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Let’s Have a Pizza Party! (with Focaccia and Grissini Variations)

To watch the video of me making pizza, click here. You can see me making Focaccia and grissini from pizza dough in an episode of Baking Made Easy with Lauren.

Special Equipment:

  • 5-quart mixing bowl, for rising dough
  • Wooden surface, for kneading
  • Pastry scraper
  • Set of quarry tiles or a large pizza stone
  • Two perforated 15-inch pizza pans, for baking pizza
  • Docker or the tines of a large serving fork
  • Food processor (optional), for grating cheese
  • Baker’s peel, to remove baked pizzas from oven
  • Two non-perforated 15-inch pizza pans, for serving baked pizzas to prevent sauce and cheese from running through holes
  • Pizza wheel, the larger the better!

Ingredients

  • About 3 tablespoons Garlic Confit Oil, or use extra-virgin olive oil, used as needed
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water for yeast, plus 2 cups lukewarm water for dough
  • Pinch, plus 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 scant tablespoon salt
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • Up to 6 1/2 cups flour (unbleached, all-purpose or use high-gluten bread flour, including flour for dusting (or use a combination of whole wheat flour and high gluten bread flour and use white flour for dusting
  • Cornmeal, for pizza pans (preferably medium-ground)
  • Glaze (optional): 1 egg white, at room temperature, mixed with 1 teaspoon water
  • Sesame seeds (optional), for topping rim of pizza

Basic Topping Suggestions:

Additional Topping Suggestions:

  • Cleaned, sliced and sautéed Mushrooms
  • Thinly sliced pepperoni
  • Fresh Chopped Garlic
  • Thinly Sliced Onions or Leeks, sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil (see videos)
  • Drained and coarsely chopped firm anchovy fillets
  • Small cubes of eggplant, lightly tossed in seasoned flour and pan-fried in olive oil
  • Diced potatoes, boiled 5 minutes, drained and pan-fried
  • Pitted and Sliced Kalamata olives
  • Roasted Red and Yellow Bell Peppers, seeded and sliced into thin strips
  • Fresh Italian sausage, removed from casings and sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil with minced onion and garlic
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (be careful)

1) To set up: Brush the interior of a 5-quart mixing bowl generously with olive oil and set aside for rising dough.

2) To assemble liquid mixture: Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar. In a large mixing bowl, combine the 2 cups lukewarm water, 1 generous tablespoon of the olive oil, salt, the 2 teaspoons sugar, and pepper, if using. When yeast mixture is creamy and starting to bubble, add to mixing bowl and briskly stir in just enough flour, a little at a time, to create a mass that is not easily stirred in the bowl. Turn out dough onto a lightly flour wooden board. Using floured hands, knead dough in a brisk push-fold-and-turn motion, until perfectly smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Add only as much additional flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking to your hands and work surface. Use a pastry scraper while kneading to scrape dough off board cleanly as you continue to knead in a sufficient amount of flour.

3) To rise dough twice: Place dough in the prepared rising bowl and turn to coat it with olive oil. Cover the bowl with a piece of oiled plastic wrap and then with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled, about 2 hours. Punch down dough with several swift swats with the back of your hand until dough is totally deflated. Although dough can be used right away, it’s preferable to refrigerate it for at least 1 hour and as long as 2 days before shaping crusts. (This chilling relaxes this high-gluten dough so it won’t fight back as much when being stretched into shape. This extra time also allows the dough to develop a deeper, more satisfying flavor.)

4) To set up to pre-bake crusts: Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and, if using, place a sheet of quarry tiles or a large pizza stone onto rack. Preheat the oven to 450o F for at least 30 minutes before baking. Lightly brush both perforated pizza pans with olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal; tilt to coat pans and tap out excess meal. If using, set egg-white glaze and sesame seeds next to your work surface.

5) To shape pizza dough: Turn out dough onto a lightly floured board and gently knead just to release air pockets. Using the blade of a pastry scraper, divide dough into 2 equal pieces. If dough is not chilled, cover and let rest for 10 minutes to relax dough. If not working with a double oven and thus can only bake 1 crust at a time, return half the dough to the bowl, cover and refrigerate until the first pizza crust goes into the oven. Pat the remaining half dough into a low round on the floured work surface.

6) To stretch dough: Spread the fingers of your hand and smack dough several times until visibly flattened but still round. Flour your fists, lift up dough and drape it (centered) over your floured fists. Stretch dough by pointing your fists upward and gently pulling them away from each other. Take care to stretch evenly; if dough starts to feel bottom heavy and is becoming too thin, lay it on your work surface, rearrange it, then lift and continue to stretch. Use as much flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking to your hands, which can cause it to tear. (Be aware that if you’ve used whole grain flour in your dough, this will reduce the overall elasticity, making the dough more likely to tear when stretching.)

7) To place dough in pan: Lay stretched dough in the prepared pan, arranging it so the edges of dough meet the rim. Press and pat out dough until it totally covers the pan, building up the rim of dough so it’s a little thicker and higher than the interior of the circle. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just not overly thick in one spot and paper thin in another. If dough resists at any point, just throw a towel over it for 5 minutes. If dough should tear, just pinch it together with floured fingertips. And if the rim seems too thin, simply fold 1 inch of the edge over onto itself and press to adhere.

8) To prepare crust for pre-baking: Brush the interior of the circle (excluding the 1-inch rim) with some olive oil and prick the oiled section of the dough deeply all over with a docker or the prongs of a large fork. Sprinkle oiled dough with freshly ground black pepper. If desired, brush the raised rim of dough with egg white glaze and sprinkle rim generously with sesame seeds.

9) To pre-bake crust: Prick the interior surface of crust once more and place pizza pan directly on hot tiles, stone or oven rack and shut the oven door. Bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. (Check once during baking. If the center starts to bubble up, prick the interior again and continue baking.) Remove pan from oven using a baker’s peel and place it on a wire rack to cool. Meanwhile, as crust is baking, remove the reserved half of dough from refrigerator and prepare the second crust completely through the preceding step. As soon as you remove the first crust from the oven, prick the second crust again, place in oven and bake, as directed above.

10) To set up for baking topped pizza: After pre-baking the crust is sealed so, if you like, you may remove quarry tiles or pizza stone from oven. If baking 2 pizzas in the same oven, position oven racks to the upper and lower thirds; if using a double oven, use the center rack for each pizza. Preheat oven to 450o F, for at least 1 hour.

11) To assemble the pizzas: Scatter some grated cheese over the interior of the pre-baked crust. Spoon or ladle about 1 cup sauce on top of cheese (not too much or your pizza will be soupy). Spread sauce over crust, stopping just before the rim. Scatter one or more of the suggested toppings over sauce, along with chopped basil leaves. Scatter half of the grated cheese over the top, allowing some of the toppings to be visible through cheese. Drizzle 1 teaspoon fruity olive oil over pizza and then finally top with some sliced pepperoni, if desired. Grind on some fresh black pepper. Repeat with the remaining pizza.

12) To bake and serve completed pizza: Bake pizzas in the hot oven until crust is deeply golden, toppings are piping hot and cheese is bubbling, about 20 minutes. If using the same oven for both pizzas, switch positions of pies after half the baking time for even heat exposure. To serve, insert a baker’s peel under the pizza pan and place the pie on a solid (non-perforated) pizza pan. Slice into wedges using a pizza wheel and serve immediately.

Free-Form Pizzas Baked Directly on Quarry Tiles or a Pizza Stone

Although not necessary, allowing the dough (as described above) to rise for an hour or two at room temperature (especially when baking a free-form raw pizza) contributes to an even lighter texture and also deepens the flavor of the baked crust. You do not need a perforated pizza pan for this method (but you will need a solid one, without holes, for serving) and you do not need to pre-bake the crust before assembling and baking. Position the rack and quarry tiles or pizza stone as directed for pre-baking crusts. When preheating, increase the oven temperature to 550 F (or the highest your oven will go, without activating the broiler). If the dough is chilled, allow it to sit out of the refrigerator (uncovered) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (the top of the dough will develope a slight skin which is good–since this will be inverted as the bottom of the crust, and will help the assembled pizza to release from the peel. Sprinkle a baker’s peel generously with cornmeal and a bit of white flour and rub this into the peel, covering it completely. Place the dough onto the prepared peel (top side down) and stretch dough as directed. Rearrange the thin round, to correct the shape. Brush the interior of dough with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh pepper. Docking is not advised or necessary since the weight of the toppings will prevent dough from swelling underneath. (If applying seeds to the rim, be careful not to let the egg white drip onto the baker’s peel since this will cause dough to stick to the peel.)

Top dough as you would a pre-baked crust, without using too many toppings which will weigh the dough down. Lift the loaded baker’s peel and give it a gentle shake to make sure that the pizza is not stuck. Open oven door and insert peel all the way to the back of the oven. With one swift jerk, remove peel, leaving the pizza on the hot tiles. Bake until golden and bubbling, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove pizza by sliding the peel underneath it and place on a non-perforated pizza pan. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Game Plan for a Pizza Party

The day before serving, prepare a double batch of dough (2 separate dough) and either rise it once at room temperature for 2 hours, then release the gases, turn the dough over in the bowl, and place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight, well covered. You can also divide the dough immediately after assembling and, after shaping into two taut rounds and placing them on separate oiled baking sheets, cover the sheet with well oiled plastic wrap and then with a towel and refrigerate, well covered, several hours or overnight. Make your sauce and grate your cheese. Early the next day, pre-bake 4 crusts and, once cool, let them sit “stacked” at room temperature. A few hours before “show time,” remove the sauce from refrigerator and gather your assorted toppings. 3o minutes to 1 hour before “chow time,” preheat oven and ask your guests “who wants what” on their pizza. Then, assemble and bake away!

Timing is Everything:

  • After the dough completes the first rise at room temperature, it can remain in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before shaping.
  • The sauce can be made well in advance and frozen in small heavy-duty freezer containers.
  • The crusts can be partially pre-baked early in the day and left at room temperature.
  • The toppings can be gathered a couple of hours before assembling pizzas.
  • After pre-baking and cooling the crust, you can either freeze the empty crust or a fully assemble pizza. Wrap both well in aluminum foil. Let an empty crust thaw (wrapped) before topping it and baking. Bake a fully assembled frozen pizza directly from the freezer (unwrapped) on a perforated pizza pan in a preheated 400o F oven until crisp and hot throughout.

Tip: Grating Cheese in a Food Processor

Before adding cheese to the work bowl of a food processor, brush the steel blade lightly with vegetable oil. Cut cheese into small pieces and use the pulsing button to maintain best control. If grating in batches, remove the first batch of grated cheese before adding the next batch. Also, when emptying the work bowl (between batches), check the inside of the steel blade shaft for any stray pieces of cheese (especially the softer types of cheese) and remove them. Otherwise, when you reinsert the blade onto the shaft, the cheese acts like glue and it might be difficult to remove the blade.

Watch the Video. Below are instructions to use pizza dough to make focaccia and grissini!

 Delicious things to do with pizza dough!

Focaccia with Heirloom Tomatoes, Hot Cherry Peppers, Kalamata Olives, Fresh Mozzarella, Garlic and Herbs.

For focaccia, although using unbleached all purpose flour is perfectly fine, I prefer to use OO flour for the lightest texture in focaccia (available in Italian markets). There’s also a very similar product, sold by the name “Italian Style” flour, which is very good. I also like OO flour for grissini. I often use a combo. If making pizza and wanting to make focaccia or grissini the next day, I suggest either using all “all purpose” flour or a combination.

Ingredients:

  • 1 /2 pizza dough, assembled as directed above and fully risen.

 Reminder as to how to assemble the dough:

  • Brush the interior of a 5-quart mixing bowl generously with some of the oil and sprinkle the interior with freshly ground black pepper, if desired. Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water with a pinch of sugar and allow it to become visibly bubbly, about 3 minutes. In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups warm water, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 teaspoons sugar, and a few more grinds of black pepper, if desired. Add the dissolved yeast. Gradually stir in only enough flour, 1 cup at a time, to create a shaggy mass, that’s no longer easily stirred.
  • Use a sturdy rubber spatula to scrape the mass out onto a floured surface and knead it until you’ve created a dough that’s smooth and elastic, adding only as much additional flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Place the dough into the greased bowl and turn it over to coat the exterior with the flavored oil. Cover the bowl with greased plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and set it aside in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. (If time is an issue, you can immediately go to the following step without allowing the dough to rise.)
  • Rub a shallow tray liberally with olive oil. Uncover the dough and deflate it, using several swift swats with the back of your hand. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using your pastry scraper, divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, use your hands to cup, rotate and plump the dough, creating a taut round and place each one, side by side, on the prepared tray. Brush the top lightly with olive oil, as well. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel, then place two large, overlapping and loosely fitting sheets of plastic wrap on top. Refrigerate the dough for 4 to 48 hour

To shape and bake focaccia with pizza dough:

Here (above) one half of the chilled dough is placed onto a sheet of unbleached parchment paper (that’s sitting on a wooden pizza peel—or you can use a flat baking sheet). The paper should first be generously sprayed with olive oil and then sprinkled with a mixture of cornmeal, black pepper and even sesame seeds (optional). As soon as the dough goes onto the parchment, the oven gets preheated to 450F with a pizza stone on the center shelf and, on the rack beneath it, a heavy pan (cast iron or a heavy baking sheet). If you need to omit the pan beneath the stone, this is fine—but the stone is something I highly suggest for the best texture.

After correcting the round shape of the dough, you’ll brush the top and sides with a fresh-herb-garlic-oil (olive oil, minced garlic, black pepper, red pepper flakes and an assortment of herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage (not basil which turns black) and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours, uncovered, for a well-chilled pizza dough. The oven should be well preheated. After rising for 30 minutes, instead of poking the dough (to give a focaccia a traditional dimpled look), you’ll plant halved heirloom cherry tomatoes (cut sides up) and I also added pitted olives, fresh mozzarella cheese and some sliced cherry peppers. This is all about having fun—working with what you have and “playing” with the design. Brush the embellishments with the garlic oil, then let the dough continue to rise, uncovered until very billowy (1 ½ hours should be enough). Brush once more with the oil, give the top a light application of Kosher salt and black pepper and then slide the dough onto a hot pizza stone (with steam) –meaning add a cup of ice cubes with a small amount of water into the pan that sits beneath the pizza stone)—then add the dough on the parchment—and bake for 18 to 20 minutes (18 is best if using a convection mode). Then, I opened the oven and carefully sprinkled the top with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and baked for another 3 or 5 minutes (3 is best with convection).

Remove the focaccia to a wire rack and immediately brush the top and sides with more of the garlic-herb-oil. Allow the bread to cool to just warm before cutting into wedges and enjoying.

For grissini: Per each half of pizza dough: 14 to 16 grissini (12 to 14 inches long)

Use 1/2 pizza dough: Chill the dough after assembling (or after an initial rise) then (using one half of the dough) cut into small portions. Roll each into a thin rope (using finely ground semolina sprinkled on the work surface. Let rise on parchment or (preferably) on a silicon baking mat sprinkled with semolina (you’ll need two large baking sheets to accommodate all of the grissini-if only one is available, keep one half of the dough, uncut, in the refrigerator). If, after shaping the first sheet pan of grissini, you see some are a bit chubbier than others, one by one, lift them off of the sheet and gently reroll to elongate and correct shape (you can sprinkle the work surface a bit more semolina, to help the strands keep from sticking).  Brush with a garlic-herb-olive oil mixture (the same as used for the focaccia), sprinkle the top with pepper and shredded Parmesan and bake in a preheated 375F oven for about 18 to 20 (rotate the pan during baking) and then allow to sit in a turned off for 10 to 13 minutes or until light golden brown but not overly dark. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. Serve standing up in a tall glass or vase—or laying down in a basket (traditionally, in northern Italy, grissini is served simply placed directly on the table cloth). If any of the grissini feel at all squishy, put them back in the turned off oven to allow them to dry. (For sesame grissini, shape the same way, but after the strands are thin, sprinkle the work surface with some seeds and a bit more semolina and continue to roll so that some of the seeds sink into the surface of the dough (roll gently). Once shaped and on their sheets, brush the surface with some egg white glaze (1 egg white beaten with a fork and a small splash of water and then strained into another bowl). Sprinkle the tops of the strands with more seeds and some Kosher salt. Bake as directed above.

Optional glaze for seeded topping: brush the grissini with egg white mixed with a bit of water and then strained. Seed the top with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc. Bake as described. Those grissini that are simply seeded might need to be baked a bit less since the cheese on the first variation is insulating—go for color and texture.

Note: Drying time will largely depend on the girth of each grissini—so, once the correct color is achieved, let dry as long as needed, checking after 10 minutes.  Very thin grissini will not need to bake or dry as long—and will need to be removed early so that they don’t taste bitter or get overly hard.

 

Comments (7)

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