Daring Bakers in October: Pizza & ToppingsOctober 29, 2008 at 4:12 am | Posted in daring bakers, groups, savory things, yeast breads | 39 Comments
October’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge is hosted by Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums, and it’s the third recipe the group has made from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart. Judging from the other two, we will all have had spectacular results with this month’s PIZZA! I completed the recipe so early in the month (which is quite unusual for me), that I’ve actually had too long to think about what I’d say. In my head, this became quite a long, rambling post…sorry…I understand if you don’t have the patience!
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like pizza. I do have a couple of good friends who don’t eat cheese, but they still love cheese-less pizza. As a New Yorker, I prefer pizza that has a chewy, puffy, nicely browned and slightly salty outer crust. I think the crusty edge part is just as good as the topping part– you’ll never see me leaving a heap of chewed-around crusts on my plate! I had a bit of a hard time with pizza in Sydney, where the preference seems to be an ultra-thin crust, with really no outer edge to speak of. Eventually, we found Pizza Mario in Surry Hills (it’s an accredited member of l’Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana), which gets my vote as Sydney’s best!
I make pizza often at home, but I’ve had mixed results. My best work came out of the oven in my last apartment in Brooklyn. It was an old gas Magic Chef with a bottom heating element (I could see the flames under the oven floor) that got my stone ripping hot. The bottom crust was always brown and crisp. In Sydney, we had electric ovens with top heating elements in all three apartments, and no matter how long I preheated my stone, or where I placed it in the oven, I could never get the bottom to brown nicely. It became quite frustrating, and I tried many dough recipes and little technique modifications along the way. (It may also be the stone itself, as my old one went into storage accidentally and I had to get a different one in Sydney. I’ve read about making pizza on the bottom side of a super-hot cast iron skillet under the broiler…sounds promising, but my skillet is kind of small.) I’m definitely crossing my fingers for a gas oven in the future!
I made half a recipe of dough, from which I formed two largish pizzas. This is a well-hydrated dough, and requires an overnight rest in the fridge. I can be held for up to three days, though, so I decided to make one pizza for dinner one night, and the other the next night. I know that Rosa wanted us to shape the dough by tossing it “like a real pizzaiolo,” but mine was much too sticky. I had a hard time even with just the hand-stretching. Despite the stickiness, the dough had a wonderful, soft feel, and I could tell by touch that the recipe would be a good one.
As far as pizza toppings go, I am a minimalist…I don’t like too many different things, or too much of any one thing, either, to weigh down or sog out the crust. I usually do tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil– black olives, too, if I’m feeling crazy– so I thought I’d try a couple of “unusual” topping combinations for my challenge. Inspired by a favorite at the aforementioned Pizza Mario, I made a pizza topped with potato, rosemary and Maldon salt with the first night’s dough. Before baking, I simply sliced a red-skinned potato super-thin with a Japanese mandolin, spiraled the slices on the dough, sprinkled on the rosemary and salt, and drizzled olive oil all over it. The next night, I slowly caramelized a sliced onion in a little olive oil and butter to top my second pizza. Then I scattered on bits of gorgonzola picante and some more rosemary.
I just realized, looking back at the DB details to type up this post, that we were supposed to use both toppings and sauce. Well, we can just consider olive oil to be the sauce on these, because I used copious amounts of the stuff on both pizzas!
The pizzas were a hit! Potato pizza may sound like starch on starch, but it’s really so delicious. If you’ve never tried it, I recommend giving it a go sometime. The sweet onions with the sharp gorgonzola was a perfectly balanced match on the second pizza (and, in the oven, some of the onions got a little crispy on the edges– the best part!). And the dough was wonderful– just the kind of bready crust I like! I unfortunately had the same problems browning the underside, but I expected that, and I’ll try it again when I’m settled in New York.
Rosa was originally to host this challenge with Sher from What Did You Eat?, and it was Sherry’s idea to make this recipe. Sherry passed away in July, but Rosa decided to go ahead with her choice, honoring her friend and her accomplishments as a cook and baker. So don’t call for pizza delivery this weekend! Make your own instead, and get the recipe on Rosa’s site. Don’t forget to check out the DB blogroll!