I am, as you may have noticed, powerfully obsessed with pizza. The quest for the perfect pizza recipe is one that has dogged me my entire cooking life. I’ve made so many pizza dough variations that I’ve now lost track. Beer, semolina, all purpose flour, high gluten flour, whole grain flour, extra virgin olive oil, spices, and other various and sundry items have all made appearances and/or been omitted from my work in progress.
In pursuit of my holy pizza grail I recently purchased the book, “My American Pie” by Peter Reinhart.
For those who are not familiar with Peter Reinhart by name you might recognize the titles of some of the culinary bibles he’s written: “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” and “Brother Juniper’ Bread Book”, among others. In “My American Pie”, henceforth referred to here by MAP, he proves that I am not the only pizza obsessive in this great land of ours. The book is a combination of describing his desire to make “the perfect pizza”, his attempts to do so and the resulting recipes.
Stay with me, because it’s going to seem like I’m going off topic for a minute. I promise it’ll all come together like a good dough!
Tonight is the finale of this season of “Top Chef”. I am almost as fixated on this show as I am on pizza. Because the food the chefs make on the show is so stellar and because I have an active imagination that stops just shy of me being able to actually taste what they’ve made over t.v. we absolutely need to have a top drawer, showstopper of a meal. The same principle applies to watching “Iron Chef”, “Eat Drink Man Woman”, “Babette’s Feast” and other spectacular visual food media. I made the mistake of having hot dogs one night when watching “Iron Chef America”. I felt so deprived I was downright surly until later that week when my husband took me to our favorite restaurant.
And this is why tonight’s dinner will feature a grilled pizza dough throwdown of epic proportions. (I told you it would come back ’round.) I am testing two different doughs. One of them is ounce for ounce from Peter Reinhart. The other is my variation on his theme. I am a sucker for anything semolina so I’m trying most of Reinhart’s basic proportions with a semolina twist.
The first thing I noticed while mixing up the two doughs was that there was not a major difference in the tactile sense. My semolina dough was perhaps negligibly stiffer than Reinhart’s dough. They were both supple and tacky without being sticky. They both passed the windowpane test. The dough is allowed a rest that is longer than most home cooks are accustomed to using but is so very worth it. Once you’ve had slow-risen pizza dough it’s difficult to go back.
As for preparation, we will be grilling the pies with identical toppings; – purists should now look away- various combinations of mozzarella, Romano, gorgonzola, tomato sauce, bacon, ham, anchovies, artichoke hearts and spicy garlic oil.
In the interest of supporting Peter Reinhart’s right to make a living I will not be reprinting his recipe here. I will, however, give you my recipe down to the last grain of flour. Those of you who own Peter Reinhart’s book are welcome to join in the festivities and try both recipes then weigh in with your judgement. Those of you without the book are invited to try my dough recipe and tell me what you think!
Because both Mr. Reinhart’s dough and mine improve with an overnight rise I’ll give you the dough recipe tonight…
Semolina Grilled Pizza Dough
Yield: 6 dough balls of 1/2 lb each
4 1/3 cups good quality all purpose flour (I recommend King Arthur Flour)
2/3 cup fine ground semolina flour
3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 2 teaspoons table salt)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1. If using a 4-quart or larger stand mixer, fit it with the dough hook, add all ingredients to the bowl and mix on low speed for up to 4 minutes, or until it forms a loose ball that comes away from the sides and bottom of the bowl. If necessary, you can add flour or water by the tablespoon to get the dough to adhere to itself instead of the bowl. Don’t get crazy adding flour and water, though. The goal here is not slop or concrete, but a supple dough.
*One helpful hint from Reinhart recipe is that if mixing by hand, use a large wooden or metal spoon to stir ingredients until a shaggy dough forms. He says, “Repeatedly dip one of your hands or the spoon into room-temperature water and use it much like a dough hook, working the dough vigorously as you rotate the bowl with your other hand.” Mix for four minutes or until dough passes windowpane test.
2. When your dough is formed, whether mixing by hand or by machine, transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle flour sparingly over the surface of the dough, cover with a clean tea towel and let rest for 15 minutes.
3. After 15 minutes, knead the dough by hand for up to 4 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, supple and slightly tacky, but not stick-to-the-counter sticky.
4. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Form each piece into a smooth ball by rolling on the counter top. Drizzle a little olive oil over each ball and rub gently to coat. Put each dough ball into its own zip top bag and pour about 1 teaspoon of oil into the bag. Seal bags.
5. Allow dough to rest in bags at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate the balls for at least three hours. Overnight is better!
6. You can either freeze your dough for up to 3 months at this point or remove it from fridge at least 2 hours prior to cooking so that they can come to room temperature.
…Tomorrow we’ll go over preparing the pizza!