Last night's dinner was supposed to be pretty solidly homey and predictable fare. No, I'd never made a potato pizza before, but we make pizza, like I mentioned earlier, a lot. I try new crusts almost every time. I'm a wee bit hard to please, something of an Anna Wintour of pizza dough (I'm now thinking I will only be pleased by a sourdough crust... it's in the works!). That being so, I have developed into, what I like to think of as a deft and wildly ingenious pizza dough maker. Or, at least, a reliable and failsafe one. That is, until you add one little ingredient into the equation, and it's not edible. Well, I suppose it is, but I'm not touching that with a ten foot pole. That ingredient is dinner guests.
Dinner guests don't ruin all of my meals. Just the ones involving pizza. Every. Single. Time. There was the time my friends came over and the crusts just disintegrated into pieces as soon as the toppings touched them. A whisper of pesto and poof, soggy dregs of dough melted across the parchment. There was the time we decided to grill pizzas and for some genius reason I thought it was a convenient idea to leave the uncooked dough, uncovered, on the counter as the coals in the grill chilled to "touchable". It was too too horrible... I can't even describe it. Or look at my grill anymore. And then there was last night when our dinner guests were surprise dinner guests. Seriously, this pizza was on it's way to hall of fame status until I found out people were coming for dinner. What can I say? I panicked. I began to doubt the dough, instinctively knowing it would turn on me. And turn on me it did. Actually the real question is, did I turn on it first?
It was a recipe from my current favorite bread baking book in the entire universe (just in case the aliens are baking, I want to assure you this book is better than theirs). This should have been my first clue that this dough would not turn on me first. The dough was progressing nicely and by the time it was ready for its final proof I felt quite confident that it was a keeper. And then I heard the news, or the words rather, "dinner guests". I calmly sliced my potatoes and tossed them with the onions and rosemary. I serenely slid the pizza onto the stone in the oven. And at that moment I panicked. Crikey! There sure are a lot of potatoes on there - what if they don't cook? Or worse, what if they've gone bad and they need to cook extra long to counteract the bacterial imbalance (I'm currently learning all about bacteria in food, so please humor me as I'm sure this topic will come up for a few more posts)? AND what if the potatoes piled on the crust keep the crust from baking? WHAT IF?? So naturally it was a forgone conclusion that obviously I had to double the baking time. And that baby had a long baking time to begin with.
Well, the guests arrived and we broke out the beers (or as I fondly like to refer to them, the highlight of the meal). And then we broke out the pizza. Broke is an apt description because I think that's what happened to my teeth on the first bite. In all honesty though, it was not the horrible disaster it could have been. Everyone kept their fillings, one person even willingly (or so it appeared) had seconds and it actually tasted amazing. Texture schmexture, as I always like to say. Despite the odd combination of rubbery and cement-like that was the crust, the pizza really was delicious. The potatoes were perfectly cooked and really really fragrant. I had some of the leftover uncooked topping that I just made into a fritatta. And it ruled.
So the moral of this story? I will never ever ever open a pizzeria. The other moral is, you can make anything right with a chocolate chip cookie. Did I mention I pulled some out after dinner to sate the hunger of my dinner guests who were surely too polite to mention that they were still starving? Well, I did and I think it's safe to assume they might actually come back for dinner a second time.
Now don't let this tale of woe and tragedy deter you from making this... just follow the directions, unlike yours truly. And maybe, maybe don't have dinner guests over on the slight chance that they do in fact jinx pizza doughs.
Sullivan Street Potato Pizza
Adapted from Artisan Baking by Maggie Glezer
For the dough
260 grams bread flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
270 grams lukewarm water
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
For the topping
2 1bs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
1 large sweet yellow onion
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
Mix the flour and yeast together to blend. With a mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed while pouring in the water. Mix on low for about 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the batter cleans the bowl and comes together into a smooth, quite wet dough, about 20 minutes. Add the sugar and salt and mix for about 2-3 more minutes.
Put the dough in a plastic container with a lid and seal it and let ferment for about 4 hours. It will triple in volume.
Put parchment paper down in a half sheet pan and cover lightly with olive oil. Pour the fermented dough into the pan and spread it out with your hands. If it doesn't want to stretch out let it rest for 10 minutes and then continue stretching it. Cover well and let proof until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
While the dough is proofing slice the potatoes thinly, ideally with a mandoline. Toss with salt and let them exude their liquid for about 15 minutes. Squeeze them out and place in a colander, toss with onion and rosemary and let sit.
About 30 minutes before baking arrange your rack and pizza stone on the oven's top shelf (this is a good trick for steaming moist doughs!). Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Toss the potato mixture with a light splash of olive oil. Once the dough is proofed, spread on the topping evenly. Brush with more olive oil a smattering of very coarse sea salt. Bake the pizza for about 40 minutes (seriously, don't double this!). The potatoes will be brown and crusty at the edges and a knife will glide through them.
For a list other fantastic breads check out Yeastspotting at Wild Yeast!