When I was cooking at New York City’s Bella Blu in 1997, we used to give these bites away to VIPs. It’s like a creamy sandwich—a great way to start a meal. You just press 2 dough balls together, shape them into a round, bake it, and then split it in half through the side so it’s like two pieces of round sandwich bread. For fillings, the possibilities are endless. At Bella Blu, we filled them with creamy robiola cheese and truffle oil. Sometimes I stuff them with fontina cheese, prosciutto, and dressed arugula leaves. That combo reminds me of the sandwiches I get at the Autogrill in Italy when traveling the A4 motorway from Milan’s Malpensa airport to Bergamo. Memories!
MAKES ONE 12-INCH (30 CM) ROUND STUFFED PIZZA
Let the dough warm up at room temperature for at least
1 hour or up to 4 hours. As it warms up, the dough will relax and become easier to shape.
Place a baking steel or stone on the upper rack of the oven 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) beneath the broiler for an electric oven or 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) beneath the broiler for
a gas oven. Preheat the oven to its highest setting (usually 500° to 550°F/260° to 288°C) for 45 minutes.
Have your fillings ready to go.
When the oven is preheated and you are ready to bake pizza, open the oven door for 10 seconds if you have an electric oven. This step lets some heat escape to make sure the electric broiler will actually turn on even though the oven has reached its maximum temperature. Reset the oven to broil and preheat the broiler for 5 to 10 minutes. The next steps of shaping and topping the pizza should take only 5 to 10 minutes if your fillings are ready to go.
TO SHAPE THE DOUGH: The goal is to combine the dough balls and stretch the dough to a 12-inch (30 cm) circle that is even across the middle with little to no rim around the edge. There are lots of ways. For 67% hydration dough, you’ll need a bit more flour and a gentler hand, since the dough is softer. It’s best to shape it completely on your work surface. If you try to pick it up, it may tear a hole.
Generously flour a work surface and a wooden pizza peel. Use a dough scraper to scrape the dough balls from the tray to the floured surface. Stack 1 dough ball on top of the other and press them together into 1 bigger disk of dough. Gently poke your fingers about 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) from the edge of the dough ball all around it. The center should look thicker like a hat. Press your fingers and palm gently into the center of the hat, moving your fingers and thumb out- ward to begin stretching the dough away from the center. At this point, you should have a disk of dough 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12 cm) in diameter. Slip one hand under the disk and quickly flip it over. Repeat the poking and pressing process on the other side, poking your fingers around the edge first and then placing your palm on the center and gently stretching your fingers and thumb outward to stretch the dough from the center outward. As you work, gradually rotate the dough on the flour to keep it round. The dough should be soft enough to continue this process until it is stretched to a 12-inch (30 cm) circle that is even across the middle with almost no rim. It should be about 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) thick. If the dough tears a hole, patch it by pulling a little dough from one side of the hole and pressing it over the hole with your thumb.
Lay the stretched dough onto the floured peel. The easiest way is to simply drape it over the peel and then remove your hands from beneath the dough. Reshape the dough round as necessary. Dock the dough by poking holes all over it with a fork or a dough docker, which helps prevent it from puffing up too much in the oven. Give the peel a quick shake to make sure the dough can slide easily.
TO BAKE THE PIZZA: At this point, your oven should be
on broil. Slide and shake the pizza from the peel onto the cooking surface. Cook until the dough is slightly puffed and golden brown on top, 3 to 4 minutes total. Check
the dough during cooking and as it begins to puff up,
use a long metal spatula or half-sheet pan to press down on the dough to keep any one bubble from puffing up and browning too much. Ideally, you want an evenly puffy
and browned disk of dough. Use your hands or a long spatula to rotate the dough as necessary for even cooking.
Remove the pizza from the oven to a wire rack to cool for a minute or so, just to keep the steam from making the crust soggy. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and use a long serrated knife to cut the cooked dough in half through the side to make two thinner dough rounds. Cut all the way around the outside edge first, gradually working the knife toward the middle until the dough is cleaved in two. Keep the knife perfectly flat at all times to avoid cutting a hole in the top or bottom crust.
Separate the two halves and open them like a book. Use a spoon or your fingers to scrape away any soft, undercooked dough from both halves. You want to scrape away and discard most of the undercooked dough. Spread or layer your cheese evenly across the bottom half of the dough (see “Options” below). Return the cheese-topped bottom half of the dough to the oven and bake just until the cheese melts, 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove the pizza to a cutting board and layer on the remaining filling ingredients. Cover with the top half of the dough and compress the sandwich very gently. Cut into
6 wedges, and add any finishing ingredients. If you will
be baking another pizza, reset the oven to its maximum temperature.
TRUFFLE AND ROBIOLA STUFFED PIZZA: Scatter 6 to
8 ounces sliced robiola cheese on the bottom half of the dough and sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle of the highest-quality white truffle oil. After baking, cover the melted cheese with the top half of the dough. Slice and finish it with another drizzle of truffle oil. Be sure to use real white truffle oil. There’s a lot of crap out there made with some kind of truffle fragrance and no actual truffle! If you can’t find real truffle oil, spread some white truffle pâté on the bottom crust instead.
PROSCIUTTO AND ARUGULA STUFFED PIZZA: Scatter
4 to 6 ounces (1 to 1 1/2 cups) shredded fontina cheese on the bottom half of the dough. After baking, drape about 3 ounces paper-thin prosciutto slices over the melted cheese. Top with about 1 1/2 ounces (1/3 cup) baby arugula leaves, a drizzle of high-quality aged balsamic vinegar, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, and some flake salt, such as Maldon. Cover with the top half of the dough, slice, and finish it with another drizzle of olive oil.