daring bakers: pizza dough

it's daring bakers time again! having missed a few months, once i saw what the october challenge was (chosen by rosa's yummy yums), i knew that i had to make time to try it out.

this pizza dough recipe is very different from any of the recipes i've made before - it requires the dough to rest in the fridge overnight. the dough is actually quite wet when you originally make it but overnight it becomes much more manageable -which is just as well as we were instructed to toss the dough to form it into our pizza crusts! apparently this stretches the gluten fibres whereas something like rolling it out just squashes them together.

so, how did i get on?

surprisingly well! the dough is much easier to make than my previous recipes as there is less kneading involved so it is very quick to assemble (providing you've been organised enough to make it in advance).

the tossing of the dough was also much easier than i expected.

i watched several videos to try and see how the real pizzaiolo's do it (

this was incredible

to watch,

this was more useful

as you can see how each piece of dough is shaped and the tossing process started) and while i was much more clumsy it is amazing how quickly you can shape the dough. 

the final verdict:

would i have tried this recipe if it hadn't been part of the daring bakers challenge? yes. i am fickle when it comes to pizza dough and am always looking out for new recipes to try. i'm not sure i'd have been brave enough to try tossing the dough without the encouragement (instruction!) from the daring bakers.

would i try this recipe again in the future? yes. we were told that the recipe would result in a "beautifully tasty, thin, crispy, yet chewy pizza crust" and it did. which means this is my new pizza dough of choice. i'll also keep tossing as it results in a very thin and crispy dough in the centre and a proper crust around the edge, which is a contrast that i really like.

basic pizza dough* makes 6 pizza crusts, 23-30cm in diameter (i made 4 crusts)

4 ½ cups bread flour, chilled

1 ¾ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon instant yeast

¼ cup olive oil or vegetable oil (optional, but it's better with)

1 ¾ cups water, ice cold

1 tablespoon sugar

semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting 

day one

mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl. add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well with the help of a large wooden spoon (i just used my hand, with my fingers spread out) 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, and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water. the finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 10°-13° c.

divide the dough into 4-6 equal pieces (i made 4 pizzas), form each piece into a ball, rub lightly with olive oil (just pour ½ a teaspoon of oil on your hands or put some olive oil in a bowl and coat the dough by moving it around the bowl). place each piece of dough into a plastic bag, tie loosely (the dough will expand a little so you need to allow for this) and let the dough rest overnight in the fridge (or for up to three days).

note: you can freeze the dough balls for up to 3 months. the day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.

day two

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 ½ inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. sprinkle with flour and loosely cover the dough rounds with cling film. 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.

when you are ready to make the pizza (assemble you toppings in advance) flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). take 1 piece of dough and lay it, floured side down, across your fists in a very delicate way then 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.

trouble-shooting: during the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and re-flour 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.

when the dough has the shape and thickness you want place it on the hot pizza stone. working quickly, lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

bake the pizza for abour 5-8 minutes (after 2 minutes take a peek and , if it is cooking unevenly, rotate 180°).

trouble-shooting: if the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone 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.

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 a few minutes before slicing or serving.

* original recipe taken from "the bread baker's apprentice" by peter reinhart.