Sunday, May 24, 2009

Daily Dinner: Pizza Bianca with Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Basil

I love watching cooking shows.  One of my favorites is "America's Test Kitchen", which airs on my local PBS station.  I love this show, because they frequently take "tried and true" recipes and redo them to make them better (at least in their eyes).  Invariably, I want to make and eat whatever they are making...and right away, too.  The other day I was watching the show while folding clothes and straightening up the bedroom, and they made pizza bianca, with the goal of having a thicker, chewy inside, with a slightly crunchy crust.

The dough for the pizza is really easy to make - it requires no kneading, but does require a mixer, either a stand or handheld, and a dough hook/attachment.  It is an extremely wet dough, and requires a couple of hours of rising time.  The "standard" topping for pizza bianca is just salt, olive oil, and fresh rosemary.  I was looking for a more substantial meal, so I went with the tomato and mozzarella topping, and added basil.

For the pizza
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (15 ounces)
1 2/3 cups water (13 1/2 ounces), room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt 
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast 
1 1/4 teaspoons sugar 
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Topping
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (6 ounces)
Several basil leaves

1.  Mix the flour, water, and table salt in a mixing bowl.  If you are using a stand mixer, mix them in the mixer bowl.  ATK also recommends putting a towel or something other liner underneath the stand mixer to prevent wobbling.  I would recommend that you measure out the ingredients by weight, rather than cup or ounce.  Mix the flour, water, and salt with the dough hook on low speed.  Mix until no dry flour remains - you will need to scrape the sides and especially the bottom of the bowl frequently to accomplish this.  The recipe says that this will take 3-4 minutes, but this easily took me 10 minutes.  Let the dough rest in the mixer bowl for 20 minutes.

2.  Sprinkle the instant yeast and sugar over the dough.  Do not use active dry yeast (found in the little packets).  Mix the dough on low speed for about 1-2 minutes, continually scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Increase the speed to high, and knead until dough is glossy and smooth, and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  The recipe calls for 6-10 minutes, but this took me at least 15 minutes.  The pulling away from the side will be very subtle, and the dough will fall back to the sides when the mixer is off.

3.  Use your fingers to coat a large bowl (a clear one works best) with olive oil.  The recipe calls from 1 Tbsp, but I think 1 tsp would suffice.  Rub the extra oil from your fingers onto a rubber spatula, and then use the spatula to transfer the pizza dough to the bowl.  Add another teaspoon (1 Tbsp according to the recipe) to the top of the dough, and flip the dough over.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise at room temperature until nearly tripled in volume, and large bubbles have formed.  This will take approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

4.  One hour before you want to start baking the pizza, move the oven rack to the middle, and place a pizza stone on the rack.  Begin preheating the oven to 450 degrees F.

5.  About 30 minutes before you want to start baking, place the can of crushed tomatoes into a fine-mesh strainer, and set the strainer over a medium bowl.  Let the tomatoes sit for 30 minutes, stirring a few times to help drain the juice.  Combine 3/4 cup of the drained tomatoes with 1 Tbsp of olive oil, and 1/8 tsp of kosher salt.  Here again, I think you can cut back on the oil to maybe 1-2 tsps.

6.  Prepare the other topping ingredients: shred the mozzarella if using fresh mozzarella, and chiffonade the basil.  I recommend fresh mozzarella to pre-packaged, and briefly freezing the mozzarella will help with the shredding.  To chiffonade the basil: wrap several leaves tightly into a "cigar", and then cut the roll iacross in thin strips.

7.  Once the dough has finished rising, coat a rimmed baking sheet with approximately 1 Tbsp of oil (the recipe calls for 2 Tbsps).  Use a rubber spatula to turn the risen dough onto the baking sheet.  Use your fingertips to press the dought out towards the edges of the pan.  Be careful not to ear it.  (Note from ATK: Dought will not fit snugly into corners.  If dough resists stretching, let it relax for 5 to 10 minutes before trying to stretch again).

8.  Let the dough rest in the pan for about 5 to 10 minutes, until it is slightly bubbly.  I didn't notice any huge difference in bubbliness after I let it rest in the pan.  Use a fork to dock the dough about 30 to 40 times, and sprinkle the top with kosher salt.  I used a plastic fork so as not to scratch my pan, and I forgot the kosher salt, and everything turned out okay.

9.  Put the pan on top of the pizza stone, and bake until the top is "spotty brown", about 15 to 17 minutes.  Mine was not really spotty brown - I just baked it until the edges started to brown.  Rotate the sheet halfway through baking.

10.  Remove the pizza from the oven, and spread the tomato mixture evenly over the surface.  I didn't use all of mine - it is important to spread it lightly than use it all up.  Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella evenly over the top of the tomato mixture, and then sprinkle the basil chiffonade evenly over the cheese. 

11.  Put the pizza back into the oven, and continue to bake until the cheese begins to brown.  The recipe says 5 to 10 minutes, but I didn't bother to time this - I just kept an eye on the cheese, and took it out when I was happy with the way it looked.  You may prefer a more or less melted cheese, so change this time to your liking.

This pizza was pretty good, but I thought it was a bit too oily (hence all of the oil reductions).  I think the crust is really good - nice and chewy on the inside, but also very light.  The crisp top and bottom is a really nice complement to the inside.


ashley May 24, 2009 at 10:59 PM  

wow jenn! looks yummy!

AppGal May 25, 2009 at 8:52 AM  

oh my GOSH! This looks amazing. I make homemade pizza quite often. It's so much cheaper and better for you! My favorite way to make it is with a pesto base...then loaded on top with veggies. YUM.

KatyO. May 25, 2009 at 3:09 PM  

Yummmmmm... I haven't made pizza in forever. I think I'll get on that error this week. Like AppGal, I too like a pesto base, but with chopped tomatoes and feta on top. I also do one that's vegan with artichokes, spinach, and corn, and standard margherita as well. :) Thanks for the new recipe!

Anonymous May 26, 2009 at 3:42 PM  

Oh that looks so good! I think I'll try this on Friday. Thanks for sharing a great recipe!

JTS May 26, 2009 at 9:09 PM  

@Ashley - thank you! :)

@AppGal - Oooh, that sounds like a good combo - the BF would love that, I will have to try it!

@KatyO - I haven't made pizza in forever before this either - all the stretching, and the pie always comes out weird shaped. I love corn on pizza!

@Stephanie - Thank you - let me know how it turns out! :)