Oct 29

The Great Pizza Toss: Peter Reinhardt’s Basic Pizza Crust

in Bread, Daring Bakers, Fuji Favorites, Main Course, Recipes by Type

I just failed Pizza Tossing 101. I think it highly likely that I’ll will be sent to Remedial Pizza Tossing and be forced to read “Pizza Tossing For Dummies.” That being said, I have found my new go-to pizza crust recipe. SO easy and SO yummy, makes six 9-12 inch crusts, and you can freeze any of the dough that you don’t want to use right away. All of those things add up to make this one a winner. I will still use my 1-hour pizza crust recipe when I forget to plan ahead, or get a sudden craving for pizza, but the rest of the time this recipe is “the one”.
The crust was this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge, hosted by Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums. So what’s so special and “daring” about pizza crust? Our challenge was that we had to use the tossing method for at least 2 of the pizza crusts. We also had to capture the moment by filming/photographing ourselves while tossing the dough. The crust? No problem. The tossing? BIG problems. I watched some clips on-line, read up on the technique, and then followed the instructions as best as I could. Result? Uh, bad.
That dough would lift on from my fingers and come hurtling back at my head with surprising speed and in unexpected shapes and sizes. I would catch it as gently as I could, the result usually being 1 of 3 things: 1) I would tear a hole in the dough, 2) the dough would look the same as when it left my hands to begin with, or 3) the dough would fold up into a new shape in midair.
I was determined that I was going to get it and try I did.
I had several successful tosses and then disaster would strike (no honey, of course that pizza dough didn’t just hit the floor!). Towards the end of trying to shape my second crust I was getting a bit better and things shaped up okay, but for the most part I’m so grateful that you guys weren’t around for the comic relief that was my dough tossing session.
Most of the pictures taken by Mr. Fuji are pretty embarrassing, showing me in contortionist poses as I try to catch falling dough, or looks of extreme surprise gracing my facial features when the dough starts to do something unexpected. There are also one too many shots depicting me with a double chin as I am trying to pull my head back out of the way of dough that is quickly hurtling toward it. By the time I put our pizzas into the oven I was tired, hot, and grumpy. It’s a good thing that the end result was so good.The other pizza was topped with a marinara sauce, some crushed red pepper, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and turkey pepperoni.

Both pizzas were gone before I could blink. Will I toss a pizza crust again? Probably, because I am masochistic like that. But if and when I do there will be no witnesses.

Adapted from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.
Makes 4-6 pizza crusts

For the dough:
4 1/2 c. (20 1/4 oz./607.5 g) all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. instant yeast
1/4 c. (2-oz./60g) olive oil or vegetable oil
1 3/4 c. (14-oz./420g or 420ml) ice cold water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tbsp. sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

The crust bakes up perfectly, not browning too quickly, giving you that slightly chewy yet still soft crust that I love. I made 2 pizzas and froze the rest of the dough for later. I topped one pizza with pesto and a mix of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl or stand mixer. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (spoon or paddle attachment) to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth. If it is too wet, add a little flour and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

2. If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour. If it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water. The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper. Cut the dough into 4-6 equal pieces. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

4. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil and cover with plastic wrap. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to three days.

*NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil (a few tablespoons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.

1. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

2. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

3. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Take 1 piece and lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

4. Make only one pizza at a time. During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and re-flour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.You can also resort to using a rolling pin.

5. When the dough has the shape you want, place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

6. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

*To see someone who actually knows what they’re doing and doesn’t need to go to Remedial Pizza Tossing, see this clip.

*Check out how all the other Daring Bakers survived “the toss”.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackie October 29, 2008 at 2:16 pm

I LOVE THE PICS of you tossing the dough!! And how come your pizzas look so nicely shaped? I couldn’t get them to be nice and round… Beautifully done!
And question for you: did you find that the turkey pepperoni was a little dry? I accidently got turkey pepperoni and mine was dry.
Great job!


Fuji Mama October 29, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Thanks Jackie! I kept my pizzas small, about 9-inches, which helped with the shape. I also pulled and shaped them a bit after tossing to get the shape I wanted. I didn’t have any problems with my turkey pepperoni (I always use turkey pepperoni now), but I always make sure that I sprinkle a few shreds of cheese on top of each pepperoni piece so that they’re not completely exposed. I think that helps!


gleek October 29, 2008 at 6:39 pm

hahaha, i love these pictures! and i love homemade pizza.. sooooo yummy.

and how is your hair that long again already? i swear you just got it cut!


Melanie Gray Augustin October 29, 2008 at 6:56 pm

They are great shots! You are brave and are a sucker for punishment for trying it again, but it sounds like the taste was well worth it in the end.


Meg October 29, 2008 at 7:07 pm

Love all the pics! The pizza looks delicious!


Prudy October 30, 2008 at 12:14 am

Those pics were sheer viewing entertainment! Pizzas look marvelous and can’t wait to see the candy corn!


tamakikat October 30, 2008 at 6:39 am


I’m going to have to have pasta and pumpkin sauce (from the freezer) to tide me over for now but WILL try my hand at tossing pizza pastry soon. Will let you know how (and where) it goes!


FOODalogue: Meandering Meals and Travels October 30, 2008 at 9:01 am

good attempt at pizza twirling…I admire your resolve.


Bob October 30, 2008 at 9:48 am

Heh, that’s better than I would do, I’m sure. I can’t even try tossing since my ceiling is only about 6 1/2, 7 feet high. Lousy third floor apartment…


Christina October 30, 2008 at 2:27 pm

Thank you. And your turkey pepperoni pizza looks better than regular pepperoni pizza. Love your tossing pictures. Yes, I will let you know how the cookies go.


Lorraine E October 30, 2008 at 4:27 pm

LOVE the tossing photos! I experienced exactly the same thing and was thankful there was noone around to watch me do it hehe. I really like the simplicity of the pepperoni pizza topping-yum!


Misha October 31, 2008 at 9:31 pm

There is nothing better than pizza! There has to be a blog only on pizza out there… Mmm, I think I know what’s for dinner tomorrow night!


celine November 4, 2008 at 9:15 am

Thank you for sharing your tossing with ause what adventure! I skipped it! Your pizzas look yummy and healthy too!


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