Monday, March 8, 2010

Focaccia and Pizza (from the same dough)

Last week, I went to the dry run of Leslie's Rustic Italian Baking class. I came back with a pizza dough and a new found inspiration for baking yeast breads. My first baking discovery, was a complete accident. We didn't need a pizza for dinner. What we needed was bread and unfortunately, I forgot to buy it. So on a whim, I gave the pizza dough a rise, shaped into focaccia, proofed and voila -- it produced a very respectable focaccia. After 5 more batches, the results were much more than respectable. They were simply transcendent. When experimenting with breads, you can only change one small thing in each batch. I consider myself extremely lucky that it only took 5 batches to achieve exactly what I wanted. Normally, it takes me closer to 20.

What's so cool about making 2 completely different breads out of the same dough is that you can see what all that manipulation of time and temperature is about. For a pizza, all the dough needs is 1 rise. For focaccia, you'll get best results with 2 rises and a proof (one more rise after the dough is already shaped). This gives the dough more flavor and chew.

Notes about Ingredients and How to Measure them

The ingredients for rustic breads are as simple as it gets: flour, salt, yeast, water (and sometimes a little sugar and oil). Yet, even the smallest variations in proportions can result in a completely different finished product. Here are the ingredients you'll need to buy, and how to measure them to make sure that you start your baking experiments on the right foot.

I use unbleached all-purpose flour from King Arthur. Gold Medal and Pillsbury will be close enough, but don't buy generic brand flour since its protein content is untested and will produce unpredictable results. If you found a 3 year old flour in the back of your cupboard, do yourself and favor and buy a new bag. Flour is perishable and I don't recommend using it more than a year after opening. This recipe also calls for a small amount of Whole Wheat Flour. I use King Arthur for that too.

Another important thing to learn about flour is how to measure it correctly. For the purposes of this recipe, a cup of flour weighs 5 oz. I strongly recommend that you get yourself a cheapy digital scale and weigh your flour. Your 5 ounces will be exactly the same as my 5 ounces. But your cup can vary from my cup by as much as 25% even if you use exactly the same technique of scoop and level. This is due to the differences in container size, fluffiness of flour, and whims of the baking gods. Note that "spoon and level" method is supposed to approximate 4.5oz cup and no one in US agrees on what exactly a cup of flour is.

The word "yeast" usually scares the hell our of home bakers, but these days yeast is as easy to work with as salt or sugar. This recipe calls for SAF instant yeast. You can buy it at most Whole Foods. After opening, transfer it to a jar, look up the expiration date on the package and write it on your jar (it usually lasts for several years). Then store in the fridge and you never have to worry about working with dead yeast. There is no need to bloom this yeast in water like you would active dry yeast. Just add it straight to your dry ingredients.

I use Diamond Crystal Kosher salt. It's available in most supermarkets, except for Whole Foods. Note that Morton's Kosher salt doesn't dissolve as well in baked goods. You can use table salt, but you'll have to adjust the proportions. 1 tsp Diamond Crystal Kosher salt = between 1/2 and 2/3 tsp table salt.

Measure water in a glass measuring cup. Set it on the counter, then get down until your eyes are on the same level as the line to which you are measuring. In other words, if you want to get 1 cup of water, your eyes should be level with 1 cup mark. Water curves up at the sides of the cup to form a meniscus. Make sure the bottom of the meniscus is at the measurement line (it will appear as if some water is actually above the line). You can also weigh the water if you got yourself a scale for weighing flour. Then you don't have to worry about meniscus. Use an instant read thermometer to make sure the water is the temperature specified in the recipe (too cold and the yeast will have a hard time waking up; too hot and you might kill it).

Notes about Equipment
None of this stuff is expensive, but it's not always found in everyone's kitchen. Before you get started make sure you have:
  • an instant read thermometer (digital is a lot easier to read)
  • a scale (digital is a lot easier to read)
  • a pizza stone (rectangular works best)
  • pastry scraper / dough cutter (not necessary, but comes in very handy)
  • parchment paper
  • large mixing bowl, rimmed baking sheet, and mixing spoons are also handy
  • for pizza, you'll need a peel or a rimless baking sheet (but an inverted rimmed sheet will do in a pinch)
Stage 1: Making the dough
This amount of dough produces 4 pizzas (each one serves 1-2 people), or 2 focaccias

For mixing the dough:
16.25 oz (462 g) unbleached all-purpose flour (3 1/4 cup)
1.25 oz (36 g) whole wheat flour (1/4 cup)
4 tsp Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (or 2 1/2 tsp table salt)
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp SAF instant yeast
13.85 oz (392 g) water (80-90F) (1 2/3 cup)
2 tsp olive oil

For kneading:
1.25 oz (36 g) unbleached all-purpose flour (1/4 cup)

By hand method:
In a large bowl, mix together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. Make a well in the center and add the water and olive oil. Mix with a fork or a rubber spatula being careful to keep the wet dough in the center and the flour on the outside. When a rough ball forms switch to kneading with your hand. Keep one hand clean and dry for rotating the bowl. To knead, fold the dough in half towards you, press together gently and rotate the bowl 90 degrees (both clockwise and counter clockwise work fine as long as you stick with one or the other). Knead until all the flour is absorbed. The dough will be very sticky.

When kneading gets too hard, you can sprinkle a little bit of flour into the bowl under the dough. But make sure you are disciplined with how much you use. Measure out 1.25 oz (1/4 cup) and don't let yourself go over that amount. If possible try not to use it all. The more you knead, the more elastic the dough will get and eventually it will stick to itself more than the bowl and will begin clearing it. The wetter your dough the nicer holes you'll get in the finished product.

Once you are clearing the bowl with no problems, you can switch to kneading on the counter. This opens more kneading options (like whacking the dough on the counter and folding it away from you, then rotating 90 degrees). This rough handling helps develop gluten giving your dough more structure and chew. Whichever way you knead, do it quickly. If the dough sits on the counter or in a bowl for even a couple of seconds it will start to stick.

Over-kneading by hand is impossible, so err on the side of too much than too little. If you are not very experienced with breads, knead for at least 15 minutes (even 20). If you are very good at kneading, 8 minutes might be all you need. Judging when the dough is kneaded enough is hard for beginner bakers. It will get smooth and silky and very elastic. If you press your finger into it, the indentation will fill immediately. Until you get a good feel for these things, just give your dough 15-20 minutes of energetic kneading and don't worry about it.

Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl (4 quart or larger) and cover with plastic wrap. Ideally, you want a bowl that is not too wide.

By machine method:
You can make this dough in a stand up mixer. The measurements are the same as by hand with 2 modifications:
  • increase all-purpose flour to 16.85 oz. That's adding about half of the flour we reserved for kneading by hand that can be added right up front when using a mixer.
  • lower the temperature of the water to 55-60F since the mixers tend to heat the dough. You don't want to end up with a very warm dough in the end of kneading or your first rise will happen too quickly, which won't result in adequate flavor and texture development.
Mix dry ingredients together using a paddle attachments on low speed (2 on KitchenAid), add wet and continue mixing on low speed until no dry flour remains. Switch to a dough hook and mix for 10-20 seconds until dough forms. Crank up the speed to medium (4 on Kitchen Aid) and mix for 5 minutes. After a few minutes of mixing, the dough should clear the sides, but stick to the bottom of the bowl. Stop the mixer, rearrange the dough and mix on medium (4 on KitchenAid) another 5 minutes. In the end the dough should be clearing the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Stage 2: Rising

Rising is best done at low room temperature of about 70F. Of course, you don't always have control over that, but don't try to stick your dough next to a radiator or some other warm place. That comes in handy for proofing (final rise after the dough is already shaped), but not for rising. The lower the temperature, the more flavor you'll develop. You can't speed up the rising process, but you can always slow it down and eventually stop it if it's more convenient to proceed the next day. To do that, put the dough in the fridge. It will continue to rise for a few hours (since it doesn't immediately cool down), but will eventually stop.

For pizza:
If you want to make pizza, you only need one rise of about 2 hours at room temperature or until the dough doubles. If you want to bake it the next day, let the dough rise for 30-45 minutes at room temperature and move it to the fridge. Then proceed to shaping and baking instructions.
For focaccia:
While you can get away with just one rise for focaccia, it can really benefit from 2 rises. This gives it more flavor and chew. During each rise, the dough should at least double in volume (ideally, triple on the first rise). Each rise takes about 2 hours at room temperature assuming the dough wasn't just removed from the fridge when the rise starts (in which case it will take about 3 hours). Unless you are home all day, it's most practical to make the first rise overnight. Let the dough rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour at room temp (until it's about one and a half times the original volume) and move it to the fridge until the next day.

To deflate the dough after the first rise, sprinkle the work surface lightly with flour. Turn the bowl upside down and let the dough drop. Stretch it into a rectangle, then fold into thirds. Don't be afraid to pop the bubbles at this stage. Return the dough to an oiled boil, cover with plastic and let rise again until doubled.

Stage 3: Pre-heating the oven, shaping and baking

For pizza:
If the dough was refrigerated, remove it from the fridge 30-60 minutes before baking.
Set the rack on the lowest setting in your oven (a few inches above the oven floor). Place a pizza stone on it and turn the oven to 500F. Pre-heat for 30 minutes.

10 minutes before you are ready to bake, shape the pizzas. Prepare 4 pieces of parchment paper about 12x12 inches. Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Stretch each one with floured hands or roll it with a floured rolling pin on floured surface into a rough circle (don't worry if it's not really round). Try to get it as thin as possible without tearing it (about 1/8 inch thick). If it tears, just smoosh the torn part together. Place each pizza on a piece of parchment paper. Top with sauce and toppings (ending with cheese if using). Remember that less is more here (go very easy on the sauce and toppings).

You'll need to bake these pizzas one at a time, but they bake fast. Slide a peel or a rimless baking sheet (if you don't have either, use inverted baking sheet) under the parchment paper and slide the parchment paper onto the pizza stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the bottom is crusty enough to your liking. Slide the parchment paper back onto a peel or baking sheet and proceed with the other pizzas.

For focaccia:
Focaccia is a lot thicker and ideally bubblier than pizza (with more nooks, crannies, and holes in it's crumb). The second rise contributes to that, but so does the proof (a final rise that happens after the dough is shaped.

An hour before your are ready to bake, prepare 2 large rimmed baking sheets by placing a piece of parchment on them, and drizzling each with 1 Tbsp of olive oil (2 Tbsp total). Spread it around with your fingers into a circle about 10 inches in diameter. Cut the dough in half and place halves on the 2 sheets. Oil your fingers and stretch the dough gently into rough circles about 10 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick (don't worry if they are not really round).

Drizzle each dough with 1 Tbsp olive oil (2 Tbsp total). Cover with plastic wrap (try to stretch it over the sides of the sheets so that it doesn't cling to the dough too much. Let rise for 1 hour.

30 minutes before you are ready to bake, set the rack on the lowest setting in your oven (a few inches above the oven floor). Place a pizza stone on it and turn the oven to 500F. Pre-heat for 30 minutes. I usually place the breads near the oven to help them proof.

When the focaccias get visibly puffy (about 1 hour of proofing), remove the plastic wrap, sprinkle them with fresh rosemary leaves (or toppings of your choice), and use an oiled finger to dimple it. You don't need to be gentle. Push your finger all the way to the baking sheet and make these holes at about 2 inch intervals.

Place the baking sheets (one at a time) on the pizza stone and bake 13-16 minutes or until focaccia is deep golden brown, rotating the baking sheet 180 degrees after the first 7 minutes.

As soon as focaccias come out of the oven, drizzle each one with an additional 1 Tbsp olive oil (2 Tbsp total). If you are using oily or cheesy toppings, skip this extra oil. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool at least 10 minutes before cutting.

Dividing the dough to bake on different days:
Once the dough is kneaded, it can be divided, and put through rising and shaping on different days.

Pre-portioned pizza dough can also be frozen very successfully. It's especially convenient to let it do the rise, then deflate, divide, and freeze in oiled zip lock bags. A day before you are ready to bake, move the pizza dough to the fridge to start defrosting.


jmisgro said...

I love to bake bread. Your recipes is almost the same as mine but I add the salt with the flour because I read that the salt added with the yeast can mess up the rise. Don't know if it's true!
I love King Arthur flour! It's the best and totally worth the price. It used to go on sale quite a bit when I lived in Pennsylvania. I also agree about the salt. It was hard for me to find it!
I am glad that you enjoyed your class!!

Helen said...

about salt killing the yeast -- it depends on what yeast you use. For instant yeast, it's not a problem. However, some bakers, like Rose Beranbaum (the author of Bread Bible), asks you to mix flour with yeast first and then add the salt. I tried it both ways, and it doesn't make a difference as long as you mix the dry ingredients thoroughly before adding wet. Keep in mind that active dry yeast is a very different thing from instant yeast. It needs to be mixed with water before using and yes, you don't want salt touching it directly.

Objectivist said...

Hi Helen,

Here's a talk I'm sure you'll enjoy.

Kake said...

If you measure your water in millilitres instead of fluid ounces, you can just weigh it — 1 ml of water is 1 gram, by definition.

Helen said...

Hi Kake,

You are absolutely right. Weighing the water is a lot easier since you don't have to worry about meniscus and all that stuff. I'll add the weight for water to the recipe.


Ed Schenk said...

I just finished baking using a wild yeast starter. I was surprised how wll it worked. As I did the windowpane test I thought about making the dough into a pizza. As it happened I made a great loaf of delicious bread. Next time for the Pizza!

Helen said...

Hi Ed,

Congrats on your loaf! Can you tell me more about your wild yeast starter? Do you make it yourself and how? How much do you use instead of instant yeast?


Julia said...

HI Helen,

Is it okay to use all-purpose flour and no whole wheat flour? And what will happen if you use old flour?

What happens if you let your dough rise for too long?

Helen said...

Julia just sent me a few good questions about this post, but for some reason they are not showing up here even after I tried to approve. So I'll post them myself with my answers:

Q: Is it okay to use all-purpose flour and no whole wheat flour?
A: Yes, just substitute all-purpose for whole wheat in the same quantity.

Q: And what will happen if you use old flour?
A: I have never experienced it first hand because I go through flour too quickly to find out, but here is what Rose Beranbaum has to say about this in the Bread Bible: "As flour ages, it loses its strength. If it isn't stored air tight, it will absorb air in a humid environment or dry out in a dry environment." Basically, your results will be unpredictable and you might end up with a very dense crumb (no holes).

Q: What happens if you let your dough rise for too long?
A: if you let it triple instead of double, nothing bad will happen. It will probably be even better, but if you forget about it completely, it might climb out of your bowl and onto the counter, make a huge mess, and the yeast will most likely die in the process. They will produce so much CO2 and alcohol that it will suffocate them. Keep in mind that what's over-rising for one dough is perfectly normal for another one. It all depends on the proportion of flour and yeast.


Julia said...

Hi Helen, thanks for posting my earlier questions.

I have tried to make pizza following The Bread Bible's recipe and it didn't work too well for me. The crust was kind of greasy and now I notice that you do things a little differently--you knead the pizza dough and you put on the toppings right away (instead of after baking the crust for 5 minutes), and you use less olive oil.
I think you wrote in an earlier post that you based your pizza on her recipe, but I can't find that post easily now. So have you tried her recipe, and if so, do you have any comments on the difference between when to put on the toppings and the other differences between the recipe here and the one in the Bread Bible?

Also, since there seems to be some interest in sourdough on this thread, I will add that after buying the bread bible my sourdough went from being pretty bad to pretty acceptable--mostly it was due to using a stiff starter instead of a liquid one, and rising the bread in glass measuring cups so that I can see when it is doubled.

Helen said...

Hi Julia,

Although you can make pizza out of the recipe in this post (the same one I use for focaccia), it's not quite as good (in my opinion) as my modified version of the Bread Bible pizza.

I follow her recipe exactly for the dough (no kneading, just mix until the flour streaks disappear). I bake a little differently. No pizza pan, I use parchment paper and add the toppings up front. See the link above for more details.