October 2, 2012

Pizza Bianca

Fall challenge? More like fall fail!

Friends, my life this fall has been, as the young folks say, cray. The blog gods knew that as soon as I started a Fall Challenge I would get a new job at a high-energy arts program. Near-daily posts? Whatever. Not happening. Near-daily exhaustion with no regard for Fall Challenges anywhere? That's more like it.

And yet this is life - the very essence of life, in fact. This is the life that sends us unexpected curve balls, laughs at our plans, and makes us tired in those warm post-lunch hours. This is the life that gives you half-marathon training programs with 7 AM Saturday morning runs and no hope for catching up on sleep until those precious, hallowed, nap-inducing Sunday afternoons. It's a busy life, but one that still provides opportunity for excellent food and good company.

I made this bread a couple of weeks ago for my husband and his parents, as we watched Arkansas' disgusting defeat to Louisiana-Monroe. (Little did we know that this was just the beginning of Arkansas' spectacular growing pains.) This bread may be the most versatile, comforting, sustaining recipe I have ever posted, with the possible exception of banana pudding. Adopt this recipe into your repertoire!

Pizza bianca is an absolute delight in my life and should be in yours too. I didn't adhere to my self-set rules of the Fall Challenge but I embrace the fact that life gave me some even sweeter challenges this fall. The recipe looks daunting but it is extremely easy. All you need is a few hours and a Saturday afternoon and you are set.

Pizza Bianca

3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 2/3 cups (13.5 ounces) water
1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons sugar
5 tablespoons olive oil

Fresh rosemary leaves
Parmesan or fresh mozzarella

Mix flour, water, and salt in a stand mixer on low speed for 4-5 minutes until no bits of flour remain. Scrape sides of bowl at least once during initial mixing process. Turn off mixer and let dough stand for about 20 minutes.

Sprinkle yeast and sugar on top of dough and mix on low until fully combined, at least a minute. Raise speed to high and knead for 9-10 minutes. Scrape sides once in the early stages of second mixing, to make sure yeast and sugar are fully incorporated.

Grease a large non-reactive bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil and rub excess oil on rubber spatula. Transfer dough into greased bowl, scraping sides with oiled spatula. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at least 2 hours, until tripled in volume. This is a pretty fluid dough so don't be surprised if it looks more liquid than your average bread dough or pizza crust. During the rising process, the dough will fill with bubbles and pockets of air, which makes for a light and crunchy bread.
If using a pizza stone, place in oven one hour before baking and heat to 450 F.

Coat a rectangular cookie sheet or pizza pan with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and turn dough out onto oiled sheet. Press dough into corners of pan. The dough should be fairly elastic, so if it resists being formed, let it rest for a few minutes and try again. Let formed dough rest in pan for about 5 minutes before baking.
Prick surface with a fork and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Halfway through, add rosemary leaves and parmesan or mozzarella (if using). Crust should be golden brown and toasty. When bread is done, brush lightly with olive oil and let cool slightly before cutting into wedges.

Serve this with anything - steak, chicken, marinara sauce, or add your favorite toppings for a pizza. This recipe is truly one of the most versatile ones in my repertoire. It's up there with cornbread in terms of its uses so be creative!

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