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Daring Bakers Challenge October 2008

Did someone say “pizza”…again?

I love pizza.  Who doesn’t?  Weird kids maybe.  Anyway, I love it because it’s really tasty and easy to make and cheap.  In fact, I love it so much that I already posted about it and not too long ago.  Which might make you think “well, I can skip this post” but you’d miss out because our illustrious host Rosa from Rosa’s Yummy Yums* gave us a dough recipe far superior to the one I posted previously.  And as we were required to make two pizzas for this challenge, the creativity of limitation pressed me to find possibly the cheapest ingredient ever to top a pizza.  Curious?  Read on…

The recipe for this pizza dough comes from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart and is a bit more fussy than what I’d normally do – here at BLAN (wow, not the best acronym – should have been more thoughtful about the blog name) we’re all about simplicity, but will bend to fussiness when it serves the outcome.  This pizza is most definitely worth the extra bit of work that it requires.

Enough!  Let’s get to it.

I used plain old unbleached flour (I’ve never used high-gluten flour – I can’t even find it at our over-priced fancy-pants grocery Gelson’s) and it worked quite fantastically.  I also used dry-active yeast instead of instant (which I’ve also never used) and increased the amount by 25% (which seems to work every time).

Everyone into the pool!

Almost the ingredients went into a mixing bowl and got the paddle treatment.  You could also use an electric stand mixer for this – which would in some ways be easier (“easier = better,” one of the core BLAN mottoes).  But our apartment is small, and so am I; the stand mixer sits on top of the fridge and weighs at least five hundred pounds – without the husband here to take it down, it’s not likely to get used.

Since I was a lazy-ass and didn’t get the stand mixer down, I was also obliged to knead the dough for five hundred years (5-7 minutes).

Maybe the kneading will make me strong enough to handle the mixer.  At any rate, once that was done, jelly pans were lined with parchment paper, dough dividing happened, rolling piece into balls ensued and the end result

little balls of future pizza!  Gorgeous.

The balls were floured and misted with oil and wrapped in a ridiculous plastic wrap cocoon (note to self – don’t ever think it’s a good idea to buy the cheap plastic wrap).  The tray was then put into the fridge overnight.

Okay – a couple of things here.

1. Normally I would have a lot more pictures – almost too many.  But I got this idea in my head that this challenge would be a great opportunity for me to add some video to the blog (part of the challenge was to have a video or picture of yourself throwing the pizza, so it made sense, right?).  Oh how I underestimate the effort of things.  I am still planning on adding video to the blog, but when that does happen, it will be for a much less ambitious project and will be of something that I already forking know how to do!  Sometimes I just have no sense.  Anyway, the video took up so much time that I didn’t get very many photos.

2. As I just mentioned, there should be a video or photo of me tossing my pizzas.  And I tried.  I really did.  The pizzas turned out great but both of them immediately thinned out so much in the middle that tossing them was out of the question.  It was a miracle that they could be arranged on the peel at all and hold sauce.  But oh what a miracle they were…

The dough had a sleep overnight in the fridge.  It was removed two hours before baking and I set to work on the toppings.  For pizza one, red sauce, artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes with Parmesan cheese.

This one is a bit of a cheat, since we’ve done it before and knew it would be delicious.  But with the untested dough, I wanted to be sure we could rely on at least one of the pizzas to be edible (a girl does have to eat).

For pizza two…well, I was at a bit of a loss.  We’re pretty cheap around here and I’m a bit lazy, so I didn’t want to go to the store again and spend more money.  Besides, we had a half bag of potatoes threatening to go off so…

Heck yeah I did!  I made potato pizza – and it was amazing.  I mean really amazing.  The potatoes need to be sliced super duper thin (I used a mandoline and you could see through the slices).  The upside is that the whole pizza only required one small potato (although I have no idea what I’m going to do with the rest of them) and a small amount of salt, chopped rosemary and a bit of olive oil.  That’s cheap!

This challenge was so much fun.  This dough recipe will be our new staple for pizza – the crust was so thin it was unbelievable, and that’s how we like it.  I’ll be playing with it in the coming weeks (we eat pizza at least every other week) and doing what damage I can by adding wild yeast.  Heck, I might even go out and get some high gluten flour…if I ever run out of potatoes.

For more info on The Daring Bakers, visit

Basic Pizza Dough

Original recipe taken from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crust (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/420g or 420 ml) Olive oil or Vegetable Oil (optional but better with!)
1 3/4 Cups (14ounces/420 g or 420 ml) Water, ice cold (40F/4.5C)
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!) 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 50-55F/10-13C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter.  Line a jelly pan with baking/parchment paper.  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).

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 future baking.  In that case, pour some oil (a few tablespoons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completly 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 the 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 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 fr 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 (500F/260C).  NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, use the back of a jelly pan.  Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan (or your pizza peel) with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal.  Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles).  Take one 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.  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 tossing and shaping.  If tossing is impossible, you can let it relax for 5-20 minutes.  You can also use a rolling pin but it is not as effective (or as fun!) as tossing.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 in diameter for a 6 ounce/180 g piece of dough) place it on the back of the jelly pan (or peel), 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 the 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 topped pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan.  Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.  NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek.  For even baking, rotate 180 degrees.  If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pan to a lower shelf before the next round.  If the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes 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.

NOTE ON SAUCE: Your sauce should not be too thick as it will thicken in the hot oven.  Less is more but make the less truly more by using quality ingredients.


*Rosa’s co-hosts for this challenge were to have been Sherry Cermak from What Did You Eat? and Glenna Muse at A Fridge Full Of Food.  Sadly, Sher (as she was fondly known) passed away suddenly a few of months ago.  I never knew her but have been fortunate enough to visit her blog and she was clearly loved and clearly is missed.  Rosa’s other partner in hosting, Glenna, has decided to bow out of DB for now.  I wanted to mention that Rosa did an amazing job of hosting unexpectedly by herself and love the fact that she decided to honor Sher by keeping the original challenge they had discussed.  Many thanks Rosa – well done!


  1. CookiePie says:

    Your pizzas look fabulous!!

  2. Looks so good I can practically smell it. The potato pattern looks really cool, and love the macro settings and perspective you use on the shots.

  3. Sweet Pea says:

    What a great idea, potato pizza. Glad it worked out well for you!

  4. Lynn says:

    Great idea! Potato pizza. Who would have thought that would turn out so well. But, then again, pizza dough, check, potatoes, check, put them together CHECK! I love that you tried something so different. Good job. I am impressed.

  5. Mary says:

    That potato and rosemary pizza looks so fabulous! And artichoke and sundried tomatoes..I’m glad I still have crust left to try!

  6. Rosa says:

    Your pizza looks wonderful! A great idea! Very well done!



  7. Ahmad says:

    You get many brownie points for hand-kneading the dough.
    I tried it just didn’t work! Maybe I should work out more haha. Delicious flavour ideas! Great job 🙂

  8. Tobey says:

    Mmmm, this makes me hungry. I just found your blog. Have you ever done a post on whole grain pizza crust? I am always trying to find places that serve whole grain pizza (very rare!) and I wonder if I could just make my own…

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