There’s nothing quite like homemade pizza, but nothing more frustrating than when pizza made at home tastes nothing like what you’re really trying to create. I’ve spent a lifetime making mediocre homemade pizza. The toppings aren’t the tough part. The secret is in the crust. A month ago I found the perfect recipe for a light, fluffy, air bubble-filled crust that’ll make your toppings sing!
Baking with a solid stoneware pizza stone will allow your pizza to cook quickly and evenly with a nice crisp bottom. Because they’re intended to cook in a very hot oven, it’s also the perfect way to make this dough puff up with lots of airy, light bubbles. There are a few things I’ve learned since I first started using mine:
- Pre-heat the stone in your oven prior to baking (duh, right?!) as hot as your oven can get (mine’s about 550-degrees)
- Leave the stone in the oven no less than 30 minutes at temperature so the stone is hot through-and-through
- Sprinkle fine-grained semolina (or cornmeal on the peel before preparing crust – this’ll help it so slide off onto the stone easily
- Cook fast and hot!
- Place pizza directly on the stone with a wooden peel (comes with most stones)
3 tsp dry yeast
1 Tbsp brown sugar
650 ml lukewarm water
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 kilo bread flour (part fine-grind semolina)
1 Tbsp sea salt
Mix yeast and brown sugar (water should be warm on your inner-wrist, but not hot to the touch). Stir-in water and set aside.
Mix flour(s) in sifter. Add a cup or two of semolina flour to the overall flour portion for better texture and flavor. Incorporate salt then place in large bowl. Make large indentation in flour mixture to create a well for wet ingredients. *Do not use standard flour – you’ll just be disappointed. Bread flour has more gluten and will give you the fluffy, delicious crust you’re craving.
Return to yeast mixture (you should notice some bubbling at this point – this indicates that the yeast is active) and stir-in the olive oil.
Pour the wet mixture into the well created in the dry ingredients and slowly “shear” the dry parts off into the wet to mix. This will naturally happen as you stir the wet mixture while the drier sides slough off into the wet. Soon you’ll have a gummy ball of pizza dough!
Turn the dough onto a work surface and sprinkle with additional flour. You’ll then knead the dough (5-10 minutes) until it’s smooth and elastic adding flour as necessary to keep your hands from sticking in it. When you can stick your finger a half-inch into the dough and it springs back quickly, you’ll know it’s ready to sit and rise. Cover in the bowl with a damp (wrung-out) tea towel and set in a warm spot (or in your oven on “proof mode” if you have it) for 45-minutes to an hour until doubled in size. Punch down and allow a second-rise for another 20-30 minutes.
Now you’re ready to roll! Divide the dough in 4 equal portions – tucking the ends under to create a tidy ball. Gently press down and finesse each until you have an 8″-10″ inch-thick disk. Let this rest a few minutes, then use a rolling pin (or your fist-hands, if you’re a skilled pizza-tosser) and roll out one-at-a-time to a 14″ diameter. Place on the peel one-at-a-time for saucing and toppings (below).
Standard Pizza Sauce:
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 tsp crushed oregano (fresh)
1-2 tsp Italian seasoning
1-2 tsp crushed/chopped fresh garlic
A pinch (or more) red pepper flakes
1 small can tomato paste
1 small can red wine
1 small can water
Heat the olive oil in a solid-bottomed pan on med-high. Add oregano and seasoning until spices “bloom”. Add garlic and pepper flakes, then stir in a small can of tomato paste. Re-fill tomato paste can with red wine and add to mix. Add an additional can of water. Have favorite add-in’s? This is the perfect time to add Parmesan cheese, fresh basil or other herbs and spices. Allow sauce to gently simmer 15-20 minutes.
Quickly spoon sauce over the crust and spread. Although experts in the field will tell you that pizza making is not an exact science, and that most skilled chefs simply throw toppings on haphazardly, I prefer the every-bite-has-what-I-want method – carefully adding toppings so that each bite has a little bit of each topping. Whatever your preference, the less-is-more principal is important to remember in pizza-making. Rather than 5-10 toppings, add just a few so you can focus on just a few at a time. My favorites thus far? Chevre with pepitas, red onion and fresh basil.
Once your pizza is sauced and topped, you’re ready to quickly fling it from the wooden peel to your pre-heated stone. Honestly, this can be one of the most difficult parts. My advice? Do it quickly and assertively and it’ll gently slide off the peel and onto it’s baking stone in one fell swoop. It’s so fun to see how quickly these pizza puff up with bubbly crusts and toasty tops. Keep a close eye on yours, as it’s likely to go from melted to burnt within just a minute or two.
Delicious! Making pizza soon? What’s your favorite?