Sunday, January 24, 2010

BBA Challenge: Well, That Didn't Take Long

Two recipes into my bread baking adventures, and already I've had my first disaster. It wasn't actually bread, it was pizza. But still.

The second bread in the BBA Challenge is Greek Celebration Bread. But since I've never eaten Greek Celebration Bread, I didn't feel inspired to bake it. But there is one thing in the BBA that I have eaten plenty of: pizza.

As a Chicago girl, my love of deep dish runs deep down in my bones. But I have also fallen in love with the thin, chewy crusts that chefs are turning out of blazingly hot wood-fired ovens all over San Francisco. How could I not? I live at the epicenter of Pizzeria Delfina, A16, Pizzetta 211, and Pizzeria Picco.

So, I skipped a hundred or so pages ahead in the BBA and got to work on Pizza Napoletana. Like lots of BBA breads, it's a two day process. Kevin wanted to know, "Why two days when 75 minutes is good enough for those slackers over at Cook's Illustrated?" But I have been seduced by Peter Reinhart's promise that extra long fermentation would equal great flavor. I mean, who wouldn't want to experience THE BEST PIZZA DOUGH EVER?

With Friday night pizza on my mind, I set out Thursday afternoon to get the dough started. I knew immediately that something wasn't quite right. The dough was so wet that no amount of flour could keep it from sticking to my hands. I finally wrestled the beast into six semi-equal sized balls and set them into the refrigerator for the night. Meanwhile I said a little prayer to the pizza gods.

Alas, my prayer went unheard. I set the balls on the counter to warm up, but they showed little life. I then brought Kevin in for the next step, as he is the pro pizza shaper in our house. He was even eager to try tossing the dough. But there would be no tossing. As soon as he tried to stretch the dough, it came apart in his hands.

So, with a counter full of toppings (carmelized onions, roasted red peppers, sauteed mushrooms) and two hungry kids, I did what I had to do. I sent Kevin out into the wilds of Whole Foods for some premade pizza dough. Of course, he forgot his wallet and had to return to the store to buy the stuff. That really made the night complete.

After two hours of attempts, we finally sat down to homemade pizza. Perhaps it was just the bitter taste of defeat, but it still didn't taste all that great. On top of the dough disaster, I don't think the oven ever got hot enough.

So, where did I go wrong? Let me consider the ways. I should have used high gluten flour. I should have left out the oil. I should have added more flour until the dough became workable.

I don't have enough experience to know exactly why things went awry. I do know that in bread baking, I need to get to be equal parts artist and scientist. Hopefully, as I tackle more breads, I will develop the touch and the know-how I need to analyze and fix problems as I go along.

Giddy from my success with the Anadama Bread last week, I was confident that pizza would be just as easy. Like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun and my wings melted from the heat. Or, my dough melted from the moisture. So, in honor of Icarus, I am returning to BBA Challenge bread number two: Greek Celebration Bread. Here's hoping we have a loaf less tragic.


misterrios said...

That's too bad about the pizzas. For years I used to make pizza out of regular bread dough with a quarter cup added. Then I read Varasano's recipe for pizza, bought an Elecrolux DLX mixer, joined the BBA challenge and it was all bread from there.

Try the Pain a l'Anciennne recipe- It's dead-easy, though you really have to make the leap of faith and trust PR's instructions, which will be super weird, but it can help you re-think what you know about bread.

Oh, and that recipe also makes a great pizza dough. I wish you luck!

Erika said...

I just made pizza with the Cook's Illustrated pizza dough again and it was just as good as I remember. But I am looking forward to trying the BBA pizza dough again, when I get there... I think I may have learned a few things by then that will make it easier. I can't wait for Pain a l'Ancienne! It seems like one of the highlights for many BBA bakers.