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What I've Learned About Making Pizza (so Far)

1208 Views 8 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Shapp
Perhaps the most important thing is that the crust is king. If you don't have good dough everything else pretty much doesn't matter. It has taken awhile to master good crisp crust but by refining an already good dough recipe and fine tuning how I bake it the results are really gratifying.

Since all doughs are made of essentially the same ingredients how they are assembled and treated makes all the difference. Quality flour is a good starting point and needless to say it should be fresh. My go-to choice has been King Arthur all purpose for a while now, I like it better than bread flour for pizza. I use bulk yeast, filtered water, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil. Everything is measured precisely on a digital scale to obtain the best consistency. It is mixed in a KitchenAid stand mixer the day before use and is cold fermented in the fridge for at least 24 hours. This adds a richness of flavor that you have to taste to appreciate.

I have tried some store bought sauces made in Italy that I thought would be pretty good but my simple sauce made with tomato sauce, oregano, garlic, Alleppo pepper, black pepper and kosher salt beats them all.

Too many toppings queer the do-less is more and gives the crust a better chance of baking through without being soggy. The typical household oven is a real challenge to bake pizza with so some fiddling around is usually necessary. There is a lot of discussion about which rack to bake on but in my experience there is no one rack location that can do it all. The bottom needs to get baked crisp which usually means using a lower rack but that won't brown the top. So starting low to brown the bottom then moving up for a couple of minutes under the broiler will finish the top.

Today's pizza was baked on my new Weber gas grill using a pizza stone at 500 degrees. The bottom was done in about 6 minutes and then the top finished under the broiler. It was just perfect-something I can't always say as I have made some real clunkers. Yesterday I smoked a beer can chicken in my Weber charcoal grill and used the meat today with just pineapple and cheese. I think it was the best I have ever done.

There are a number of good mozzarella cheeses available nowadays and I would suggest that you buy the best you can find. Anything but packaged pre-shredded though. I like to pinch off bits of cheese rather than grating it, good fresh cheese lends itself to that. A cheese to try that makes a wonderfully creamy pizza is fontina. Not always easy to find but a nice change of pace. I buy parmesan in blocks and shred it on top of the finished pizza before baking.

A good pizza spice offers a depth of flavor that you will find in the better pizza joints. I have been using Penzy's pizza flavoring for years and still never make a pizza without it. I have some new stuff on order that I am going to try but the Penzy's contains a lot of fennel and that is a flavor that just screams pizza.

Here is my dough recipe:
20 oz flour
12 oz warm water
3 tsp granulated yeast
2 tsp sugar or honey (I prefer honey)
1 heaping tsp sea salt
3 tbls extra virgin olive oil

Place yeast, olive oil and sugar in water and give it a few minutes to bloom
Add salt to flour and whisk
Pour water mixture into the mixer bowl and add the flour. With the dough hook let the mixer run for several minutes until it reaches the consistency you are looking for. At that point I place it in a covered bowl and refrigerate it at least over night. This should make about 33 oz of dough-enough for 2 good sized pizzas.

That's about all I know so far but it is giving me excellent results. bon appetit

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I'm death on flour with anything besides making a roux or doing biscotti, so I usually opt for a thin crust already made. However, you put good toppings on it-absolutely fresh stuff, and don't goop it on with sauce, and here's dinner!

Speaking of sauce, my grandmother was from Val d' Isere in France. When I was a kid watching her cook, one time she turned to me and said "grandson, you can hide even dog shit in a good sauce" (for the French-speakers out there, vous pouvez cacher meme merde de chien dans une bonne sauce)! C'est vrai!!!!!

But you know what i'd REALLY like to find is an easy baguette recipe!
Alex-there is help, and a lot of it. Just Google No-Knead Baguettes and start reading. The key to the success of the no-knead recipes is the long 24-30 hour ferment that allows the flavor to fully develop in the bread.

Two things you will notice when making no-knead. The first is that by following the recipes the initial dough is very dry and always seems like there is not enough water. Don't be tempted to add more. The second thing you will notice is that after 24 hours that same dough will be very wet and sticky. Don't be tempted to add more flour. Deal with it by using flour on your hands and a little on a board but don't screw up the hydration by making it something like biscuit dough. A well hydrated dough will give you that oven spring which is so desirable in the finished product.

Try it out-after a few attempts you will be making baguettes that you are truly proud of for a fraction of what they cost in a store. Even more importantly you will be having fun and can take some real pride in the finished product.

The only problem I have with them is that after they have cooled for an hour I can eat almost an entire loaf and a half stick of butter before I realize what I am doing!
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Have you experimented much with Double "OO" flour? I too like King Arthur but I have not tried the Double "OO" flour.
Add a bit of beer to your pizza dough. Pilsner or something like a Peroni. No heavy IPAs or similar. It should be on the counter when you start anyway...

Always saw the empties near the dough hooks as a kid. They told me some for the pizza pie and some for us.
thanks Ive! I may have to give this another try; so far, it's not been acceptable. And I truly agree with eating half of the stuff right out of the oven-in my case, with a slab of double cream brie or some other decent cheese. Bon Appetit!
Crust is king, you're totally right. I managed a pizza parlor just after college, a local PNW chain. They'd roll the crusts at a central commisary, then let them sit overnight before using. It made all the difference, for some reason. Also, having a pizza stone or slate oven bottom is important. That way, when you slap the pizza onto the slate, the slate sears the outside of the crust before the moisture escapes the rest of it, and the mass of the slate means it doesn't cool down from the pizza crust, but stays at 550 degrees (that's how hot we cooked them).
If you haven't had a chance to read Peter Reinhart's book "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza", it's a very good read. He goes into a lot of detail on different types of pizza crust and has recipes for each of them. I have tried a number of his recipes with great results. (His book on bread is also excellent).

I've learned Pizza is always best on a wilderness river trip.

A little 2 person pizza on the Owyhee within the Jackson Hole canyon area.
the pizza:

Jackson Hole on the Owyhee:

Or a bigger deep dish on the Main Salmon River at Reed Creek camp:
the deep dish:

Reed Creek camp:
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