Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: A Study in Three Pizzas

For the last three nights, I’ve had pizza for dinner. Each one has been an experimental palette and a test of physical ability. I have learned that tossing a pizza into the air must be a special art.

This month’s Daring Baker challenge was simple at first glance. Make a pizza. I’ve done that many times using different recipes, so how difficult or daring would this challenge really be? But wait. The rules stated that we needed to use the recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Bakers Apprentice. Fine, I have that book and the recipe seems straight forward enough. But wait again. What’s this? We have to toss the pizza? And photograph the act of tossing? Well, that definitely is a daring challenge. My tossing skills were untested and my photographer was across the country. Maybe I should just sit this one out. Maybe.

I pondered this challenge for most of the month. Finally, I decided that I was no wimp, so I went ahead with the challenge, halving the recipe so I would only ruin 3 pizzas instead of 6. So, I made the pizza dough on Saturday in preparation for creating three pizzas in as many days.

The second part of the challenge was more, uh, challenging -- photographing the toss. My kindly neighbor, who is the happy recipient of much of my baking, volunteered to be the photographer. Do you know how difficult it is to photograph a tossing pizza when both people are laughing hysterically? Because one person doesn’t know how to toss and the other doesn’t know how to use the camera?

So, one photo was too low.

One photo was too high.

One caught the aftermath.

It was exhausting.

In all fairness, I only did the photographs on the first night, so you’ll just have to accept my word that I tossed the pizza on the following two nights. All you have to do is look at the shape, though, to verify that.

Pizza #1: The first pizza, on Sunday night, was one of my most favorite flavor combinations. I carmelized onions and pears, laid them on the crust, and sprinkled toasted hazelnuts and gorgonzola cheese on top. I baked the pizza on the back of a sheet pan. When it came out of the oven, I topped the pizza with greens that had been tossed with a gorgonzola ranch dressing. It was really good, but the crust was a bit soft on the bottom.

Pizza #2: Monday night. I tried the tossing bit again with disastrous results. During the final toss, the pizza sort of folded in on itself, leaving me with a long strip of pizza that had a pleat in the middle. No effort on my part could get that pleat out there, so I baked it the way it was. This pizza was topped with a thin layer of pizza sauce, kalamata olives, and feta cheese. I also cooked it directly on the heated pizza stone, although as I tried to slide it on the stone, it decided to stick and fold over on itself in places. This was one frustrating pizza, although it ended up with a nice toasty crust and tasted surprisingly good.

Pizza #3: Tuesday night. The last pizza. The tosses were better this time and I quit while I was ahead, before it crumpled in on itself. I spread a thin layer of caesar dressing over the dough, followed by a grated cheese mixture, and sauteed chicken pieces. I baked this one on the stone as well, only left it on parchment paper because, again, it wouldn’t slide off. (Note to self: invest in a peel.) The crust came out nicely again, and I topped the finished pizza with a caesar-salad type mixture. It may have been my favorite.

So, in the end, this Daring Baker challenge was challenging and fulfilling (and filling). Thanks to Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums, and her co-conspirators, Sher (may she rest in peace) and Glenna (A Fridge Full of Food), for creating an interesting challenge. I tossed, ate good pizza, and didn’t break the camera.

There are at least 1000 or so Daring Pizza Makers out in the universe, so when you have a moment to spare, take a look at their creations.


~Amber~ said...

Your pizzas look delicious. Great flavor combinations.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Funny how some times just the simplest of pizzas are so good.
Love all the tossing!

Engineer Baker said...

Wow, your favorite might become my new favorite. It looks delicious! And kudos on persevering to try and catch the tossing - I gave up :)

Megan said...

The pizza with the kalamata olives looks heart shaped!

I agree, this was the best tasting dough I've ever made. I was just munching on a slice of focaccia with my salad for lunch!!

Anonymous said...

The tossing thing definitely takes perseverance -- good for you for keeping at it. All topping combos are fabulous!

NKP said...

I think your tossing looks very professional! I didn't get much lift, more like little hops, I am a wimp.
I love your pizzas, especially the last one.

Di said...

The chicken caesar pizza sounds delicious! And all three look great, despite the difficulties you had with the dough.

Tammy said...

Grat tossing! Pizza #2 is my pick!

Heather B said...

All of your pizzas look delicious! Great job!

ostwestwind said...

Great tossing and beautiful looking pizzas.

Ulrike from Küchenlatein

TeaLady said...

And I thought pizza had to have tomatoes, cheese and mushrooms on them. Silly me!! Great pizzas.

Glenna said...

So, is that hole-y pizza or HOLY pizza? Love that you guys had so much fun tossing and photographing and your pizzas look wonderful@!