Secret Recipe: Tony Gemignani's Cal-Italia Pizza


We got into the head of pizza maestro Tony Gemignani with the recipe for his Cal-Italia pizza, which he crafted while at the Food Network Pizza Champion Challenge in 2006. Here’s what he writes in The Pizza Bible: “[I combined] two of my favorite pizza worlds, California and Italy. I grabbed five totally traditional Italian ingredients: prosciutto, fig jam, Gorgonzola, Asiago, and balsamic vinegar. They’re classic, but the thing is, you’d never find them on a pizza in Italy, at least not all together. But to us “why not?” Californians, the combination makes perfect sense as a pizza topping, and it made sense to the judges, too.” We concur. 


Makes one 13-inch pizza, 6 slices

1 (13-ounce) ball Master Dough, preferably with starter (see recipe below) made with Poolish

3 parts flour mixed with 1 part semolina, for dusting

2-ounce piece Asiago cheese, cold, for shaving

1 ½ cups whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 ½ ounces Gorgonzola cheese, broken into small pieces

2 to 3 tablespoons fig jam, preferably Dalmatia brand

3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto (about 6 slices)

Balsamic Glaze (see recipe below), in a small squeeze bottle

Equipment needed:

2 pizza stones or baking steels

wooden pizza peel

1.     Remove the dough ball from the refrigerator and leave wrapped at room temperature until the dough warms to 60 to 65 degrees.
2.     Meanwhile, set up the oven with two pizza stones or baking steels and preheat to 500 degrees for 1 hour.
3.     Dust the work surface with the dusting mixture, then move the dough to the surface and dust the top.
4.     Sprinkle a wooden peel with the dusting mixture.
5.     Roll out the dough into a round 15 inches in diameter. Using a pizza wheel, trim the dough to a 13-inch round, flatten the edge, then dock the surface of the dough (prick it all over with a fork).
6.     Move the dough to the peel. As you work, shake the peel forward and backward to ensure the dough isn’t sticking.
7.     Using a vegetable peeler, shave the Asiago over the surface of the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border.
8.     Mound the mozzarella in the center of the pizza and use your fingertips to spread it out evenly over the Asiago.
9.     Slide the pizza onto the top pizza stone.
10.  Bake for 7 minutes. Lift the pizza onto the peel and distribute the Gorgonzola pieces evenly over the top. Rotate the pizza 180 degrees, transfer it to the bottom stone, and bake for 3 to 4 minutes, until the bottom is browned and crisp and the top is golden brown.
11.  Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and cut into 6 wedges. Spoon small dollops of fig jam (about 1/4 teaspoon each) around the pizza.
12.  Tear the prosciutto slices lengthwise into 2 or 3 strips and drape the pieces over the pizza slices.
13.  To finish, squeeze a thin spiral of balsamic glaze onto the pizza. 

Master Dough with Starter

Makes about 29 ounces dough, enough for 2 pizzas

3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water (80 to 85 degrees)

3 ½ cups flour, with 13 to 14 percent protein (preferably All Trumps, Pendleton Flour Mills Power, Giusto’s High Performer, King Arthur Sir Lancelot Unbleached Hi-Gluten, or Tony’s California Artisan Flour)

1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon diastatic malt

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water, plus more as needed

90 grams Poolish starter (see recipe below)

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Equipment needed:

Stand mixer with dough hook

1.     Put the yeast in a small bowl, add the warm water, and whisk vigorously for 30 seconds. The yeast should dissolve in the water and the mixture should foam. If it doesn’t and the yeast granules float, the yeast is “dead” and should be discarded. Begin again with a fresh amount of yeast and water.
2.     Combine the flour and malt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
3.     With the mixer running on the lowest speed, pour in most of the ice water, reserving about 2 tablespoons, followed by the yeast-water mixture.
4.     Pour the reserved water into the yeast bowl, swirl it around to dislodge any bits of yeast stuck to the bowl, and add to the mixer. Mix for about 15 seconds, stop the mixer, and add the Poolish starter.
5.     Continue to mix the dough at the lowest speed for about 1 minute, until most of the dough comes together around the hook. Stop the mixer.
6.     Use your fingers to pull away any dough clinging to the hook, and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a bowl scraper or rubber spatula. Check the bottom of the bowl for any unincorporated flour. Turn the dough over and press it into the bottom of the bowl to pick up any stray pieces. If the dough isn’t holding together, add small amounts of water (about 1/2 teaspoon to start) and mix until the dough is no longer dry and holds together.
7.     Add the salt and mix on the lowest speed for 1 minute to combine.
8.     Stop the mixer, pull the dough off the hook, and add the oil.
9.     Mix the dough for 1 to 2 minutes, stopping the mixer from time to time to pull the dough off the hook and scrape down the sides of the bowl, until all of the oil is absorbed. The dough won’t look completely smooth.
10.  Use a bowl scraper to transfer the dough to an unfloured work surface, then knead it for 2 to 3 minutes, until smooth.
11.  Cover the dough with a damp dish towel and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.
12.   Use the dough cutter to loosen the dough and to cut it into halves. Weigh each piece, adjusting the quantity of dough as necessary. Form the dough into two 13-ounce balls. Extra dough can be discarded. 
13.  Set the balls on a half sheet pan, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Or, if you will be baking the balls on different days, place each ball on a quarter sheet pan.
14.  Wrap the pan(s) airtight with a double layer of plastic wrap, sealing the wrap well under the pan(s).
15.  Put the pan(s) in a level spot in the refrigerator and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.

Poolish Starter

Poolish starter

Makes 90 grams

1/3 of 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoons cold tap water

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons flour used in dough recipe

1.     Put the yeast in a small bowl, add the water, and whisk vigorously for 30 seconds. The mixture should bubble on top. If it doesn’t and the yeast granules float, the yeast is “dead” and should be discarded. Begin again with a fresh amount of yeast and water.
2.     Add the flour and stir well with a rubber spatula to combine. The consistency will be quite thick, resembling a thick pancake batter.
3.     Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for 18 hours. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to cool slightly before using.
4.     If you are not using the starter right away, you can store it in the refrigerator, though I suggest keeping it for no more than 8 hours. Bring to cool room temperature before using. 


Balsamic Glaze

Makes ¼ cup

1 cup balsamic vinegar

1.     Put the vinegar in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat.
2.     Once steam is rising from the surface, reduce the heat to the lowest setting to keep the vinegar below a simmer. No bubbles should break through the surface. If the lowest setting is still too hot, place the pan over a diffuser.
3.     Once the vinegar has reduced by three-fourths, remove it from the heat.
4.     The glaze can be stored in a covered container at room temperature for several months.

Reprinted with permission from The Pizza Bible by Tony Gemignani, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2014 by Sara Remington.

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