos—even if you didn’t get at shot of the pizza flying high! I think pizza is in order this weekend! :)

    10:04 am  Oct 30th, 2008
  28. Minti

    The pizzas look delicious. I’m would love to learn that technique of pressing the dough on parchment that you perfected. I have a lot of trouble shaping my pizzas and tossing them always makes then uneven for me.

    10:37 am  Oct 30th, 2008
  29. Nick

    The parchment paper is a really good idea. While I love the smell of burning cornmeal (joke), it is a pain to clean up. Great tip.

    It looks like you have definitely perfected the thin crust. I think you should try out a deep dish variation next!

    Thanks for the great photos and recipe.

    11:26 am  Oct 30th, 2008
  30. Solange

    Oh I am so glad that you have joined, welcome, you will love it. great job on your first challenge.

    11:41 am  Oct 30th, 2008
  31. ashley

    welcome to the daring bakers! your artichoke pizza looks delicious!

    11:51 am  Oct 30th, 2008
  32. Fit Chick

    Wow, lots of pictures and your pizza’s look great! Welcome to DB’s, this is my second month with them and I love the challenges! Nice to see another SoCal DBer!

    12:58 pm  Oct 30th, 2008
  33. Mrs. L

    Those pizzas look great, but I’m with you, I think I’d skip the tossing part and leave that to the pros!

    3:13 pm  Oct 30th, 2008
  34. Elizabeth

    Congrats on your first challenge!! That pizza margherita looks delish!!

    7:56 pm  Oct 30th, 2008
  35. Laura

    Oh heavens….that one with the artichokes? Want! They all look delicious – well done!

    8:46 pm  Oct 30th, 2008
  36. Thérèse-Marie

    Spectacular post…scrumptious images and info…….
    now I want pizza this minute….I image I will have to be daring…
    or order in…lol…
    Merci for sharing…!

    12:12 am  Oct 31st, 2008
  37. Stefania

    Bellissima! La faro’ quanto prima, grazie per la ricetta.

    Stefania

    1:43 pm  Oct 31st, 2008
  38. Deborah

    I’m going to have to try the parchment paper thing next time. I, too, hate how the cornmeal gets all over and burns in the bottom of the oven! Great job!

    3:26 pm  Oct 31st, 2008
  39. clumbsycookie

    What a great addition to the DBers! Welcome! Your pizzas are just perfect!

    10:13 am  Nov 1st, 2008
  40. John (Eat4fun)

    Congrats on completing your first DB Challenge!
    Very good looking pizzas and great photos.
    I like the idea of using the parchment. Great job!

    9:16 am  Nov 2nd, 2008
  41. Sweet Tooth

    Mine never took off into the air, it stretched too quickly too. Glad you liked the overall result. The different toppings and resulting pizze look delicious.

    5:08 pm  Nov 2nd, 2008
  42. Lou

    Have you ever made Pizza using Sourdough in the crust? I have and it is deeeelish!! I’ll be trying out the parchment paper method the next time I make pizza. Thanks!

    3:51 pm  May 3rd, 2010
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