October 29, 2008

Peter Reinhart's Pizza Dough for DB challenge

Its that exciting time of the month again - the time to reveal the DB challenge for the month of October. The challenge was to make an awesome pizza crust from scratch using the recipe by Peter Reinhart from his book “The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread”. It was chosen by Rosa's Yummy Yums who was to host the challenge with Sherry and Glenna. But unfortunately Sherry passed away, but as an ode to her dear friend, Rosa decided to stick with the pizza challenge idea that Sherry had shared with her. The real "challenge" was not making the dough, but taking a picture of the dough being tossed in the air to shape the crust. We were allowed great flexibility in the choice of the sauces and/or toppings, but we were to use both. I was really excited about this month's challenge because it was again a savoury challenge and the recipe was also really simple. But I sure was tense about the part about tossing the dough and actually take a picture/video of the process!!

What I did:

I planned the "execution of the challenge" so that JM would be home on the day I made the pizzas. The first day I made the dough, exactly as in the recipe, enough for 6 crusts, using unbleached bread flour. It was kept in the refrigerator overnight as per the recipe. On the second day, I took three balls of dough and kept them at room temperature for 2 hours as mentioned in the recipe, for the dough to rise. I kept the rest of the balls in freezer bags and kept them in the freezer for later use.

I started with a ball of dough which seemed to be well-risen and started to stretch it with my knuckles, but within seconds it stretched so much that it was almost transparent in the centre, and still a bit thick at the edges. The dough was well-risen and soft, so it stretched perfectly without much coercion. But it was too thin for my likes, and almost torn! (Check out the pictures). I kept the dough aside without using it and froze it.

The second dough was handled carefully, and I tossed it carefully into the air, caught it nicely without much mishaps, but again the dough stretched too much. I placed it on a baking sheet and was streched further along the edges. The third dough disc was more carefully tossed up and helped into a 12" pizza pan. So eventhough I started with three balls of dough, I decided to continue with only two balls. Since the dough was really stretchy, it didnt leave many chances for JM to click a few shots, but he did manage to get a few shots of the dough in the air.

Both the crusts were topped with store-bought four cheese sphagetti sauce. The first pizza was made with chicken, black olives, green bell peppers, red onions, baby bella mushrooms and shredded curried beef chunks with Mozzarella cheese and a bit of oregano sprinkled on the crust. The mushrooms were sauteed in a bit of olive oil with a sprinkle of thyme and oregano. The beef chunks were cooked kerala-style, curried beef. The second pizza was a barbeque pizza with chicken cubes tossed in Country Bob's All-purpose/BBQ sauce. It also had some raw, thinly sliced mushrooms, green bell peppers and red onions. The cheese added was Mozzarella cheese. The pizzas were baked one at a time, at 500F for about 8 minutes. After baking the BBQ pizza was drizzled with a bit more of the BBQ sauce. The pizzas were baked prefectly within these 8 minutes. We absoultely had no patience, (I certainly didnt have any), so there are no pictures of single slices of pizza.

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

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled - (FOR GF: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum)
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast - (FOR GF use 2 tsp)
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar - (FOR GF use agave syrup)
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting



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.
2. FOR GF: Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then 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.
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 three 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.


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.
8. FOR GF: On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator. Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and 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.
10. FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).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.
11. FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
12. FOR GF: Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes. 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.
13. FOR GF: Follow the notes for this step. 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.


I loved the pizza dough. I dont feel that the dough is exceptional, but it isnt too ordinary either! The recipe sure was a fuss-free one. The dough rose perfectly well and was really easy to shape. It just was too soft and didnt hold up extremely well to my tossing skills!! I think this dough would definitely be perfect if the crust is simply shaped on a surface either by hand or with the aid of a rolling pin.

The cheesy beefy chicken pizza was our favourite because it was shaped well and the flavors were just exceptional! Everything worked together perfectly to make one of the tastiest pizzas I've ever made. The sprinkle of oregano, with the thyme-oregano sauteed mushrooms were special. The flavor that the shredded curried beef lent to the pizza was out of the world, even if I say so myself.

Eventhough I am not a big BBQ fan, I thought JM would love the BBQ pizza. Dont get me wrong, even I enjoyed it a lot. The BBQ sauce was perfectly sweetened and had a beautiful flavor. It complimented the other toppings really well and worked well on the pizza! The only shortcoming was that the pizza dough had stretched a lot and was unevenly shaped. So it was a bit more crisp on the edges than we would have liked. The center was too thin and didnt hold up well and was a bit soggy. If only I had shaped the dough on the pizza pan, it would have been evenly shaped with a thicker crust to chew on!! I would definitely try the BBQ pizza again because, I loooooooved how the BBQ flavor proved itself to be a must-have on pizzas!!

I am really happy that I got to try tossing the dough, which I never would have tried, if not for the challenge. And I am glad that I have a few snaps as evidence of my attempt. Thank you JM for your patience. I doubt I would ever try the pizz-acrobatics again, but probably with a stiffer dough, I could attempt more tosses!! Here's a picture of my lil one enjoying her share of mommy's "Cheesy Beefy Chicken Pizza".

And this is the "Tale of two pizzas" from my kitchen!! Hope you enjoyed reading about my DB adventure. Check out the great combinations that my fellow DB-ers thought up. Cant wait for whatever the hosts are going to challenge us with, the next month. Have a great day!!


my food affair said...

wow! those are great shots of you tossing the pizza! excellent job! -kk

Angela said...

You got some wonderful shots of tossing the pizza dough! The over-stretched shot looks terribly familiar to me... the very next instant mine tore and left me with a very nice ring :P

The finished pizzas look amazingly good!

Aartee said...

wow thats a very yummy pizza with great shots! can u send me some, ur pizza makes me hungry :)

Ivy said...

What gorgeous looking pizzas! Really tempting! You did a great job here!

Cham said...

Great tossing in the air ! Lovely pizza

meeso said...

What a delicious looking pizza! I love the picture of the dough being tossed.

Ruth said...

Your photos are fantastic. The bbq pizza looks delicious

Kalai said...

Those pizzas look professional! Absolutely perfect in texture! :)

Lynn said...

Your pizzas look fantastic. I am impressed with the toss. Well done.

SriLekha said...

wow! superb pics! tossing of pizza dough is really showing u that u r going to be a professional soon!

Aparna said...

Your pizzas look good to me and your tosses are picture perfect.
I ended up with rather impressive tears in mine after rather feeble attempts at tossing!

Ramya said...

Wow... Tats a true DB - Good Job! Collect your award from http://ramya65.blogspot.com/2008/11/good-job.html!

anudivya said...

You really toss well... I cant even spread one properly! :)

Pearlsofeast said...

Great pizza, looks like a pro

Mansi said...

wow, look at you! tossing the dough like a PRO! cool job! and the pizza looks really delicious!:)

Sunshinemom said...

Wow! Great looking pizza. Hey, I noticed the foodbuzz apron:), and also that your hands are what I call a baker's hands! It is exactly the way novels say a baker's hands should be! No wonder your bakes are so good:)