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The staff of life is sometimes flat [Dec. 8th, 2011|09:24 am]
Flat breads have been one of those challenges I keep meaning to tackle. They don't seem all that difficult, after all. But their very simplicity means that the results had better be tasty, or what's the point?

But my friend Bec had a sudden yearning for the pizza of her childhood, a Sunday home cooking tradition of fond memory, and since she and her partner, Jer, were coming for dinner and a movie last night, it seemed like a good time to split pizza duties: I'd be crust, she'd be toppings.

So I went searching for a pizza dough recipe, and came up with one on the King Arthur Flour website that uses sourdough starter, something I have in abundance. I put together the dough according to the recipe, then set it aside to rise. But being me, I decided that this wasn't experimental enough. And besides, I have a LOT of starter. So I made a second batch of dough, this time substituting half a cup of cornmeal, which I softened with boiling water (I used the measure of water called for in the dough for the softening).

Rolled out, the two doughs were distinctive in appearance:

But once they were topped and baked, it was harder to tell which was which:

The pizza on the left is pepperoni. Bec purchased uncut pepperoni, sliced it thin, then placed the slices between layers of paper plates, weighted down the plates with heavy ceramic plates, and microwaved the pepperoni slices for about a minute and a half. She then blotted the pepperoni slices like crazy, effectively degreasing them beautifully. The result is both healthier and tastier.

The pizza on the right is a bit like a Venn diagram. The lower half has mushrooms, and the left side has bacon. So depending on where you cut, you have the possibility of plain cheese, bacon and cheese, mushroom and cheese, or bacon, mushroom and cheese.

I have to say that, despite the recommended addition of the King Arthur Flour pizza flavoring, the crust for this pizza was...okay. Decent, but not particularly memorable. The sourdough didn't really add anything, and while the cornmeal made for a tasty addition, there wasn't enough of it to really change the nature of the dough.

So I can't recommend this as the perfect pizza dough. It was a perfectly acceptable "tray" for the sauce, cheese, and other ingredients. But it didn't have that kind of stand-out "wow" factor that I want in a pizza crust.

There will be further experimentation and more pizzas, as I have informed Ferrett. Brave boy, he's volunteered to throw himself on that grenade.

I'm so proud.

Crossposting from Dreamwidth now. Sigh. If LJ won't let you comment, you can comment here: http://zoethe.dreamwidth.org/786668.html?mode=reply:

[User Picture]From: leeann_marie
2011-12-08 02:46 pm (UTC)
The pizza crust recipe in Rose Levy Beranbaum's Bread Bible is fantastic, easily my favorite that I've made!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-08 05:07 pm (UTC)
Of course a bread book I don't have! Maybe the library will have a copy.
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[User Picture]From: leeann_marie
2011-12-09 12:34 am (UTC)
I got mine from the library on the recommendation of an LJ friend, and loved it so much I had to order a copy of my very own. :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-10 06:15 am (UTC)
Just checked, and they have it at the library here. I will definitely pick it up when I'm downtown again.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2011-12-08 03:10 pm (UTC)
mmm. Pizza is one of my favorite thing to make. I have a small bag of the King Arthur pizza flavoring but have not used it yet.

This looks...really, really good!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-08 05:08 pm (UTC)
They were, in fact, quite tasty!
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[User Picture]From: brujah
2011-12-08 04:40 pm (UTC)


This is the crust recipe my offspring and her friend, Shauna, use when they cook for us.

6 oz (175 g) plain white soft flour
1 level teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon easy-blend dried yeast
½ teaspoon golden caster sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil

To roll out:
2-3 level tablespoons polenta (cornmeal)
Pre-heat the oven to its lowest setting.

You will also need a pizza stone or solid baking sheet measuring 14 x 11 inches (35 x 28 cm).

Begin by warming the flour slightly in the oven for about 10 minutes, then turn the oven off.

Sift the flour, salt, yeast and sugar into a bowl and make a well in the centre of the mixture, then add the olive oil and pour in 4 fl oz (120 ml) hand-hot water water. Now mix to a dough, starting off with a wooden spoon and using your hands in the final stages of mixing. Wipe the bowl clean with the dough, adding a spot more water if there are any dry bits left, and transfer it to a flat work surface (there shouldn't be any need to flour this).

Knead the dough for 3 minutes or until it develops a sheen and blisters under the surface (it should also be springy and elastic). You can now either leave the dough on the surface covered by the upturned bowl or transfer the dough to a clean bowl and cover it with clingfilm that has been lightly oiled on the side that is facing the dough. Leave it until it looks as though it has doubled in bulk, which will be about an hour at room temperature.

Having made the dough and left it to rise, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 8 / 450°F, along with the pizza stone or baking sheet.

The next stage is to tip the dough back on to a work surface that has been sprinkled generously with polenta to prevent it from sticking. Knock all the air out of the dough and knead it for a couple of seconds to begin shaping it into a ball. Then dust your rolling pin with polenta and roll the dough out to a circle that is approximately 10 inches (25.5 cm) in diameter. Then finish stretching it out with your hands, working from the centre and using the flat of your fingers to push the dough out; it doesn't need to be a perfect round, but you want it to be a fairly thin-based pizza, with slightly raised edges.

Using a thick oven glove, very carefully lift the baking sheet or pizza stone out of the oven and sprinkle it with polenta. Now carefully lift the pizza dough on to the stone or baking sheet and cover the pizza with your choice of filling, taking it up to the raised edge.

Bake the pizza on a high shelf for 10-12 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-08 05:06 pm (UTC)

Re: Pizzizzle.

I will have to try that. Thanks!
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[User Picture]From: merle_
2011-12-08 05:01 pm (UTC)
The pizza on the right is a bit like a Venn diagram.

That is so cool. Must.. steal idea...
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-08 05:06 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it definitely resolved the "who wants what" issue nicely!
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[User Picture]From: pixievixen
2011-12-08 06:54 pm (UTC)
i went on a huge pizza kick for a while, and after trying a lot of recipes, this one by jamie oliver has been my favorite thus far.

i make the version with the semolina flour added, which gives a nice texture. i also like to use the pizza stone for the cooking. i roll the dough out on the backs of nonstick pizza sheets, then toss some cornmeal on the hot stone, peel the dough off the sheet & toss it on the stone. i find that setting it on the hot stone for a few seconds, then flipping it & brushing off some of the cornmeal helps to ensure even cooking once the toppings are on.

i also have little grill pizza stones with metal domes to cook the toppings. i have yet to use them for their intended purpose though. i just used them to make mini pizzas with a group of kids in the oven.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-08 08:48 pm (UTC)
I have a stone, but since I was making two pizzas didn't want to muck about with it. I do have some semolina and will have to try that.
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[User Picture]From: laplor
2011-12-08 10:52 pm (UTC)
Here's the pizza dough we always make. We also use this dough for calzones, or spread it with garlic butter and sprinkle with mozzarella for garlic cheese fingers. Also my pizza sauce:

Whole Wheat Pizza
Makes one 15 inch square pizza or two 12 inch round. About 2 lbs of dough.
1 ½ cups lukewarm water
1Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 cups whole wheat flour (Whole wheat bread flour if you’re in the US, or do whatever you people do with gluten - not sure I want to know)
2 teaspoons yeast.
Bread Machine:
Set machine for "dough." On "add ingredient" tone, add a few tablespoons of dried herbs if desired (oregano/basil). Dough can be removed just before the time is up. Stretch to fit pan(s) and allow to rest for a few minutes before topping. Preheat oven to 475F and bake for about 10 minutes.
By hand:
Combine sugar, salt, olive oil and hot water.
Allow to cool slightly to the point where it feels nice to your hand.
Mix yeast into flour and whisk a little bit into the liquid mixture. Beat the rest of the flour into the mixture with a spoon. Add basil and/or oregano if desired.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead it briskly until it forms a smooth ball that feels smooth and almost silky. Pour some olive oil into the bowl and put the dough back in, rolling it around to coat it in oil. Cover and let rise in a warmish place until it doubles in volume.
Stretch to fit pan(s) and allow to rest for a few minutes before topping.
Preheat oven to 475F and bake for about 10 minutes.

Pizza Sauce
While the dough is rising, heat a bit of olive oil in a fairly large saucepan and throw in some finely chopped garlic and onion. Cook until slightly softened and then add the liquid from a large can of tomatoes (or throw in some fresh tomatoes). Bring to a boil and then simmer until the liquid is slightly reduced. Stir in the tomatoes and continue to simmer until the sauce reaches the consistency you like. Add some oregano, basil, salt, and pepper.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-10 05:22 am (UTC)
Thanks. Will definitely try!
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[User Picture]From: cynic51
2011-12-09 04:36 am (UTC)
If you're interested, I'd be happy to provide my mother's pizza dough recipe. She's been using it for 35 years for every family birthday; in fact we just made it over Thanksgiving weekend for our mutual birthday. Let me know and I can bring it with me next time I'm over, or just post it.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2011-12-09 01:42 pm (UTC)
Would absolutely love it, thanks!
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[User Picture]From: cynic51
2011-12-10 03:14 am (UTC)
I figured we'd never remember to copy it or scan it or whatever, so I just posted it.
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