Chuck’s note: This is a guest post from my friend Robert Ramsey. I regularly turn to him for advice because he seeks out the best version of what he is interested in. I learned a few things from this write-up and I’m going to alter my pizza-making method accordingly.
Homemade pizza can be a bit intimidating. I’m sure you’ve heard that your small home oven cannot produce the heat necessary to make good pie, and the recipes for homemade pizza are often disgusting, with tough, thick crust and pounds of toppings to compensate.
The truth is, you can make good pizza at home. It takes a little work, but with some patience and a hacker attitude you can easily crank out quality slices.
Pizza making, like most things involving good bread, is as much art as it is science. Therefore, your opinion matters quite a bit, and deciding what you believe “good” pizza to be is up to you. I prefer a Neapolitan style both at home and in the restaurant, but I have seen many New York style pies successfully done at home as well. Note: a Neapolitan style dough is actually the easiest of all the non-pan pizza doughs to create. It requires no kneading, can be done in one step, and tends to be less of a mess.
What you will need:
- 30 oz Italian 00 flour (I’ve found the best place to get this is Amazon)
- .6 oz fine sea salt
- .5 oz instant yeast
- 19 oz of room-temp water (or so, it depends on the humidity)
- Semolina flour. This is for sliding the dough into the oven.
- 28 oz can of whole San Marzano tomatoes (or other Italian brands. Check the pasta aisle in your grocery store. You’d be surprised what you can find there).
- 10 basil leaves
- 4 cloves of garlic
- two-finger pinch of salt
I prefer basil and wet mozzarella, but you can do things like sweet peppers, sausage, etc. Keep things light! You want there to be far more empty sauce than toppings. Good pizza is about accenting a crust, not being a delivery vehicle for toppings.
- Food processor (you can use a blender in a pinch)
- Pizza peel or sideless cookie sheet
- Kitchen scale
- Pizza steel. This is very important. You CANNOT use a stone. I purchased a Dough Joe online, and I love it. Another good option is the Baking Steel. If you know someone who has a scrap yard, have them cut you a 15×15 piece of steel plate. It works just as well. Chuck’s note: This is critical. You need something that can rapidly and efficiently transfer heat to make a nice crust. Regular pizza stones and pans will result in an underdone crust.
Making the Dough
Combine the flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl and stir well. Add a little bit of the water at a time and stir with your hands until everything in the bowl is wet. Be patient with this and make sure to stir well with every bit of water, as adding too much results in a sticky mess.
Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let it sit on the counter overnight or for 10 hours.
Pull the dough from the bowl onto a well-floured surface. Divide it into four equal portions. Put each of these into a Ziploc bag and press the air out. Put the bags into your fridge.
Let the dough cold-ferment for at least 48 hours. I prefer 72 hours. This is going to create elasticity and bubbles within the dough, which is key to delicious dough.
Making the Sauce
Add the can of tomatoes with half of their liquid to the food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients. Process until “saucy.”
At this point I usually like to throw the sauce in a sauce pan on the stove to simmer for a bit and bring the flavors out.
Making the Pizza
Grab your dough bags from the fridge and let them sit out for an hour or so beforehand
Put your pizza steel in the oven on a rack as close to the broiler as you can comfortably get. I usually go with the rack second-from-the-top, but if you feel like you can easily shovel a pizza in without touching the broiler, go right on ahead.
Preheat your oven to 550F at least 45 mins ahead of making pizza. You’ll need this to get the steel to maximum heat.
Liberally flour your counter or pastry sheet. Grab a ball of dough, then, form your hands into a “karate chop” and use the tips of your fingers to poke the ball into a 6-8” disk, occasionally flipping it over to maintain the circular shape. As it flattens out, you should find air bubbles in the dough. That’s gold. Try to avoid popping them.
Grab your pizza peel or baking sheet and dust it with semolina flour. You don’t want the semolina to be too thick, but don’t skimp either.
Take your pizza dough disk and drape it over your two fists, using them to slowly rotate it around. This is very difficult to do correctly, but you’ll slowly stretch the dough into a larger circle. Don’t get discouraged. If your pizza is shaped like a big pecan, it still tastes good.
When your dough is thoroughly stretched, drape it onto your peel. DO NOT TOUCH IT after it goes down. Touching the dough even slightly will cause it to stick, which is disastrous later on.
Grab a ladle full of sauce and spread it on your pizza. You want the pizza to be well covered in sauce, but make sure that the sauce hasn’t pooled anywhere, as it will slosh when the pizza is put in the oven.
Add your toppings. Again, go light.
It’s time to add the pizza to the oven. This is fairly dangerous, so make sure you are wearing some high quality oven mitts and that nothing flammable is close to the oven. Grab your peel and give it a quick shake to make sure your pizza slides easily. Open your oven with one hand, and with the other slide the peel at a 45 degree angle as far back onto the pizza steel as you can. Jiggle the pizza onto the steel and close the door.
How long you keep the pizza in varies from oven to oven, so start out with my times and then experiment a bit if you aren’t happy. I let the pizza bake for 7 minutes, shut the oven off, and then turn the broiler on high for 1:40 seconds. This gives you the char on top.
When the second timer goes off, put those oven mitts back on, pop open the oven, and slide it back on the pizza peel. It can be a little tricky, so sometimes I just reach in and grab the pizza.
Let the pizza sit for at least 5 more mins while it finishes cooking (residual heat!), then dig in.
Good looking pizza!
Just wanted to say, for folks like me who love pizza but don’t feel like they make it often enough to invest in a baking steel: I’ve had great luck spreading the crust out on top of a piece of parchment paper, and placing the paper with the pizza on it directly on an oven rack. It doesn’t get the same degree of deliciousness that it would from a baking steel or stone, but it’s cheap and damn tasty.