A Master Class in Pizza with Hitchcock’s Leading Ladies

Over a month ago I had the pleasure of taking a master pizza class with Kristen Ferguson, the Pastry Chef at Silver Lake favorite Forage.   Kristen is a pizza fanatic and an incredible teacher.  She also has these amazing chickens that run amuck in an idyllic backyard complete with a Cobb Oven.  Having gotten there early, I spent at least 30 mins squawking and running around with them.

These aren’t just any birds, but Hitchcock’s very own leading ladies.  Beautiful black spotted Tippi Hedren, who kept tipping over as she ran.  Grace Kelly, the golden girl.  And the cool lady in grey, Ingrid Bergman.  I have serious chicken envy after hanging out with these three.

But I promised Pizza!  We, like I suspect most, eat a lot of pizza.  Since Kristin’s pizza class we have been unable to find a better pizza in the city.  When made in a Cobb Oven it is sublime.  When made at home, it still beats any pizza in the neighborhood.  With the help of a kitchen aide, it also becomes incredibly easy where your biggest job  is to fight the urge to add in flour as the dough gets whipped around.  A wooden spoon and a beautiful laid back afternoon will also get this dough done by dinner time.  Kristin’s Pizza Rule is Simple: Wet Dough, High Heat.  Delicious.

Pizza Dough

What you need:

4 oz sourdough starter

22oz water

1 tsp dry yeast

26 oz bread flour, more or less

1/2 oz sea salt

2 Tbs rye flour (optional)

1 1/2 tsp wheat germ (optional)

1 1/2 tsp barley malt syrup (optional)

What you need to do:

Put starter, water, yeast, about 3/4 of the bread flour and optional items in the bowl of your mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Mix until well combined, cover with plastic and let rest for 20 mins.  You can measure out your salt and place it on the plastic so you don’t forget to add it.  (I can’t count how many times this has happened in my kitchen, before Kristin shared this trick.)

After 2o mins, remove plastic letting salt drop into the bowl and turn dough hook on high.  It will be very wet, but allow it to run for a few minutes before adding the tiniest pit of flour.  Continue kneading till it forms a loose blob, that just barely stays connected to the bottom of the bowl but clears the sides well.

Let dough rest for a few minutes and perform the windowpane test.  Dip fingers into flour and grasping a small portion of dough pull gently up and out.  If the dough stretches evenly without breaking almost to the point you can see through it, your pizza is perfect.

Prepare a sheet pan.  Rinse with water  and shake the excess off.  Using a spray or your fingers very lightly cover the pan in olive oil.  Dump your dough onto the pan, using your bench knife lift one side and fold it to the middle.  Lift the opposite side and fold to the middle.  Take the top and fold in half to the bottom.  Pat with a wet hand and then a little olive oil.

Leave out at room temp to proof or place in fridge for an overnight rise.  When ready fold dough once more as before and then divide into 6 equal pieces (roughly 8oz).  Using as little flour as you can form the little blobs of dough into tiny boules.  Do this by cupping your hands and gently folding the surface  up and around the top.  Make sure they are nice and smooth, pinching the seam closed.  Place boules seam side down onto a clean watered and oiled sheet pan, pat with wet then oiled hands, cover with plastic and place in the fridge for several hours or overnight or even a couple of days.

When ready, prepare pizza peel or the back of cookie sheet with yellow cornmeal.  Preheat oven to 550 degrees or as high as it will go with a pizza stone (if using cookie sheet instead of a pizza stone, this will just be slid in and serve for baking pizza).  Pull desired amount of pizza dough from the fridge. Place dough ball in a bowl of flour, flipping over to coat both sides.  Pick up the dough and place on the back of your knuckles, it will begin to droop.  Gently guide the dough into a round by turning it as it droops and keeping your knuckles on the outer 2 inches of dough.  Place dough on prepared pizza peel or back of cookie sheet. Cover lightly with toppings, too much and you’ll get a soggy mess despite a perfect dough.  Slide pizza from peel onto stone, or place cookie sheet in oven.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Sit back and enjoy.

Note: Try whole wheat version I have been loving with 5 oz whole wheat flour and 2 Tbs bran flour (optional). As a sourdough fanatic, I also like to up the starter and leave out the yeast but be prepared for a LONG rise.  I will make this at the beginning of the week and then we have pizza on hand for whenever the dinner hour sneaks up on us.

Did I mention my Cobb Oven Envy?  We made the last pizza at home.

Happy Pizza Making!

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