a lifetime spent obsessed with pizza has left me with one skill: i know good pizza. of all my accomplishments in the kitchen, nailing this has been the greatest achievement of all. everybody loves pizza. these are my tips for bringing the pizzeria home. i have learned bits and pieces everywhere, because the second i hear 'pizza' mentioned, my ears perk up. this is what i know. and like i said before, i know good pizza.
- it's not the recipe, it's the technique. most recipes for pizza dough have the same basic ingredients. (by technique, i mean how you knead the dough, how long a rise, an autolyse, etc. this info follows.)
- add all the water and three-quarters of the flour of your recipe into the bowl of your mixer. mix, then cover and rest the dough for thirty minutes. this is called autolyse- it works by rehydrating the flour and beginning gluten development.
- try bottled spring water instead of tap water. don't laugh, some people swear by this.
- knead the pizza dough a long time. ten-fifteen minutes in a mixer.
- if you remember to make dough the day before, try a cold, slow rise. cut the yeast back to 1 1/2 teaspoons and refrigerate the dough, tightly covered, overnight. set out at room temperature for a couple of hours before rolling. this gives a wonderful texture to the dough.
- pizza likes it hot. a very very hot oven will cook a pizza better. crispy outside, chewy soft inside, nice bubbly top- you want your oven at about 475 degrees. you will only need to bake a fully loaded pizza for about 7 minutes.
- yes you need a pizza stone. and a good one, to tolerate 475 degrees. i leave mine in allthetime. just get one. if you're fully commited to making the ultimate homemade fabulous pizza, you'll get one. if you're on the fence, just bake on a heavy cookie sheet. well oiled.
- exercise restraint: don't use too much cheese. or toppings. or sauce. limit yourself to about 2 cups cheese and 1/2 cup sauce. try to limit those raw veggies- lots of moisture.
- preheat your oven. for a very long time- like a half hour or forty five minutes.
- roll the dough out over cornmeal instead of flour.
- place dough rounds on parchment paper before adding toppings, then use a peel to transfer pizza onto a hot baking stone.
- layer like this: dough, sauce, 3/4 of the cheese, toppings, 1/4 of the cheese.
- try layering fresh herbs on top of the sauce.
- make your own stuffed crust pizza by rolling edges of crust around string cheese.
- sprinkle the top of your pizza with parmesan cheese. it browns up oh-so-lovely and adds a yummy salty pop of flavor.
- sprinkle of italian seasoning all over the top of the pizza just before it goes into the oven. looks pretty and tastes good. by all means, use fresh herbs if you've got 'em!
- brush the edges of crust with oil before you bake it. it adds a delicious flavor.
- make pan pizza in a cake pan or cast iron pan: use lots of oil in pan, layer dough and toppings, bake in pan. watch closely that the bottom doesn't burn.
- mix your cheeses: (even just mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan, if that is all you have.) try gouda, provolone, muenster, jarlsberg, there are so many more. all yummy.
- make the sauce ahead of time. let those flavors meld. make it as soon as you know you're making pizza.
1 cup warm water*
3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon oil
1 Tablespoon yeast**
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
combine warm water and 2 1/2 cups flour in the bowl of a mixer. mix together, cover and rest for 30 minutes. do not skip this step! (unless you want un-ultimate homemade un-fabulous pizza dough.) after 30 minutes, add oil, yeast, sugar, and salt to dough. mix. add remaining flour, watching dough, perhaps adding a bit more or less flour as needed. the dough should be soft but not sticky. knead in mixer for ten minutes. put in an oiled bowl and cover. (at this point if you are making this for an overnight cold rise, put in fridge.) let dough rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. punch dough down, let rest another 10 minutes. roll out into a 16" circle over spelt flour or cornmeal. transfer to parchment paper or cookie sheet before topping. top with 1/2 cup sauce, 2 cups cheese and toppings of choice. bake on a pizza stone or a well oiled cookie sheet in a 475 degree well-preheated oven for 7 minutes.
this makes one 16" crust.
*try spring water- see tip #3.
**use only 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast for an overnight cold rise. in the morning, remove dough, let warm to room temperature for a couple of hours, punch down, rest for 10 minutes, and roll out.
looking for a quick healthy alternative? try lazy whole wheat pizza dough.