I've had my eye on Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Bread Bible for a long time. While there is plenty of resources online for cooks like me who like to bake bread, I wanted to read Beranbaum's definitive guide to bread baking. Last month, I finally bought it and I've spent the best part of the last 28 days reading her gospel of bread.
Now this is wholly unoriginal but I think I may "do the Julie Powell" and bake my way through (a lot of) Beranbaum's recipes. I certainly want to try most of her techniques out.
I started with her recipe for Pizza. Why? Well I had some scamorza (similar to Mozzarella) cheese in the fridge that I sorely needed to use before it expired.
I've made pizza before but I've always winged it: I never followed a recipe and kind of made a cross between a flatbread and a focaccia. So this was my first by-the-book attempt at pizza dough. Her recipe is perfect if you like a thin, crispy crust on your pizza. I do.
Beranbaum's recipe requires no kneading. You can get the full recipe here at culinate.com but I am going to run through the process and how it went for me.
First she says to whisk the flour, yeast and sugar together. Add to this the salt: it is important to add the salt later so that it doesn't come in direct contact with the yeast (in which case the salt may kill some of the yeast!).
The next step is adding the water which should be at room temperature. Mix the flour mixture and water with a wooden spoon until a rough dough comes together. Don't over mix, she cautions.
In a smallish bowl (one that's big enough to hold 2-3 cups of water), add some olive oil. [Beranbaum's recipe is enough for two 6 inch pizza's or one 10-inch one -- thereabouts) Transfer the rough ball (the dough won't be smooth, neither will it be too sticky. Just a little sticky and scraggly) of dough into the oil, rotating the dough so that it gets oiled all over. Leave the dough in the oil and cover. Leave it to rise for at least an hour. According to Beranbaum, the longer the dough rests at this stage, the more flavour it will add to the dough (if you are resting it for the 6-24 hours she suggests, you need to put it in the fridge after the initial first hour). I rested it for two hours at room temperature but I will try this again with at least a six-hour sit.
After the two-hour sit, the dough doubled nicely; the texture wasn't smooth as with most bread dough I've handled before. It looked more like a starter dough actually: bubbly with the oil seeping in through the middle and at the sides. It actually looked good. Photos? Yes! I failed to capture the dough as it was but here's a link to another blogger who did. Thanks, Blazing Hot Wok! Check it out, the process it well documented (yikes! The next time, I will ... try, I promise).
Before working on the dough, heat up the oven: 246C for about an hour. Also, sip in your pizza stone or, if you like me don't have one, your baking sheet. Bah. I need to get a pizza stone!
Now back to the risen dough, If you're making one large pizza (well, regular actually) you can work all the dough at once. If you're making two personal-sized ones, deflate the dough gently and then divide it, keeping one half covered in the same bowl. [In case you're wondering about my pizzas, I made one small round one and another kinda rectangular one: what do they call these? Rustic? Yeah!)
Transfer the dough onto a pizza plate/a round baking tray and gently shape it into a smooth bowl (by tucking in the edges. Place it in the centre of the plate and let it sit for 15 mins (Beranbaum says this helps the dough relax, making it easy to shape). Gently use your fingers to stretch it from the centre to the edges of the plate. The dough may spring back initially; if so, let it rest a few minutes before continuing. Allow the rim to be thicker than the centre (for the crust). It should be pretty thin all around, about 2mms, maybe?
Once this is done, let the dough sit for a further 30 minutes or until the round starts to get a little puffy. Don't expect it to get really puffy: this is, after all, a thin-crust pizza!
Now, slip the tray onto the hot pizza stone/baking sheet that has been heating up. BEWARE! It's really hot so USE A MITT at all times! Yes, I got burnt a little in the transfer.
Bake for 5 minutes until the sides get golden and the centre firms up. Remove and spread the topping: I spread some pesto, piled on my scamorza and then heaped some lightly sauteed garlic mushrooms. I sprinkled some chilli flakes and drizzled some chilli oil over the pie also. Oh yummmm!
Pop the pie back in the over for another 5-7 mins or until the cheese melts.
Remove, slice and eat while hot!
The crust was lovely. You taste the olive oil that has seeped through the dough and it's just rich and wonderful. It's best eaten hot out of the oven though. I had a piece once it had cooled and though still tasty, the crunch of the crust added another dimension that should not be sacrificed. Heating it up in a toaster oven or on a grill pan works fine too.
Though I just let the dough ferment for a couple of hours, the flavour of the dough was good. I would however want to see the difference with a longer ferment. Next time!