Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pizza w. Figs, Caramelized Onions & Feta (Daring Bakers)

October's Daring Bakers Challenge was one that I couldn't refuse --- PIZZA!!! It has never dawned on me to make my own pizza dough, given the availability and convenience of using ready made refrigerated pizza dough (I'm partial to the dough available at Trader Joes).

As it's still summer weather in SoCal, I decided to skip the oven and grill the pizzas on the BBQ. This dough is definitely stickier that your typical bread dough, so I had a challenge getting the rolled (sorry, pizza tossing wasn't in the cards for me this time around) dough on to the grill in one piece and retaining its shape. I started with pretty pizza dough I struggled to get them on the grill, they ended up looked like giant amoebas.

I ended up making two types of pizzas. The first was topped with dried figs (couldn't rationalize spending $5.99 at Whole Paycheck ---opps, I meant Whole Foods for a basket of fresh figs), carmelized onions, feta and fresh mozzarella cheese, and topped with basil (I prefer arugula, but I went with what I had in the fridge):
The second was a pizza margherita, made with fresh mozzarella, small heirloom tomatoes, and topped with fresh basil and cracked black pepper:

Both pizzas turned out delicious, despite their homely looking shapes. The pizza crust was definitely a differentiator, as it was nice and crispy, and wasn't too heavy and bread-y. It definitely blew the TJ's dough out of the water!! With a little planning on the front end, making homemade pizza dough is definitely worth the effort.

This was definitely a fun challenge--- Thanks very much to our hostess Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums! To see more delicious and creative pizzas, check out the Daring Bakers blogroll.

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)

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 (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
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.

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.


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.

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.


Cristine said...

Your pizzas look so delicious!!! I've never had a grilled pizza before. Hmmm... maybe I'll have to give it a try sometime! Great job!

Isabelle said...

super les garnitures :) belles photos !

Engineer Baker said...

Mine looked like amoebas too :) I like the fig idea, and I agree - I can't justify shelling out for fresh figs!

Heather B said...

Grilled pizza sounds yum! Great job!

Lori said...

Absolutely delicious looking!

kitten said...

your pizzas look so fresh and delicious. i think using dried figs is such a good idea...and i also love to use the grill for baking pizza. fantastic job !

steph- whisk/spoon said...

they don't look homely at all, and the toppings sound very sophisticated! grilled dough must be amazing!

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

Those toppings sound amazing!

Zoe Francois said...

Your pizzas are lovely and fresh and summery!

Tanya said...

I've heard of grilled pizza, but have never tried it for myself. Your pizza looks great! Very yummy looking.

Cristine said...

Also wanted to let you know that I have a blog award for you. Stop by when you can! :)

Maggie said...

I like the dried figs. Not only are the fresh expensive but they are started to look pretty battered in stores around here.

Lynn said...

I am so jealous of your fresh basil. Jack Frost murdered mine this past week in the dead of the night! I wanted to call 911 but, thought better of it. Your pizzas look fantastic. Once again, I am jealous that you were able to grill yours. Well done.

Liz said...

These look fabulous! Figs, cheese, and caramelized onion are one of my favorite flavor combinations. Your pizzas look gorgeous and so gourmet.

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