Monday, July 30, 2007

Farmer's Market Pizza

Sunday, July 29, 2007
Even though I have made both pizza crust recipes in TBB several times, to excellent results, I tried something new this weekend: the Neopolitan pizza dough recipe from
The Bread Baker's Apprentice. As an apprentice, I did not do so well.
The good news is that the recipe makes enough for six pizzas, so I have five in the freezer. The bad news may be that there are still five in the freezer. I'll see after next time.
Peter Reinhart gives instructions for stretching the pizza dough by tossing it in the air. Like anybody could do it. So I tossed it for a while, but after a few tosses, I started getting big holes in the middle of the dough. I'd shape it back into a nice patty, and start tossing it again. Again, I got big holes in the middle. Finally, I resorted to a rolling pin, which worked fine, although it didn't have that same air of savoir faire.
Then he suggested putting the stretched-thin pizza dough on a wooden paddle and sliding it onto a pizza stone. I figured that the sliding was going to go about as well as the tossing did, with far more disastrous possibilities, so I put the dough on a pizza pan.
Reinhart says you should bake it at as high a temperature as your oven can go--800 degrees if possible. I set my oven at 800, being very impressed that it would go that high. But instead of turning on, the oven flashed the number "800" and bleated pathetically. I finally understood it was telling me that it did not understand this number. It didn't understand 700 or 600 either, but settled down at 550.
For the topping, I sauteed summer squash, fennel and onion in olive oil. Then I added some sliced cherry tomatoes and a sliced Italian pepper. I topped it with fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, and grated parmesan, and stuck it in the hot oven (burning my arm in the process, which made me think they knew what they were doing when they decided not to allow their ovens to go up to 800 degrees).
Within six minutes, the outer crust was browned nicely, and the cheese were melted, and I strewed on some fresh basil. Things were looking up. Unfortunately, when I cut into the pizza, I realized that the bottom crust was not cooked through, so we had some really excellent pizza until you got into the middle. Then we had something soft and soggy, topped with a lot of vegetables.
I think that things might improve if I put the oven rack at the very bottom next time, so that it will cook through. I think maybe I shouldn't put so many vegetables on, especially rather wet vegetables like summer squash. It would also probably be a good idea not to bump my arm into the preheated pizza stone.


Melinda said...

Have you burnt your arm badly? Oh dear! Those stones stay firecracker hot.
I haven't made the pizza from Peter's book yet. Whose oven goes to 800 anyway? Yikes!

Trish said...

We have tried this recipe several times and it does take a little practice. Here's an easier way to stretch the dough from youtube: We've also found the less toppings the better for thin pizza crust. A little cornmeal on your paddle will help it slide easier. Sorry about your burns! We bakers can get pretty "battle" scarred when working with hot ovens! Good luck with your next try. It's worth it!

breadbasketcase said...

Thanks for commiserating. It's not a terrible burn, but I was trying to dunk the arm in cold water while I made the salad, which didn't work too well. I'm sure it looked comical, although I wasn't laughing.

Thank you for the encouragement! I found other how-to videos on pizza stretching on youtube; I'll admit it never occurred to me to look there for advice. I think you're absolutely right about the "less is more" philosophy of pizza topping--it's always hard for me to resist adding one more thing. (I was going to add some capers or olives for a little extra saltiness, but I was able to say no).

Chai18 said...

well the pizza in the picture looks terrific, too bad it didn't all turn out so well.

seeing that your making pizza dough i thought of the some other "different" type of breads you could bake, they are definitely not in the bread bible- malawach (a Jewish Yemenite bread, kind of like a crepe), injera (a staple to all Ethiopian diets, but must be made with teff, which will probably be hard to find in America, as it only grows in Ethiopia and they have recently banned exporting it), matzah (a "bread" or more like cracker eaten on passover, cooks fast, traditionally it can only be in an oven for 18 minutes) and lastly pita or the myriads of different versions of challah.

kneadtobake said...


Hopefully you and your family are alright after that devastating bridge collaspe. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of Minneapolis.

Melinda said...

Nothing ever seems to be the right thing to say but I hope you, your family and friends are OK.

Chubbypanda said...

Ouch! I still have a burn scar and inch long on my forearm from where I bumped it into a heat coil. No fun.

Susan said...

Hi, I agree the pizza *looks* great. I just discovered your blog -- glad to meet another avid bread baker!

My heart goes out to your city after yesterday's terrible tragedy.


breadbasketcase said...

Chai 18,
I know--there are a million different breads! I actually have made pita and a variation of matzoh (both in The Bread Bible), but never heard of malawach. I've eaten injera, but it's one of a very few breads I'm not too crazy about. And challah--just perfecting challah could be a project all by itself. And speaking of different kinds of bread, check out Susan's blog, at She has just written about a traditional Japanese bread.

Kneadtobake, Melinda, and Susan,
Thanks so much for your good wishes. My family and I are all fine, although, of course, immediately after the relief you feel when you know that the people you love the best are safe, you start feeling the pain and sorrow of those who weren't so lucky. It's been very sad, and I appreciate your thinking of us.

breadbasketcase said...

It didn't occur to me at first that it was going to leave a scar, but now it looks like my first (bread) battle scar.

Anonymous said...


It's been a while since I posted a comment here. I suggest ditching the pizza pan. Parchment paper underneath the pizza is a better alternative. The pizza will slide on and off the stone easily, but the parchment will still allow the full heat from the pizza stone to penetrate the crust. This will ensure a fully baked, crisp, and browned crust.

Once you get the hang of sliding the pizza on and off using parchment, then you'll be able to switch to just using flour on the peel. I recommend rice flour; it doesn't scorch in the oven like regular flour or cornmeal will and it has a fine texture and won't clump underneath the pizza crust.

MMMM...homemade pizza.

Anonymous said...

OOPS, the above comment is from Roxanne in Denver :)

For some reason gblogger is not recognizing my account password.


breadbasketcase said...

I'm sure you're right. After thinking about the crispy edge crust and the soft middle, I concluded that the problem had to be that the pizza just wasn't getting enough direct heat right away. The parchment idea sounds more doable than the paddle-to-pizza-stone method, but that will be my final goal. Thanks for the advice.

Anonymous said...

Please don't give up on sliding your pizza from the peel directly onto the stone. I agree with Roxanne--rice flour works great. It's more gritty than flour, so it acts like little ball bearings, but it's not as messy as cornmeal. When you get nice charred crusts on the bottom, crispy as a cracker, you'll be glad you kept trying. The only problem is, now I'm spoiled and I can't buy pizza anymore because nothing measures up!

breadbasketcase said...

I haven't made pizza for a while, but I have managed to get up the courage to put the pizza directly on the stone, and it is much better. I used cornmeal, which actually worked fine, but I do want to try the rice flour tip. I love the idea of little ball bearings!