This Daring Bakers' challenge almost did not come to be. Almost. It's been a busy month, work, play, life...the usual. Multiply that by two or three. It took a dinner invitation and a little Halloween inspiration to make it happen.
Our October hostess, Rosa from Rosa's Yummy Yums chose pizza as our challenge and although excited about it right from the start (it's got carbs...I am excited), I did not get to it until Monday morning. We had friends coming over yesterday for dinner and since it was going to be a late casual nibble around a game of Scrabble and some wine, I figured that pizza would be the perfect thing for that kind of get together. I made four small pizzas and kept three on the savory side and you guess it, one sweet for the blog. Turns out our guests arrived while I was still in traffic and helped themselves to the Plum Mascarpone and Streusel Pizza before Scrabble...my kind of peeps...dessert first!
One of Rosa's requests, although not mandatory was to take a picture of us tossing the dough. My schedule is completely opposite my husband's these days so I knew it would be a hard thing to do, not having extra hands to hold the camera while I tossed, even with a remote control it was proving difficult. I kept having this nightmare: 2 in the morning and you toss your dough, click the remote button and then watch your pretty dough fall on a glass of water or pan full of cookies, catch the said glass or pan and takes them for a dive down to the floor and with a big sound of broken glass, baking sheet tumbling and loud cursing you end up waking up a puppy, an old dog and your mate. So you spend the next hour, cleaning, playing, calming and promising more cookies to ease the pain of a bing and a bang...Yep...as I said, I had to find a back up.
Late Sunday night, I went to the attic to get some Halloween decorations and I was sitting there in the middle of unlabeled boxes (grhhh!), I picked up my favorite Halloween witches, Greta and Hilda. Ha!Ha! They would do the tossing or stretching and I would photograph their tribulations!Greta started on her own while Hilda was getting her pretty pink hair fixed up a bit and the task was proving to be a little to much for one person so Hilda jumped right in like a good Daring Bakers. Once they were done tossing, stretching and playing with the dough I spread some mascarpone flavored with some vanilla on one pizza, arranged plum slices over it and topped the whole thing with some almond streusel. The end result was close to a rustic brioche tart and absolutely wonderful warm out of the oven.
Thank you Rosa for such a fun challenge and to you Lisa and Ivonne for coordinating things so well each month! I bet your quest for pizza toppings and variations will forever be answered by taking a look at all the other Daring Bakers' creations. Happy tossing!
BASIC PIZZA DOUGH
Adapted from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.
Makes 4-6 pizza crusts
For the dough:
4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) 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) ice cold water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting
6 oz mascarpone, at room temperature
1 Tb sugar
1 vanilla bean
3 -4 plums, pitted and sliced
streusel topping (add 1/3 cup sliced almonds)
In a bowl combine the mascarpone, sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean and stir until smooth. Spread over the dough right before baking, arrange the plum slices around and topped with the streusel. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes (unlike for savory pizza, the streusel needs to bake a little longer and not burn).
Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl or stand mixer. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (spoon or paddle attachment) to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth. If it is too wet, add a little flour and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.
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. If 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.
Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper. Cut the dough into 4-6 equal pieces. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.
Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil and cover with plastic wrap. 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 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.
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. 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.
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). If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.
Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Take 1 piece and 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.
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.
When the dough has the shape you want, 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. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.