Earlier I shared a pizza dough recipe that I had found great success with. It wasn’t perfect. It was more like a bread than a pizza crust. But it was pretty good and it was consistent. It gave you a bready crust that had a good feel to it. And it didn’t suffer if you overloaded it with toppings. Well, using ’00’ flour in place of regular flour gets it much closer to a traditional pizza taste. Maybe it’s that it’s more refined. Maybe it’s that it has less gluten. Maybe it’s that it’s from softer wheat. Whatever it is, it’s about four times the cost of standard flour but I’m thinking that it’s worth it.
I’ve developed a routine. Since I make very similar pizza’s every time, it helps with the consistency.
Turn the oven on. 450°F.
Proof the yeast. Add the yeast and a bit of sugar to your lukewarm water. I don’t know that it makes a large difference but seems to make the bubbling during the first firing of the dough more evenly distributed.
Chop the toppings. While the yeast is proofing, chop your onion, mushrooms, peppers, olives. Get it all ready to be sauced.
Dough. My loving wife bought me a stand mixer for a reason. Add the flour, salt, and oil to the yeast water. Put the dough hook in, turn it on, and let it be kneaded. I will let it go on for a good two minutes or longer after it balls up. Then let it rest.
Sauce. While the dough rests. Sauté your veggies. (If you leave your dough nearby, it can pick up some of the radiant heating from this and rise faster.) After your veggies are sautéed add your tomato puree and spices. Turn this down to the gentlest of simmers. Once everything is incorporated, give it five or so minutes, and your sauce is even, turn it off.
Dough. I’ve said it before. This dough is versatile. I’ve stretched, pulled, rolled, and tossed it out into shape. Weak spots can be pinched back together, holes mended, and tears patched. It’ll easily make a fourteen inch round. An alternative use of the dough is to make it into a deep-dish pizza. Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil onto a sheetpan and knead the dough out with your fingertips. Expect this to take a good five minutes. Then let it rise afterwards for another ten minutes.
1st firing. Put the dough on your peel and slide it onto your stone. If you think you need instructions on how to use a peel, you’re wrong. Experience is the best teacher and I’ve never even seen two professional chefs using the same technique. If you can’t handle a peel put your pizza on a pizza pan and get it into the oven. Or put your sheetpan and pan pizza dough in. Or whatever it takes to get the dough in the oven for four minutes. This is just long enough to form a good parbaked crust. Air pockets should develop and it may even have some browning in spots. Don’t skip this part unless you’ve got an oven that goes up to 550°F or above.
Top your pizza. Here’s one trick I learned. When you pull your pizza out to top it, don’t set it on a your solid counter. It will conduct too much of the heat away from the bottom of the pizza and make it ‘wet’, which will cause the pizza to stick to the peel on the return trip. Instead, set the pizza and peel on a trivet or cooling rack while you add your sauce, toppings, and cheese. Air, in this instance, makes a good insulator. BTW, you should try sprinkling oregano or red pepper flakes into your cheese. It does more than make a pretty face.
2nd firing. Regardless how long you have taken with the toppings, remember that the heat from the pizza has probably travelled up the peel by now. Use extra caution getting the pizza back in the oven. It needs about another eight minutes to produce a bubbly-cheesy finish.
When the pizza’s done, take it out and put it back on the cooling rack. It’ll cool more evenly and the bottom will remain crisp. That’s essential if your goal is to eat a wedge straight from your hand.