October 17, 2010

Pizza - Focaccia Style

I've advanced again and I'm on to FoodBuzz Challenge #5! Thank you for all of the votes and wonderful comments, I enjoy reading each one! So on to Challenge #5 which is to put my spin on one of my favorite foods - PIZZA!
I have to admit upfront that I am a total pizza snob.  Growing up in New Haven is why I have a passion for pizza!  As any good foodie knows, New Haven is home to some of this country's best pizza. Some of my first food memories are waiting in line 30 to 60 minutes for a booth at the famous Pepe’s or Modern Apizza. To this day, in rain, sleet or snow, unbearable hot or unbearable cold people wait outside of these institutions for their classic pizzas. From a young age, all I knew was good pizza.  When I moved to Providence for college I was still able to get my pizza fix at the Italian shops on Atwells Ave and Al Forno.  Today, I live 30 minutes south of New Haven and still drive up there (and wait in line) regularly for a pizza dinner.  I'll also travel for a good pie.  Last year on our trip to Italy we went out of our way to Naples, the birthplace of Neapolitan pizza!  Needless to say, these pizza experiences have spoiled me.

For this challenge my standard pizza made with store bought dough just won’t do.  I normally make a thin crust pizza at home on a pizza stone in my electric oven (cranked up as high as it will go).  It’s pretty decent but not blog worthy.  So looking for ideas this past week, I stopped by a bakery in my neighborhood and saw the most amazing looking focaccia.  It was topped with sauce, spices, a little cheese and immediately inspired me!!  I read through American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza by Peter Reinhart, (which is excellent for anyone wanting to make a homemade pizza) and grabbed a recipe which I’ll include below. 
I'm experimenting with the dough but want to otherwise keep the traditional flavors for this challenge.  I'm staying true to my roots on this one so you won’t be seeing any exotic flavors (eh hem, pineapple & ham – for instance).  I chose the focaccia pizza because it’s a different spin on what I'm use to and and the dough can bake in my humble oven.  It has a wonderful flavor and can be eaten on its own or piled with toppings.  The recipe is easy to make but it does take a bit of time for rising and resting of the dough (2 days).  I added my own twist by letting the dough rise with the sauce on it so the tomato and herb flavor really gets into each bite!  Chris (who also LOVES pizza) and I are trying to eat a more vegan diet with less dairy.  This works for us because a small amount of Parmesan goes a long way (instead of a pizza dripping with mozzarella).  The Parmesan can also be totally omitted for a completely vegan version! 

Here's the basic recipe, though I highly recommend using the book:
The recipe will make a 12" x 17" sheet or four 9" round thinner focaccia.
5 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/2 cups ice cold water
1/4 cup oil
desired toppings

With a large metal spoon, stir together everything but olive oil until combined - about 2 minutes.  Let the dough rest for 5 minutes; add the olive oil and resume mixing for 4 more minutes.  At this point I switch from using a spoon to mix dough to using my hand.  I use my hand like a dough hook since I don't have a large mixer.  

The dough should now have formed into a sticky ball.  Again, let the dough rest for another 5 minutes.  Mix dough for another 4 - 5 minutes.  The dough should be sticky yet able to hold the shape of a ball.  If it doesn't add more flour.  Place dough in a bowl with olive oil and turn to coat.  Immediately cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.  Dough will roughly double in size.
The dough has to reach room temperature before you can work with it so take it out of the refrigerator 5 hours before baking.  Once dough has reached room temperature (it takes about 2 hours) divide into quarters taking care not to mash the air bubbles.  Line a 9" cake pan with parchment and pour enough olive oil into tin to coat paper.  Place a quarter of dough on paper.  With your finger tips, press over the dough to create dimples and to push dough toward pan edges.  If the dough springs back let rest for 5 minutes and try again.  At this point, spread a thin layer of sauce on dough.  Let the dough sit for 2 -3 hours.  Preheat oven to 500.  Place pan in oven for 15 minutes.  Once the dough top feels cooked to the touch, remove the pan from the oven.
Now top your pizza!  I topped my pizza with:  red onions that were lightly sauteed in olive oil, a few fire roasted tomatoes, sliced artichokes, kalamata olives, salted browned garlic chips and a bit of Parmesan.  Bake for an additional 15 - 20 minutes.  When you remove the pizza, top with fresh basil, thyme and a light drizzle of olive oil.  Let cool for a few minutes and serve!!

While I was taking photos I had to stop and put the camera down to have a slice!  Chris took the opportunity to turn the camera my way since my hands were full and there wasn't much I could do.  I have to say that although my heart and taste buds will always prefer a thin crust style, this pizza hit the spot.  It's definitely a recipe I will add to my repertoire.  Also, if you haven't made dough at home, it's really no big deal - the dough is quite easy to make and fun to work with.  I can't tell you how thrilling it was the first time I sliced into this pizza and saw how light and airy it was!

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my focaccia pizza!  I'm having a ton of fun putting together these posts! If you like my FoodBuzz Blogger Challenge posts please vote to keep me in the competition & also feel free to comment! I love reading your thoughts and suggestions.


  1. Perfect way to tackle this challenge! I hear you about how ideal pizzas of years gone by color our opinions about what defines good pizza. GREG

  2. That last photo of you taking a bite of that pizza gave me a huge craving for one.Your pizza looks so good!

  3. I like big fat crusty pizzas. I like All pizza. Seriously.
    I think I've actually had pizza in New Haven. We had to grab it before we got on a train and we ate it on the train. Delicious.

  4. Like Alisa, you make me crave for pizza at a late hour! Hope you advance :)

  5. Congrats on making to round 5! Beautiful colors on top and love the thick pillowy focaccia underneath.

  6. Great post! I love a nice thick crusted pizza, and this foccaccia dough looks sumptuious, even without the toppings. Nicely done. All fo these great pizzas are making me hungry! I voted for you!

    Good luck! hope to see us both in round 6! =)

  7. I love Peter Reinhart. I use his long fermentation recipe for pizza dough. Your focaccia looks very well rised (risen? not sure what the correct verb is here!).

  8. yum, love that crust! great interpretation - good luck!

  9. Awesome! I love focaccia, but have never considered using it as a basis for a pizza. But why not??? It's like pizza taken to a whole new amazing level :)


  10. I still haven't tried the New Haven pizza institutions even though I live only 2 hours away! Great photos, btw!

  11. Thanks for the comments guys!! Yes, if I lived two hours away, I would totally make the trip! Come on down!!

  12. yum! I love artichokes on pizza!!

  13. I love focaccia pizza! Great choice of toppings too. Best of luck for this round!

  14. Looks incredible! I had fucaccia pizza only once - in Cinque Terre... but I guess since fucaccia was invented there, it was a good first taste :)
    I voted for you! (Check out mine if you're interested)

  15. Artichokes are one of my favorite pizza toppings! Your focaccia looks amazing. Great idea to use it for a pizza base!

  16. Hey Lauren - Why put the dough in the fridge? Let it proof - punch it down - shape it and reproof it - if you have a proofing option in your oven, it is a snap to do - otherwise warm oven to 90 degrees - no hotter and turn it off -leave your little yeasties to be happy and grow. Use a nice heavy ceramic bowl and cover with a towel. Deb

  17. Lauren, I doth protest your proclamation that New Haven is the pizza capital.

    As a multi generational NY'r, I'd place the bull's eye somewhere around the Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan borders, with spin-offs at various radii from there.

    While I was born in the city, I grew up in eastern Nassau county, and then made Port Jefferson my home for over 30 years now.

    I'm drawn to your reciepe and guidance, but New Haven???

    (and I have cousins in S Fairfield county - just say'n)

    Remember, any pizza place outside NYC that wants to attract business usually has a sign indicating New Haven pizza, ....right? hmm.

    ....all in good fun!


  18. Hi Deb, I appreciate your comment!

    This particular dough recipe does not require punching down, the idea is to not touch the dough accept with finger tips to preserve all of the air bubbles. It is the first recipe that I've seen that calls to put it in the fridge overnight. So I'm sure there is a specific reason.

    The book I got it from has a terrific amount of info on dough making.

  19. Hi Henry,

    Yes, all in good fun! That's the beautiful thing about food and our democratic society - everyone is entitled to their own opinion!

    But just to clarify, I didn't say that New Haven is the pizza capital, I simply said that it produces SOME of the country's best pizza.


    ps. so did I get your vote ;)

  20. Hey This is WOW! I love this idea of topping the focaccia. Perfect. Looks scrumptious!

  21. Anonymous19.10.10

    This looks delicious! I love focaccia but have never used it as a pizza crust before...great idea!

  22. Anonymous20.10.10

    DELISH! Looks awesome!

  23. Pizza is a regular occurrence at our house..We're going to have to try your crust! Looks delicious.

  24. Delicious! Great idea and love those toppings :)

  25. yum - focaccia pizza!! i'm so happy to find another CT blogger who can share in my excitement for New Haven pizza! you've done a great job with this challenge and definitely get one of my votes. good luck this round and i hope to see in you in Round 6!

  26. What a great idea to make a pizza out of focaccia bread! I love focaccia bread! I think I just might have to make this. You have my vote and good luck! :)

  27. Oh man these look delicious!!! Great recipe and photos :)

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