This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge was a pleasure to complete and eat – pizza is always welcome in our house.  Having to complete two kinds of pizza, I decided to make a family favorite, pesto and shrimp, and something new for me, a gorgonzola and grape pizza.  As I have mentioned before, I have been intensely involved in a political campaign, so time has been a very precious commodity.  Homemade pizza, while seemingly daunting, is actually a wonderful option for busy cooks since total prep and cooking time is about a half hour.

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BASIC PIZZA DOUGH
Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

yield 3 large pizzas

Ingredients:
4 1/2 Cups Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (Olive oil or vegetable oil
1 3/4 Cups  Water, ice cold
1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

DAY ONE

Method:
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, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

3. Flour a work surface or counter.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 3 equal pieces

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them.  Gently round each piece into a ball.

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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 thee days.

DAY TWO

8. On the day you plan to eat 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 a 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 for 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 (500° F).

10. Generously sprinkle a pizza peel with semolina or durum flour.   Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 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.

       

Sadly, the evidence of my fabulous tossing was mostly cut off.  The resulting stretched out dough, however, is caught on film.

11. When the dough has the shape you want, place it on a floured pizza peel, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the peel.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven.  Close the door and bake for about 5 minutes.

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.

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I chose to make this grape pizza since it’s very similar to a favorite hors d’oeuvre I make often for parties (roquefort grapes).  This recipe is more an appetizer than a main course, but very delicious.  I love the combination of the strong salty gorgonzola combined with the carmelized sweetness of the grapes.  The pizza dough recipe is a definite keeper – crispy yet soft and chewy.  Perfection!

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Gorgonzola and Grape Pizza (from Epicurious)

Pizza dough

1/3 cup Vin Santo
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes (9 oz), halved lengthwise
5 oz Italian Fontina, rind discarded and cheese cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
2 oz Gorgonzola dolce, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Bring Vin Santo with sugar to a boil in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then boil, uncovered, until reduced to about 1 tablespoon, about 5 minutes. Add grapes to saucepan and stir gently to coat with syrup, then transfer to a bowl. Add cheeses and pepper to bowl, then stir to combine.  Spread on pizza dough and bake for about 5 minutes.
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The second pizza was a pesto, mozzarella and grilled shrimp pizza that lasted about 3 minutes before my children inhaled it.  Pesto is staple in our house and I make variations of pesto pizza regularly.

Thanks to our host Rosa for an excellent challenge. It was wonderful to take time to refocus on food and cooking after a couple of months of focusing on everything but.

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