I freaking love pizza. I just have to say that first and foremost because I have made this recipe so many times to try and perfect it. Different ratios of flour in the crust, different cheeses, different fermentation times. I never really perfect a recipe because my crazy mind won’t let me feel like I’m finished–I just tinker and tinker and tinker until I die. But this one comes pretty close to perfect, I have to say. Like many of my recipes, this recipe is much less about what goes on top of your pizza (don’t worry, we’ll get to that because I really nailed this combo, if I do say so myself) and really more about the dough and subsequent crust. To me, the crust is possibly the most important part of the whole shebang. There is no room in my life for boboli-esque garbage crusts–I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life. If you really want to take your pizza-making to the next level, you need to be making your own dough. I was once like you, a trader joe’s pre-made-dough-purchasing individual. But now, I can never go back. It’s too easy to make great crust at home as long as you plan for it and give yourself time. Things like this just can’t be rushed. This recipe was inspired by Ken Forkish’s book Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast in the method, but overtime I have tweaked it to be my own. The reason this process takes 72 hours is because the flavor and texture is developed over that time period. The dough is first fermented at room temperature for 24 hours and then moved to the fridge to ferment in the cold for another 48 hours before being ready to use. The cold helps slow down the fermentation process but allows really great flavor to develop. Then, the dough is portioned brought up to room temperature which makes stretching the dough much easier.
As the main ingredient in pizza dough, the flour you use is pretty damn important. I use a combination of 00 flour (you can find my favorite here) and all purpose flour–use a good all purpose flour though, I’m a fan of King Arthur. If you don’t want to use the 00, you can use all AP flour, but in my opinion the combination of the two really is something special. The recipe comes together very simply. First, the flour, yeast and salt are all stirred together and then the water is added. This can be done in a stand mixer with a dough hook and mixed for about 5-10 minutes or mixed by hand in a bowl. The dough will still be sticky, but that’s okay. I have a plastic 6 quart container that I use precisely for this application and it’s a lifesaver. You can buy it here. You can also use a large kitchen bowl covered with plastic wrap or container with a lid (covering the dough keeps it from drying out), just keep in mind that the dough will grow very large in size so the container will need to be large enough to accommodate that expansion. Also, make sure to grease your container because it will make your life so much easier later. Find a warm-ish place in your kitchen and let the dough hang out for 24 hours undisturbed. After 24 hours, punch the dough down, re-cover, and transfer to the fridge for 48 hours. After 48 hours, the dough can be divided into 4 equal portions (use a scale if you want it to be exact), and shaped into balls. I don’t have a video for shaping pizza but it’s very similar to shaping brioche buns if you want to watch that tutorial video here. Once your dough balls are made, you’ll want to set them on a sheet tray dusted with flour and cover them with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. You can either roll or stretch your dough but you’re looking to achieve around a 12-14″ circle (or oval, pizza doesn’t have to be perfect).
A quintessential part of getting your pizza to turn out like it would in a restaurant is to have a pizza stone or equivalent. You may be wondering what the equivalent would be and that is where the Baking Steel comes in. If you are like me and you take your pizza very seriously, I highly recommend investing in a baking steel. Similar to a pizza stone, the baking steel is, you guessed it, made of steel. It is virtually indestructible and disseminates heat more evenly than a pizza stone. Steel is more conductive to heat than stone and therefore creates a crust better than even a brick oven could achieve. However, a pizza stone is your next best bet if you’ve got one! Giving your stone or steel adequate time to heat up is incredibly important. I like to preheat my oven about 45 minutes before my first pizza goes into the oven. This is the interesting part… once my steel/stone is adequately heated, I switch my broiler on to high and then throw the pizza in the oven. The broiler gets the top nice and bubbly and browned (you know those brown bits on the cheese are ESSENTIAL), while the steel/stone gets the bottom cooked. I switch back and forth to keep the oven and the steel/stone hot but I swear I have turned out pizza from my home kitchen that rivals some of the best pizza places I have been to and you can too!
The toppings at this point are totally up to you. Keep it simple and make a margherita pizza. Or a white pizza. Or a freakin’ cheeseburger pizza. Who am I to tell you how to live your life? I just want to make sure that your pizza is the best it can be. The pizza I have pictured is topped with a simple pizza sauce (recipe below), my special 4-cheese blend, ricotta, coppa (similar in flavor to proscuitto but comes from the pork shoulder or neck) and fresh basil from my garden. Pepperoni is also equally delightful, but look for pepperoni whole with natural casings so that they turn into those glorious little cups as they cook. Now that you’ve got the crust down, go forth and create the pizza that will make your wildest pizza dreams come true!
PIZZA DOUGH RECIPE:
makes 4 12-14″ pizzas
loosely adapted from Ken Forkish and Andris Lagsdin
400g ’00’ flour
350g all purpose flour, such as king arthur
440g tepid water (around 75 degrees F)
3g (about 1 teaspoon) yeast
Weigh flour, yeast and salt into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add water and mix for 5-10 minutes or until dough is smooth. Transfer to a greased container with a lid or a mixing bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let sit in a warm-ish place in the kitchen for 24 hours. Punch dough down, re-cover, and transfer to fridge for 48 hours. For instance, if you want to make pizza on a Friday or Saturday, start your dough on Tuesday or Wednesday. After 48 hours in the fridge, remove the dough from the fridge and divide into 4 equal portions (you can use a scale for exact measurements). Form each portion of dough into a smooth ball and place on a baking sheet dusted with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to come up to room temperature (about 45 min to 1 hour).
In the meantime, place your pizza stone or steel in the oven and preheat to 550 degrees F for 45 minutes to get your steel/stone adequately hot.
Once oven and steel/stone is properly heated, switch your broiler on to high. Dust your pizza peel with flour or semolina. Stretch or roll your pizza out to a 12-14″ circle or oval or really anything roughly resembling a pizza shape, dusting your dough generously with flour as you go, and place on your dusted pizza peel. You’ll watch to work fast at this point so that your dough doesn’t stick to the peel. Top your pizza with desired toppings–don’t overload your pizza too much though or you’ll have a hard time getting your peel onto your steel/stone. A good way to test that is to give the pizza a little shake on the peel once you’ve got your toppings on. If it moves freely, you’re good to go. Gently transfer your topped pizza to the peel/stone and cook for about 5-6 minutes, or until top is bubbly and cheese/crust has browned bits. Use the peel to remove the pizza from the stone and transfer to a cutting board. Cut the pizza into 6-8 slices and serve. Repeat until your pants won’t button or until all your pizzas have been cooked.
COPPA + RICOTTA PIZZA
makes 2-3 pizzas
2-3 balls of pizza dough (recipe above)
Pizza Sauce (recipe below)
4 oz whole milk, low-moisture mozzarella
4 oz aged havarti cheese
4 oz provalone cheese
4 oz fontina cheese
4 oz coppa
4 oz whole milk ricotta
fresh basil leaves
Shred all four cheeses and mix them together, keep cold until ready to use. Stretch or roll your pizza dough to roughly a 12-14″ circle. Top with about 1/3 cup pizza sauce, and spread evenly over the dough. Top with 1/3 cheese mixture. Lay slices of coppa evenly over the pizza. Dollop with 5-6 spoonfuls of ricotta. Season with a little salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook according to the instructions above. Top with fresh basil leaves once your pizza comes out of the oven. Slice and serve!
makes 3-4 cups, extras can be frozen
2 Tablespoons olive oil
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
In a small sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 3-4 minutes until fragrant but not burned. Add hand-crushed tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and add tomato paste, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until sauce has deepened in color and thickened. Cool and transfer to an airtight container until ready to use. Any leftovers can be frozen and kept for 6 months.