Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pizza Bianca

Hello readers , I know it has been a very long time between posts , so much has happened , so many travels to far flung corners of the world. However , we are home now and ensconced in everything that a new school year brings.

As I was preparing dinner last night , the phone rang and I was asked " are you home, I have something for you  ?" ... of course said I ........ minutes later there was a knock on the door and I was greeted with this spectacular pizza bianca delivered in rustic fashion , enveloped in a beautiful tea towel.

My eyes needed time to digest everything , as they started to absorb this vision of perfectly cooked dough with hills and dales and little pools of olive oil and sprinkles of rosemary , it was sheer politeness that stopped me from tearing into this pizza , immediately.

Over the summer my friend Lara was privileged to receive lessons from a good friend of hers on bread making and all its facets, from making this pizza, to no-knead bread etc. Where was I ??? ...... not in that kitchen silently taking in the moment and enjoying the experience of working with flour, water and yeast .

When the whole family gathered for dinner, it was with a flush I presented the pizza at the dinner table , after fighting off hubby ( who also wanted to tear right into it upon his arrival from work) ....... lets just say when everyone started eating some if this pizza - silence befell the dinner table.

I urge everyone who loves pizza to go out and invest in a pizza stone and peel - they are lifetime investments you will never regret and make this pizza.  

Pizza bianca does not have sauce , it is usually served with a drizzle of good olive oil , a sprinkle of fresh herbs of your choice - I would recommend rosemary as it is the most flavourful and screams pizza, in Rome this pizza is usually eaten in the morning in the same way that we enjoy toast.

Pizza Bianca
made with love by Lara from  this book

3 cups bread flour , plus additional for dusting
1/4 tsp instant or other active yeast
1/2 tsp table salt
3/4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups cool water (55 to 65 F)
1/4 cup extra virgin oil , plus additional for coating the bowl and brushing
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
3 sprigs fresh rosemary , leaves removed

In a medium bowl stir together the flour, yeast , table salt and sugar. Ass the water and using a wooden spoon or your hand , mix until you have a wet sticky dough - about 30 seconds. Lightly coat a second medium bowl with olive oil and place the dough in it . Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubles in size 9-12 hours.

When the first rise is complete , generously dust a work surface ( a cutting board is useful here) with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece . Using lightly floured hands fold the dough over itself two or three times and nudge it into a loose rather flat ball . Brush the surface of the dough with the olive oil and sprinkle with the coarse seal salt - this will gradually dissolve onto the surface/ Put the dough in a draft-free spot and let rise until doubled 1-2 hours.

Half an hour before the end of the second rise , preheat your oven to 500F with a rack in the center, place a pizza stone , of at least 14 inches on the center rack. 

Generously dust a pizza peel with flour and place the ball of dough in the middle. Spread out the dough using your fingers like an outstretched claw, do not puncture the dough - you want to create dimples to become a haven for the olive oil and rosemary and stretch out the dough across the pizza peel to approximately 12 inches. 

Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top and sprinkle with fresh rosemary leaves. 

At this give the peel a little tug , the dough should move ever so sightly - a better word would be hydroplane - that way it will be easy to slide on to the hot pizza stone. Should it be sticking at any point , gently lift the corner of the dough and sprinkle more flour underneath. 

Shake and slide the pizza onto the pizza stone, and bake for 12-15 minutes until the crust is golden brown on the mounds but pale in the dimples . 

Remove from the oven with the peel , allow to cool a few minutes before slicing and serving.