Eggplant parmesan pizza w/ crispy capers

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NOT feeling particular talky today so let’s just eat.

Last night, armed with the perfect excuse of utilizing the abundance of eggplants, we had a pizza-rized eggplant parmesan.  Paper-thin slices of eggplants pre-toasted under an airy web of grated Parmigiano cheese until curly crispy and golden browned, scattered in between two layers of tangy tomato sauce and bubbling moazzarella cheese.  Then, topped with what acted as bursting land-mines of brininess and salt, my new BFF crispy-fried capers that makes it.  Just another evidence that I must drop any perfectly wholesome and healthy idea onto a throbbing field of carbs.

May or may not have something to do with my mind-paralysis today… and even if it did, the best kind there is.

” … BURSTING LAND-MINES OF BRININESS AND SALT… “

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Makes: 3 medium pizza, or 2 large pizzas

Since the day I started making my own pizza-dough, I found myself increasing the wetness of the dough each and every time (with helps from a friend who knows a lot about doughs).  I found that a wetter dough, is a lot easier to spread out and forms a softer and chewier crust, than a drier dough.  Yes, it’s stickier and messier, but at the same time, a wetter dough has more fluidity thus less likely to tear, and most importantly, it can achieve a higher rise in the oven.

Handling a wet dough is not hard, if you just keep to a few key-points in the recipe-instructions.

Then in this particular case, I strongly recommend measuring the ingredients by weight.  It is extremely difficult to be precise with cups, especially when cups don’t come in uniformed sizes/volumes!  The ratio between bread flour and water should be 1 : 0.82 (or up to 0.85 sometimes), by weight!  That mean, 100 grams of flour will need 82 grams ~ 85 grams of water, depending on humidity, and types of flour and etc.

** Please note that in this particular recipe, 1 cup = 250 ml.


Ingredients:

  • Pizza dough:
    • 400 grams (2 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) of bread flour
    • 1 tsp of sugar
    • 1/2 tsp of salt
    • 1/2 tsp (if let ferment in the fridge), or 1/4 tsp (if let ferment in room-temperature) of instant dry yeast
    • 328 grams ~ 340 grams (328 ml ~ 340 ml) of water
  • Tomato sauce:
    • 2 cans (800 grams total) of peeled Italian tomatoes
    • 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
    • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
    • 1 small red onion, diced
    • 1 tbsp of tomato paste
    • 1 tsp of salt
    • 1 tsp of sugar
    • More salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Eggplant parmesan topping:
    • 2 ~ 3 long Asian eggplants (approx 750 grams)
    • Aged Parmigiano cheese for grating
    • Salt and pepper for seasoning
    • 1/3 cup of capers, roughly chopped
    • 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil for frying
    • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
    • 1 large fresh Mozzarella cheese, sliced
    • Chili flakes for sprinkling

To make the pizza dough:  Start the night before, or at least 9 hours before serving.

  • If you are proofing your dough in the fridge for 18 to 24 hours (starting the night before), use 1/2 tsp of instant dry yeast.
  • If proofing at room-temperature (a “cool” room) for 18 to 24 hours, use 1/4 tsp of instant dry yeast.
  • If proofing 9 hours before serving (in the morning on the same day), use 1/2 tsp of instant dry yeast and proof at room-temperature.

Mix bread flour, sugar, and instant dry yeast evenly in a large bowl.  Add 328 grams of water first, and mix together with a wooden spoon until a wet dough forms (if the dough seems dry/doesn’t come together, add another 10 grams, or 1/2 tbsp of water).  Let the dough sit for 15 min for the flour to hydrate, then with your hands, pull the dough up then fold it over itself.  Turn it 90 degrees and repeat for a few times.  Wait for another 15 min, then repeat again.  This helps to encourage elasticity of the dough without kneading.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then let proof either in the fridge or at room-temperature (as instructed above).

To make the tomato sauce (can be made the day ahead):  Blend the tomatoes in a blender until smoothly pureed.  Set aside.  Heat up extra virgin olive oil in a sauce pot over high heat, then cook the garlic and fresh thyme until lightly browned on the edges.  Add the diced onion, tomato paste and salt, and cook for 5 min until the onions are soft.  Add the pureed tomatoes then turn the heat down to medium-low.  Partially cover the pot (or it will splatter) and cook for approx 30 min, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has reduced by almost 1/2.

Taste and re-season with salt (probably need another 1/4 tsp) and freshly ground black pepper.  Set aside until needed.

To prepare the eggplant parmesan topping:  Preheat the top-broiler on high.

Remove the tips of the eggplants, then cut into very thin (1/8″, or 3mm) slices.  Scatter over a parchment-lined baking sheet in roughly a single layer (some overlapping is fine).  Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil, then grate a thin layer of Parmigiano cheese evenly over the top, season with salt and pepper, then place 3″ under the broiler.  Cook until the top surface is nicely browned, then transfer the cooked eggplants to another sheet, and repeat with the rest.  Set aside until needed.

To fry the capers, heat 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil over high heat.  Add the chopped capers and fry for approx 5 min, until the capers are shrivelled and slightly crispy.  Drain through a fine sieve, then mix 3 finely minced garlic into the frying oil (no need for further cooking).  Set the capers and garlic-oil aside until needed.

To assemble the pizza:  Preheat the oven on 500ºF/250ºC (or higher if your oven goes), with a pizza-stone or a large inverted cast-iron skillet in the middle-rack.  Preferably, allow 30 more min after the oven has reached desired temperature.

From my experience, the trick of working with a sticky dough is:  You want to oil your hands (no flour needed) for grabbing the dough out of the bowl.  Then flour the dough, while you’re spreading it.  So, place a parchment paper on the counter, larger than the size of the pizza you’re making (the recipe will make 2 large, or 3 medium pizzas).  Lightly oil the surface of the parchment, as well as your hands.  Gently separate a portion of the dough from the bowl and transfer onto the lightly-oiled parchment.  The dough will be very wet, feeling more like a blob.  Then flour the top of the dough, just enough so it doesn’t stick to your hands (dust more flour as you go, but do not over-flour it).  Then gently press and spread the dough outward to make it into a thin disk, but careful not to pop the air-pockets within the dough.  Think of it more like re-distributing the air-pockets.

Now set the flatten dough on the side and let rest for 20 min, very loosely covered with plastic wrap.  Repeat with another dough.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over the dough, then a thin layer of toasted eggplants, then tear the mozzarella on top, then sprinkle evenly with crispy capers, then grate more Parmigiano cheese over, then finally, scatter some minced garlic-oil over the topping and brush the dough-edges with the oil.  Slide the pizza onto a board by pulling the parchment, then transfer again onto the pizza-stone (or on top of an inverted case-iron skillet).  Bake until the crusts and toppings are golden-browned and bubbly, approx 10 min (turn the oven to top-broiler for the last 5 ~ 3 min if the topping needs more heat).

Sprinkle with more crispy capers, and chili flakes.  Serve immediately.

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29 Comments

  • Thank-you for your insight into creating a REAL pizza dough in a simple way. I couldn’t agree with you more about using weight over cups and the hassle with all that measuring. It continues to surprise me how few people have scales in their kitchen.
    Loved the idea of incorporating crispy capers into a pizza. Definitely must give that a try next time.
    As always, thanks for sharing!

  • Looks lovely! I want some!

    I love your blog and I am so inspired by the dishes you make.

    Is your recipe for pizza dough from Peter Rinehart, the famous bread and pizza maker?? It certainly sounds like it. His recipe calls for fermentation the day before and the hydration is about 85%. I’m going to give it a try too. When I get a real gas oven. My present electronic one just won’t heat up hot enough.

    • Pamela, the dough for the recipe is largely based on this Italian guy named Bonci (there is a “silce of bonci’s” post in the archive for his pizza bianca), but after many times of working with it, sort of adapted it to my own method. But now I just have to check out this peter Rinehart dude…

  • Really intrigued by your wet dough—have you tried a quicker proof, i.e, in a low oven? I’m such a crummy plan-ahead person.

    • The overnight/or at least 9-hours fermentation just creates a much better texture, than say a quick rise of 2 hours. I’m afraid it’s completely different. But if you are absolutely in a hurry, you can increase the yeast to 2 tsp, and let proof at room-temperature :)

  • Hi,
    I was wondering which bread flour u are using for this recipe. Just normal white high gluten? I just moved to the US and I’m not happy with my pizza baking results…
    Also I tried to bake pizza on a preheated, reversed baking sheet a couple of times (don’t have a pizza-stone) but this only lead to a very though dough. So far I got out the best results by baking the pizza on a non-preheated sheet with moderate temperature (200 °C).
    Thanks, Ursula

    • Ursula: sorry for the delay. I’m using a bread flour from a Hong Kong brand. When choosing bread flour/high gluten flour, look for protein content around the range of 11% to 14%. it sounds to me that your dough may be too dry, and not fermented/proofed enough.

      • Hi Mandy,
        I made pizza dough with your recipe yesterday and ….. it turned out perfect!!!! I used white bread flour (high gluten) and let the dough rest at cool room temperature for 10 hours. Also I never oiled the parchment paper before, actually that really makes a nice, crunchy bottom crust.
        Btw, I always measure dough ingredients with a kitchen scale, so I really appreciate your recipes. For recipe-developing I even use micro-scales. I know that’s kind of nerdy ;-)
        Thanks, Ursula

  • Wow, this is exactly how I handle my dough – you described it so well! I always found it awkward that recipes with higher water content never mentioned how on earth we were going to get the dough in a circle. So I had to come up with the oiling-your-hands and then-pressing-outwards method :) It’s nice to have your approval, haha. I made this with 150 gr of whole wheat and the rest with regular. It’s in the oven now, it looks/smells incredible. Danke!

  • What do you mean by folding the dough over on itself after mixing ingredients to create elasticity? Newbie here.

    • Bubs: grab the tips of the dough with both hands, lift it up so it stretches up, then fold it over itself like folding a letter. It should create a better texture within the dough.

  • Again, I’ve never been into baking or anything that is ”dough” related. I took your dough recipe and did something else for the stuffing of my pizza, and this was the BEST PIZZA I’ve ever eaten. Seriously, it was amazing. My boyfriend and I were astonished. I will do and redo this recipe and pass it on to next generations ;)

    Thanks!

  • I noticed in your pics there appear to be thinly sliced red onion rings on your pizza yet it is not mentioned in the recipe (though there is diced red onion in your sauce recipe). I made your recipe and added some thinly sliced shallots on top. Loved it! Thanks for the idea…had never thought of frying capers before and that, in my opinion, is what puts this over the top.

  • i am really tempted to try out this recipe, however i dont own a cast iron skillet.. would a normal baking tray work with this?

      • thank u for replying!! i am making this tonight then!!by the way we tried your shrimp mayo dumpling as a weekend project and it was oh my goodness-y sooooooo yummmmmy! we had just a few left overs cz there was only the two of us and the next day i deep fried it just for the sake of having a twist on it .. and it was ahhhhmazinggggg ! the wrapper fried up into some really crunchy cracker and it goes really well with the shrimp mayo ! soooooo yummmmm!! and also cz we had so much of the shrimp mayo i added just a dollop into a chicken noodle soup i made yesterday and it added a real depth to the whole dish !! thank u so much for giving me so much lessons as a newbie culinary wise. never really boiled an egg perfectly before diving into your blog. it’s just amazing how much u have taught me ! really grateful and thankful ! really !!!

  • Huhuhu I am making this as we speak, I followed the water to flour ratio but mine was really dry and had some clumps so I added more water D: just finished my first folding and the dough kinda tears when I try to fold it. Wish me luck!

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