Excellent Pizza

The crust is thin, fairly strong and airy.

The crust is thin, fairly strong and airy.

My pizza-making skills have improved to the point where I am able to consistently make excellent pizza.  I am pretty certain that you can get great pizza by modifying my approach as needed, but I have also included links to the equipment I use, in case you are interested.

I am generally using weight rather than “cups” and “teaspoons” because weights are more easily replicated. As you may know, the amount of flour in a cup may vary significantly, depending on how it is filled. If you don’t own a kitchen scale, consider buying one. They are fairly inexpensive.  Get one that looks easy to clean. If it has raised buttons or grooves that look like they will catch flour, pass in favor of a sleeker model.

Making the dough

My “go to” dough is made with the following formula:

50% Caputo “00” Flour (You can use unbleached all Purpose Flour instead, but may need to add a little more water)
50% White Whole Wheat Flour
65% Water
2.6% Salt
1.3% Olive Oil
0.7% Instant Yeast
——–
169.6% Total %

I find that 260 grams of dough is enough to make one thin 14″ pie.  I make enough for two pies, or 520 grams of dough. For those uncomfortable with baker’s math*, 520 grams of dough, using the above formula, translates to:

153 grams  All Purpose Flour
153 grams  White Whole Wheat Flour
200 grams  Water
8 grams      Salt
4 grams      Oil
2 grams (1/2 tsp)  Instant Yeast

  1. Combine the Flours and Salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. In a small mixing bowl mix the water (room temperature or lukewarm is fine), yeast and oil.
    a. Tip: Fill the small bowl with warm water for dipping your hand.
  3. Pour the small bowl of liquid into the large bowl of flour and mix by hand.  For 3 minutes, knead the dough (stretch a little, fold/press, rotate a quarter turn, stretch a little, fold/press, rotate a quarter turn).  Dip your hand in water as needed to avoid dough sticking to your kneading hand.  Cover the dough with the bowl and let rest for 15 minutes.
  4. Knead the rested dough for 3 minutes, then divide it in half (if making two pizzas), shape into balls and stick in the fridge.

I use an inverted 3.5 cup snapware bowl to store my dough, placing the dough on the lid (sprayed with olive oil), the bowl on top of the dough and then snap it closed before putting it in the fridge upside-down.

To get the best flavor for your crust, let the dough ferment and rise in the fridge overnight (I usually use it within 3 days, but you may be able to store it for up to a week and still get great pizza).

About an hour or so before you are ready to shape the pizza, take the dough out of the fridge.  Lightly flour your counter, or if you prefer, a silicon baking mat.  (I like using the mats because my counters are dark and it is easier to make sure my surface is clean if I am using a baking mat. I still flour the mat even though it says it is non-stick, because the dough is easier to handle if it is lightly floured).   Take the dough out of the container and place it on the floured surface, turning it over to make sure both surfaces are lightly floured.

Make sure the “flat” side of the dough is on the counter and use your fingertips to press down around the dough, about 1 inch in from the perimeter, before covering the dough and letting it warm up.  The fingertip dents will be the part of the dough you don’t stretch out, so that you get a puffier rim around the pizza.

The Toppings/Setting up the Oven
While your dough is warming up you can do a few things, one of which is to turn your oven on to as high a temperature as it will go.  Mine goes to 550. Many go to 500 or 525. I don’t own a baking stone, but you can certainly use one if you wish. Instead, I make my pies on a Lodge 14″ cast iron pizza pan.  I put the pan on the highest rack, closest to the broiler.

While the pan and oven are pre-heating, it is time to prepare the toppings.

The Sauce

You’ve gone through the trouble of making your dough from scratch (I actually mill my own whole wheat flour using a Komo grain mill), and you’re absolutely not going to use some crappy pizza sauce that has been sitting on a store shelf since before the great flood.  No way.  Instead, you are going to do one of two things: Either, buy a can of fire roasted tomatoes, or a can of diced tomatoes (if you don’t like fire roasted flavor), drain them in a colander and pour them in to a blender, throw in some garlic, oregano and maybe olive oil before hitting pulse a few times, and you have homemade sauce (no need to cook, it will cook fine on the pizza) OR if you don’t want to use canned tomatoes, take a fresh tomato, cut out the core, cut the tomato up and put it in the blender with some garlic, oregano and a Tbsp of olive oil.  Blend until smooth or smoothish, and use that watery sauce to spread around the pizza.  Probably will need less than half of what is made for one pizza.

The Cheese

I have found that using a rotary cheese grater has given me the best results and allows me to grate even fresh mozzarella. Using freshly grated cheese has numerous advantages over slicing the cheese because it lets you use less cheese to cover more area.  This saves money, calories and weight, allowing you to use more toppings (should you wish) and still have your crust hold up.

I don’t like the taste of provolone or parmigiano cheeses separately. But, if I grate a little bit of these cheeses together with the mozzarella, I find that the blend is superbly flavorful.  I have also added a bit of grated cheddar, and this adds a nice flavor as well.  I don’t skimp on the quality of the cheese which means I am probably being ripped off, but if I buy reggiano parmigiano and some other fancy imported cheese for a lot of money, I still wind up spending less than I would on the crappy soggy pizza I would have had delivered.

In addition to cheese(s), you should feel free to add whatever you like to your pizza.  I have used garlic, sliced tomatoes, raw bell peppers, roasted bell peppers, roasted broccoli, roasted cauliflower and roasted brussel sprouts, all of which have given me delicious pizzas. Just cut the pieces up small and you should be good to go.

Shaping the Dough

Now that the toppings are ready to go and the oven is just about up to temperature, it is time to shape the dough.  Uncover the dough, and lightly flour the tops of both hands.  Gently lift the dough and slide one hand and then the other underneath, past the ridge you created with the fingertip denting done 45 minutes to an hour earlier.  Lift the dough up, and let it hang from the backs of your hand, rotating it around and letting gravity as well as your thumbs, stretch the dough.  Place it back down on the counter/mat and let it rest for a few minutes.  Prepare your pizza peel by lightly flouring it.  I use a Super Peel.  Then, pick up the dough again, as you did before and give it another series of stretches along the back of your floured hands and drop it onto the peel.  I know if it fits on my particular peel, it will fit on the pizza pan.

Once the pizza dough is ready and on the peel, I top it with some sauce, the cheese and any toppings.

The last thing I do before the oven comes to temperature is pour a tablespoon of olive oil into a measuring cup and set it by the stove.

When the oven is good and hot, I remove the pizza pan, place it on top of the stove, drizzle the olive oil onto the pan (this lets the crust brown nicely and keeps it from drying out), and slide the topped pizza onto the very hot pan.  Immediately put the pizza back on the top rack and set the timer for 3 minutes (at 525. Or maybe 2-1/2 minutes at 550), at which point you are going to set the broiler on HIGH, and let it broil for another 2-3 minutes.

That’s it. Your pizza is done. It should be brown around the crust, maybe with some charring, and brown on the bottom. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on the stove, being careful not to let it touch anything that will melt. I then use a large metal spatula to transfer the pie to a cutting board and use my Dexter 4″ Pizza Cutter to cut the pie, and eat it right away.  Also, I use these Extra Long Oven Gloves for handling the hot cast iron.  Just be careful not to get them wet or the heat will go right through them.

Pizza with Green Striped Heirloom Tomatoes

Pizza with Green Striped Heirloom Tomatoes

Nice puffy crust.

Nice puffy crust.

*For those interested in the “math”, it goes like this:

Total dough weight / by Total% x Baker’s % for each ingredient = Weight for each ingredient.

520 grams of dough / 169.6% x 50% Flour = 153 grams All Purpose Flour
520 grams of dough / 169.6% x 50% White Whole Wheat Flour = 153 grams White Whole Wheat
and so on.

Want to make enough dough for 5 pies? Then you’d need 1,300 grams of dough (260 grams x 5).

1300 grams of dough /169.6% x 50% AP flour = 383.3 grams AP Flour
1300 /1.696 x .50 White Whole Wheat = 383.3 grams white whole wheat Flour1300 / 1.696 x 65% Water = 498.2 grams water
1300 / 1.696 x 2.6% salt = 19.9 grams salt
1300/1.696 x 1.3% olive oil = 9.9 g olive oil
1300 / 1.696 x 0.7% yeast = 5.4 grams  yeast

Dough is very forgiving and you should feel free to round especially since your scale probably doesn’t measure in tenths of grams.

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13 thoughts on “Excellent Pizza

  1. Pingback: Pizzalicious | Eating with David

  2. The pizza crust looks delicious and the pizza too. I also use grams because that’s the way my mother introduced me to baking. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe and for visiting my blog!

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    • 153 grams 00 flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
      153 grams all-purpose flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons)
      8 grams fine sea salt (1 teaspoon)
      2 grams active dry yeast (3/4 teaspoon)
      4 grams extra-virgin olive oil (1 teaspoon)

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    • I made dough on Friday night and baked a pie Saturday afternoon, Monday night and Tuesday night. I have one more left and want to see if it still bakes up after another night.
      When you do make it, please let me know how it turns out.

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    • If you follow the formula it will work great. If you find that the dough is fermenting too much (it is too bubbly or too large) just use less yeast next time. Please let me know how it works for you. And yes, the crust is both amazing and delicious!

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  3. Interesting… baking pizza on a cast iron pan. I like a good pizza stone, but am interested to try this. You mentioned you place it on the top rack to bake. I’m guessing that is because the cast iron retains heat so well?

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    • The advantage of the cast iron, for me, is that it has handles and allows me to get the pizza in and out of the oven without a peel.

      I put it on the top shelf only because that is where the broiler is, and I want it close to the flame when, after three minutes of baking, I turn the broiler on high for 3 minutes. For my oven, I see no benefit to cooking on a lower shelf and get the results I am after by baking on the top shelf.

      Other ovens may vary. I suppose if the bottom was coming out undercooked I would bake it on a lower shelf and perhaps move it for the broil phase.

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  4. Pingback: Veggie Pizza | Eating with David

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