Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mellow Bakers: Pizza (June)

Pizza was the first yeast bread I made with any regularity. I started making my own pizza dough years ago, although thinking back to that old standby recipe, it was nothing like the breads I make now: tons of yeast, tons of flour, quick to go from mixing to rising to eating. Taste-wise, while we were happy to be eating homemade pizza, the crust was thick, very bready, not very flavorful . . . really not very good.

I had high hopes for Peter Reinhart's pizza napoletana from the BBA, but I had a very challenging time working with the dough and it ended up much thinner and crispier than we like at our house. When I discovered P. R.'s pizza neo-neopolitan from Artisan Breads Every Day, I thought I would never bake another pizza crust again: the dough was a dream to work with and the flavor and texture were perfect.

Until now: Jeffrey Hamelman's pizza dough (from Bread, p. 273) showed up on our June breads for the Mellow Bakers. We're big pizza lovers in this house, so clearly we were happy to try another pizza recipe.

Last night just before bed, I mixed up my biga: a bit of water, a tiny pinch of yeast, and some flour, and let it sit overnight. It was probably ready to go early today since it is very hot and humid here, but we had plans this morning, and it didn't look any worse for wear when I finally got around to using it this afternoon.

I mixed bread flour, water, a bit more yeast, and salt, and then added in the biga. The dough was very wet, even more so when I started drizzling in the olive oil. I reflected on how much I've learned; in the old days, I would've added cups and cups more flour to be able to deal with this dough, but I've finally become accustomed to working with doughs with high hydration. My biggest problem was the oil: it actually made the dough so slick that my stand mixer wouldn't knead it; the dough hook just skimmed the surface. So I took it out and kneaded it by hand for a little bit.

While the dough was in its first rise, I browsed my blog list and came upon this post by Anne Marie called "Distracted Baking." In it, she talks about forgetting to look at the errata sheet for Bread before beginning to make her sourdough. Um . . . oops. I quickly jumped over to Mellow Bakers and downloaded the newest version of the errata, wondering if I needed to add more flour and that's what accounted for the super-wet dough. But no, the only change in this recipe was to add more yeast (.13 oz instead of .04 oz). No big deal; it is so hot and humid here that, even with much less yeast, the dough easily doubled in the first hour and again in the hour after the fold.

Instead of making the one-pound pizzas that Hamelman calls for, I divided the dough into 8 ounce balls, as we always do. Unfortunately I didn't plan ahead; one of my favorite things about P. R.'s recipe is that it makes six eight-ounce pizzas, one for me, one for hubby, one for the kids, and three to freeze for a later meal. This recipe only made four (I'll have to use my baker's math next time to increase the recipe!), so I only froze one dough ball.

We topped them as we always do: simple sauce; cheese blend (mozzarella, asiago, and romano, with a bit of basil); mushrooms and pineapple for me; olives, pepperoni, and pineapple for the kiddos; and everything for the hubby. They baked up perfectly in 5 minutes at 550 F.

This recipe is easily as good as our other favorite: thin and crispy on the bottom with a nice chewy crust. Excellent flavor. We will definitely be making it again!

Check out the other Mellow Bakers' pizzas!


  1. Okay, Abby, you've convinced me to try this recipe. =) I was going to skip it, since I like the Neo-Neapolitan pizza from ABED so much. We do things the same in our house as you do--I make 6 dough balls from the PR dough, one for me, one for J, one for the girls and three into the freezer for next week. So thanks for the tip to increase the recipe by half to get the same yield. I think this one is going on the list for next week. =)

  2. Abby, this looks wonderful. I will get to this eventually and I have bookmarked this with all your little tips to make it easier/better/learning from your experience!! Pineapple on pizza...we haven't ventured forth on that one yet...maybe.

  3. Love the background photo on your blog! Will have to try the Hamelman pizza dough recipe as the PR pizza dough was challenging to work with! Tour pizza looks just beautiful!

  4. Looks fabulous! We'll be making this one next weekend - so glad to read that you love it. I'm pretty sure we'll love it, too. Btw, the neo-napolitan pizza from ABED has become my go-to recipe, too!

  5. We're pizza people too. You did a great job on this looks delicious.

  6. This pizza looks just to bite in! delicious!