Pizza. Ahh, beautiful pizza. With a thin, bubbly crust which is slightly charred, and topped with a perfect balance of sauce, toppings and cheese. It is something worth obsessing over, and boy do we obsess over pizza.
Pizza is often our source of exploration when we set out to explore a town. Just about anywhere we travel, we’ll attempt to hunt down the area’s best offerings in pizza with the wood-fired tokens of devotion that often satisfy our personal cravings the most. We have been lucky enough to experience extraordinary pizza all over the country and of course in pizza’s homeland of Italy.
Great pizza for us isn’t something just for travel, either. In an even greater stroke of luck, in southern California, we have some of the best pizza in the country, headlined by Nancy Silverton’s Mozza. So with such extraordinary inspiration between our travels and local offerings, the bar for great pizza just keeps getting raised higher and higher.
Speaking of bar, if you are ever at the LA or OC Mozza locations, make sure try and grab a seat at the pizza bar where you get to watch the masters delicately craft exceptional pizzas. You might even pick up a technique or two to take back home into your own kitchen. We sure have.
We’ve learned things like treating the dough gently and with finesse. It isn’t mashed, pressed, and forced into shape. The dough is billowy soft before even beginning to stretch, and then great care is taken not to ruin that state.
We’ve learned to create indentions with the fingertips to seal off the outer crust, which is then rarely touched again except by the soft brushing of olive oil. The center is gently pressed with the fingers to widen out, then the dough is rested over the backside of the hands to rotate and allow gravity and the dough’s own weight stretch the dough into shape. The process is quick but done with finesse.
These are some of the techniques that we’ve put into our pizza dough as we fine-tuned it for our cookbook, Bountiful. Take that dough and add whatever topping craving you desire. Lately with autumn filling our lives, a Brussels spouts and bacon pizza seemed just about perfect.
We cooked up the bacon until lightly browned (remembering that it was going to get cooked a bit more when the pizza baked), thinly sliced the Brussels sprouts, then sautéed everything all together. Add a little Worcestershire sauce for a bit of punch and layer between sauce and cheese.
It came out great even with the ovens not firing quite as hot as normal and only getting up to 475 degrees. The crust wasn’t quite as bubbly or charred as usual, but we aren’t complaining. Everything was quite delicious.
Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pizza
Yield: Makes 2 -10" Pizza
Total Time: 4 hours
The pizza dough is from our cookbook, Bountiful. The dough and topping can easily be made the day before and then assembled and baked as needed. The crust comes out best if baked on a pizza stone in the oven which has been preheated for at least 20 minutes, however you can always bake the pizzas on a baking sheetpan in the oven if you don't have a stone. Just sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on the sheetpan before laying down the stretched out pizza dough.
Here's a bit of the headnote from the book talking about handling the dough, "We’ve learned a lot from listening to great bakers and watching them bake their doughs. One thing they all seem to have in common is that they don’t overhandle the dough. The more you work it, the tougher it gets. With most of the great pizzas we’ve had, the bakers are not kneading their dough, but just mixing it and letting the yeast go to work. And when they handle their dough to make pizzas, it isn’t with a heavy, forceful hand, but rather by gently letting gravity stretch and form the dough. It is graceful and gentle. The amount of flour in the recipe should yield a dough that will be easy to handle with just a touch of extra flour for dusting when you are stretching it. If you are comfortable with handling the dough, experiment with putting a bit less flour in it. This will make for a lighter crust, but because the dough is wetter, it will be a bit more challenging to work with."
If your oven doesn't go as high as 550°F, the pizzas will still come out great, it just may take a little more time and the crust might not get the char that we personally love so much. You can also use a liberal dusting of flour instead of the cornmeal to keep the dough from sticking to the pizza peel.
- 1 1/4 cups (300ml) warm water
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
- 3 1/3 cups (415g) flour
- 4-5 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
- 1 pound (455g) Brussels sprouts, sliced thin
- 1 cup tomato sauce, or amount to preference
- 1 cup grated Parmigiana Reggiano Cheese (or other preferred cheese)
- kosher or sea salt, to taste
- fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
- cornmeal for dusting peel
- extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing the crust
- Make ahead (Dough):In a large bowl or resealable container, stir together the water, yeast, honey, and salt. Stir in the flour until no streaks of dry flour remains.
- Cover the dough and set aside in a warm area to proof for 1 to 2 hours, or until doubled in volume. Set aside in the refrigerator until chilled, or for up to 1 week
(see Note 1).
- When you are ready to make pizzas, preheat the oven to 550°F, with a baking stone on the middle rack for at least 30 minutes. Have cornmeal and a pizza peel handy nearby for when you stretch the dough.
- Divide the dough in half and place the dough balls on a well-floured surface. Allow the dough to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. The dough should feel soft and pillowy.
- While the dough comes up to room temperature, make the brussels sprouts-bacon filling. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the bacon pieces until lightly browned. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, garlic and brussels sprouts. Cook for about 1 minute or until brussels sprouts soften. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside to cool while you finish the dough.
- Liberally sprinkle corn meal on the pizza peel. Set nearby while you stretch the dough. When the dough is soft and pillowy, with floured hands, lightly flour the first dough ball. Using your fingertips, make indentations to form the outer crust rim (see photo in post). Using your hands, rotate and gently press out the dough, working from the center outward to stretch it, leaving the outer rim as untouched as possible. Press out to a circle 6 - 8 inches in diameter.
- Resting the dough on the tops of your hands, continue to rotate and circle the dough over your hands, gently stretching the dough to about 10 inches (25 cm) in diameter. Make sure to keep the rim thicker than the center. (If the dough starts to toughen and spring back too much while you work on it, allow it to rest for a few minutes so it will relax and soften.) Lightly re-flour your hands, the work surface, and the dough as needed to keep the dough from sticking.
- Lay the stretched out dough on the prepared pizza peel. Give it a little shake to make sure the dough isn't sticking to the peel. Gently brush oil on the outer crust. Shake the peel again to make sure nothing is sticking.
- Gently ladle and spread 1/2 of the sauce on the dough. Spread 1/2 of the brussel sprouts/bacon mixture on the pizza, spread 1/2 of the cheese, and season with additional salt and pepper if desired.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is golden and slightly charred. While the first pizza is baking, repeat the stretching and topping instructions with the second pizza.
- Allow each pizza to cool for a few minutes, then slice and serve.
Over time in the fridge, the dough will gradually begin to change in texture after it bakes, and will also develop a sourdough flavor. We prefer the texture and flavor of the dough after 24 to 36 hours of refrigeration, but it is still quite good when chilled up to 1 week.
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