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Awesome Pesto Caprese Pizza

Another week has gone by and another Pizza has been born (and devoured). This past week I have been working on a caprese pizza. Before making this pizza, I did not even know that I was a making a caprese pizza. In fact, the word caprese didn’t even enter my mind. I don’t think it was in my vocabulary before making this weekend’s pizza, but nonetheless, the pizza was made.

My initial idea for this pizza came from a picture someone texted me. The pizza I was texted had no sauce, but instead, it had sliced tomatoes on top. Naturally, I thought about pairing basil with the tomatoes both for its complementary flavor and color. Maybe, caprese salad was somewhere deep in my unconscious mind. I think I’ve eaten it before, but I never knew what it was called. Nevertheless, how I came up with the idea for this pizza is less important than what I learned making it.

This pizza spanned two different attempts. Lately, I’ve been working to try to increase the openness of my crumb on my focaccia bread. It’s not that the crumb was too fine before, but I wanted to achieve the big, open crumb that wows people. So, I made some changes to the recipe I was using for focaccia bread last weekend. While the attempt was pretty good, I felt like I could do better.

caprese pizza crust

My initial caprese pizza attempt.

I went back to the drawing board and decided to experiment with a new Dough recipe. Whenever I have a question about pizza, I always turn to the Pizza Making Forum. It’s a great community with lots of knowledgeable people. Under the focaccia forum, I found this recipe by blueeyes0710 (My Journey through Romana Style Pies). I had seen his results, and I wanted to try to replicate them as best as I could.

Caprese pizza crust

The crumb of this crust is much more open.

You can see from the picture above that I achieved a much more open crumb on my second try. I believe that there were several factors involved in achieving a more open crumb. Firstly, the longer fermentation time allowed for greater gas production (You will also notice that the yeast content was reduced to account for greater duration of fermentation). Secondly, my room temperature ferment was twice as long. Thirdly, the hydration of the dough was slightly higher, allowing for more steam production during the initial process of baking. All of these factors together produced a much better crust in my opinion. Given the great results I achieved this weekend, I will keep experimenting to find out just how far I can push my pizza making.

Caprese Pizza

This delicious pizza is perfect for spring. It features the freshness of mozzarella and tomatoes with the unique flavor of pesto.

  • 355 g (2 1/2 cups) bread flour
  • 266 g (1 cup + 1 tbsp) warm water
  • 2.44 g (3/4 tsp) instant dry yeast
  • 8.88 g (1 1/2 tsp) fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 16 oz sliced fresh mozzarella
  • 1 jar Classico pesto sauce (or brand of your choosing)
  1. To begin making the dough, combine the water and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the salt to the mixture and stir until it is dissolved. Add the flour and mix until a rough mass of dough has formed.

  2. Flour a work surface as well as your hands. Knead the dough until it is smooth in texture.  Roll the dough into a ball.

  3. Place the dough into an oiled, airtight container. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

  4. After the dough has cold fermented for 24 hours, remove it from the refrigerator.

  5. Remove the dough from the container. It should not be very sticky at this point. Place the dough on a work surface. Stretch the dough and fold it until it forms a square. Roll the dough back into a ball.

  6. Place the dough back in the refrigerator for another 24 hours.

  7. Remove the dough after another 24 hour fermentation period. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

  8. After the dough has rested at room temperature for 20 minutes, stretch the dough to cover a half sheet pan.

  9. Allow the dough to rise covered at room temperature for 4 hours.

  10. After 3 hours of fermentation at room temperature, place a pizza stone or steel in the upper 1/3 of your oven. Preheat to 500 F (260 C).

  11. Just prior to placing the pizza in the oven. Drain the pesto of any excess olive oil and spread it on top of the dough. Add sliced mozzarella and tomatoes.

  12. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

  13. Remove from the oven and enjoy!

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