If you’ve read any of my previous ramblings you’ve probably surmised by now that I like to make bread and pizza. Leavened dough products, in my opinion, should really be listed in their own food group. Pizza is a great way to utilize what you have in the fridge (or freezer). Unfortunately, I believe people are under the impression that making yeast dough is both labor intensive and time consuming. It can be, of course, but it needn’t be. If you make it enough, and get comfortable enough with it, you really can work it into the rhythm of your day.
When I make bread or pizza (or both) I usually double it, meaning I make enough dough for either either two loaves of bread, or 1 loaf and 1 pizza. There are plenty of recipes available, but pizza dough is basically a simple bread dough. This is basically the one that I use. If you are making pizza with this recipe alter the directions accordingly. If you have your own recipe for pizza dough that is just as well. Following the recipe are photos of the bread and pizza that I made using this recipe. Enjoy.
Makes 2 loaves
2-1/3 cups water
4 teaspoons instant yeast
6 cups unbleached bread flour, divided
2 teaspoons fine-grained sea salt
2 tablespoons cornmeal
In a large bowl combine the water, yeast, and 2 cups of the flour; stir until it forms a thick batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the sponge to ferment at room temperature for 2-8 hours.
Add the salt and the remaining 4 cups of flour to the sponge, and using a wooden spoon stir the dough until it is thick enough to handle. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead it for 8-10 minutes by pushing it away from you and folding it back towards you. If the dough is too sticky dust your hands with the smallest amount of flour (too much additional flour kneaded into the dough will yield a heavy and dense loaf). The dough will eventually become smooth and supple; it will be able to stretch easily without tearing.
Place the dough in a clean bowl that is large enough to allow it to rise and set the bowl on the middle rack of your oven (DO NOT TURN ON THE OVEN). Place a small pan of hot water on the oven floor to create steam and warmth (with an electric oven the pan of water may have to be placed on an oven rack). With the oven door closed, allow the dough to ferment for 2 hours. The dough will double in size and become light and airy. For a more flavorful bread, and if time allows, deflate the dough and allow it to rise again, for an additional hour.
After the dough has risen once or twice, deflate it and turn it out onto a work surface. Cut the dough into two even pieces and shape them into round smooth balls. Sprinkle the cornmeal across a baking sheet and place the dough balls on the baking sheet, making sure that any seams that occurred during shaping remain on the bottom. For a more rustic-looking loaf dust each loaf of bread with an additional tablespoon or two of flour. Place the baking sheet in the oven (DO NOT TURN ON THE OVEN), and again place a pan of hot water on the oven floor. Allow the dough to rise for approximately 1 hour; it will have doubled in size, feel light for its size, and when two fingers gently press the dough the indentations remain and do not spring back.
Gently remove the pan of breads from the oven and set it on the counter; leave the pan of water in the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a sharp knife, quickly but gently slash the tops of the breads. Place the pan with the breads on the middle rack in the preheated oven. Within the first 10 minutes the bread will rise considerably (this is referred to as “oven spring”). Bake the breads at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes (if the bread is browning unevenly the pan may need to be rotated once or twice), then remove the pan of water from the oven floor and lower the heat in the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the bread at this temperature for an additional 25-30 minutes.
The bread is cooked when the crust is crisp and a deep brown color, and it sounds hollow when tapped; an internal temperature will read approximately 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that all ovens are different and that breads bake at various rates depending on the accuracy of the oven.
Gently remove the loaves from the pan and place them on a wire rack to cool, or lacking a wire rack rest the bread on several layers of kitchen towels. Allow the bread to cool for 20 minutes before slicing. Store the cooled bread at room temperature or in a freezer; refrigerated bread increases the rate at which bread stales.
Now here it is in photos:
Mix together some of the flour, water, and yeast; allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes, but as long as 18 hours.
Here it is after a couple hours. Note the bubbly, spongy consistency…hence it’s name, sponge.
Transfer the sponge to a mixing bowl with a dough attachment, add the remaining ingredients, and mix on medium for about 8 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead by hand for a minute or two (this step is optional, but I enjoy it).
A simple way to tell that the dough has been kneaded enough is to give it the window pane test, meaning stretch it between you fingers to check for its elasticity…if the gluten in the dough is not developed enough it will tear or rip easily; if it is developed enough it will stretch without tearing.
Shape the dough into a ball, place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it, and allow it to rest for an hour or two.
Here it is after 1 1/2 hours.
A simple way to tell if it has risen enough is to gently press the dough with a finger or two…if the indentations spring needs to rise more, if the indentations remain then it is ready. Note the two indentations in the the bottom-right of the photo.
While the dough was rising I prepared the pizza’s topping: salmon, tomato sauce, broccoli, and cheese (items I found in my freezer).
With any pizza topping a key thing is to make sure the ingredients are not to wet, or you will end up with a sloppy pizza. For this reason make sure that you cook the moisture out of frozen vegetables. Note the minced garlic waiting to be added to the pan (I put garlic in nearly everything).
Remove the dough from the bowl, cut it into two pieces. Shape one into a loaf and put it in a bread pan, put the other one on a oiled pizza pan and push it flat.
Rub the dough with oil, then layer on your ingredients.
Add cheese; I used white cheddar, mozzarella, and Romano.
Bake it in a 450F degree oven for about 20 minute. If you have a pizza stone bake it directly on the stone for the last 10 minutes (this will make the crust nice and crispy).
By the time the pizza is done the bread should be ready to go into the oven.
Bake the bread for about 1/2 hour. Here’s the finished product…beautiful, if I do say so myself.