Another month, another group bake. This month the Mellow Bakers are working on pizzas, among other breads. I love pizza, well, I love pizza crust. But it is tough to find one that love. There’s a pizza place that’s been around for ages, Antonio’s Flying Pizza has, quite possibly, the best pizza in Houston. Hand-tossed, with a crisp, thin center and pillowy, chewy edges. They also have an awesome sauce and DO NOT overuse it. OHMY!
Well, thanks to Mr. Hamelman, I’ve found the 2nd best pizza crust. It’s on page 273 of his book Bread. I thought this was a good opportunity to have a few friends over and see what would happen when I tried my hand at pizza-making. Let me tell you, it went VERY well. I’ll walk you through it.
The dough starts off a day in advance with the fermentation of a biga. A biga is a pre-ferment. This produces organic acids which significantly contribute to the structure and development of the dough and, ultimately, the rise and flavor of the bread.
In this case, the biga needs to develop for at least 12 hours, mine went for a little over 16. I have to confess, though, this biga was quite different from the ones I’ve made thus far. It actually freaked me out! First, it was a VERY tough dough, the pre-ferments I’ve done before were anywhere from runny to medium-stiffness. Second, it rose like gangbusters! Within 3 hours it had tripled in size. Previous ferments developed very slowly. To avoid what I thought might’ve ended up being over-development, I put it in the fridge overnight and removed it a couple of hours before I was ready to make the full dough.
Crisis averted, I began working on the final dough about 3-4 hours before my friends were to arrive. Per the formula (that’s what they call bread recipes, how very scientific!), the dough needed to rise for about 2-1/2 hours before baking. Friends were due at 8ish, I began the dough around 3ish.
I opted to half the baker’s recipe, so I ended up with 5lbs of completed dough, which was then divided into 13 balls weighing approximately 6.5 oz each to make small personal pizzas. The collage shows the steps necessary prior to adding toppings and baking.
The oven is preheated to its maximum, 550° in mine, with the baking stone/pan left in the oven so it is smoking hot before the pizza goes on. A fellow Mellow Baker indicated they used the back of a cast iron skillet. This was a genius suggestion because we only have a medium sized pizza stone, but I do have large cast iron grill. And that’s what I used to bake these babies. Sprinkled some semolina on the stone and grill, then slid the topped pizzas over top.
They baked for about 10-15 minutes and were perfectly delicious. Check’em out.