It seems like a short hop, skip and jump – going from bread to pizza. After all, dough is dough. And that’s exactly what Forkish did to finish out his book. He provides instruction on how to develop four different types of pizza dough. So during the holidays, I decided to have a pizza bake-off dinner and see which pizza dough my family liked the best!
To save us all the details, I’ll simply say that the four types were: a simple same day instant yeast dough; a simple overnight instant yeast dough; an overnight poolish developed with instant yeast which was added the next day to a final dough; and lastly an overnight sourdough levain pizza dough. I timed the preparation of each dough so that each would be ready to bake at the same time.
I set my pizza stone in the oven about eight inches below the broiler, and set it to ‘550 bake’ to warm up. About half an hour later the stone was very hot. I gave it a quick blast of extra heat by turning the broiler on for a few minutes, and then put in the first pizza. It cooked pretty quickly and was ready in about seven or eight minutes. Just before taking it out of the oven I gave it a quick top sear by putting the broiler back on for a few minutes. By this point the pizza was sizzling and ready. I did the same for the next three pizzas!
How did they taste? Great! We thought it was a good idea to compare them during the same meal. It allowed us to go back and forth to compare the crusts.
The two simpler instant yeast dough’s were less interesting, and by comparison almost seemed bland. We all agreed that the poolish and sourdough pizza dough’s were the best of the four. But they were different in that the poolish dough crust was a bit sweeter, while the sourdough crust was (of course) less so. They both had that ‘classic Italian pizza’ flavour. We would make either again without a doubt! The poolish based dough was probably simpler to make in that I didn’t have to worry about feeding the starter. Overall, this was a great experience!
Lastly, Forkish includes a cookie recipe at the very end of the book – Oregon Hazelnut Butter Cookies. I’m decidedly not a ‘sweets baker’, but I am stubborn and I wanted to complete baking my way through to the very end of the book! With a bit of flour, hazelnuts ground into a meal, more butter than I’d like to admit and a bit of sugar I made a batch. They’re nice, not sweet at all, have a nice hazelnut flavour and are a nice way to end a meal. Or as is the case while I’m writing this entry, a nice way to compliment a nice Canadian rye whiskey!
And with that, I’ve officially “been there, and baked that”. I’ve now baked through 19 different bread recipes, four pizza dough recipes, one Oregon hazelnut inspired cookie recipe, gone through over 20 kilos of flour, a jar of instant active yeast, probably a cup of sea salt and most importantly gave ‘rise to’ Charlie! 🙂
I’ve learned to bake with instant yeast, created my own starter ‘Charlie’ which remains alive and well in the fridge, make amazingly great levain bread, found a new appreciation for rye bread, no longer ‘fear dough’, turned into a discerning bread snob and loved every chubby pound I’ve added to my waistline along the way!
Most importantly I’ve learned the process of making bread in an organic way that has taught me to think through what I’m doing but also read the dough and let it tell me when it’s time to move along to the next step. Yet at the same, I have learned how to manage the process so that I could bake when it best suited my schedule.
On a final note, as I look at my bread bookshelf I appreciate that I’m fortunate to own some amazing bread books. But I was recently challenged by a friend to bake some bread without a recipe. When I read his “dare” in a message, I was both excited and terrified at the same time. And then it struck me – following a recipe is easy (I’ve just proven that), baking with only your senses to guide you is what will make me a real bread baker. As I think about it, I don’t once remember my mother or grandmother using a recipe when baking bread when I was a child! So I’m up for the challenge.
And with that, my blogging days are now over – it’s been fun! For those of you that have watched, read and shared this journey with me – thank you for thumbing a ride along the way. I’ve enjoyed the companionship!