I can make a mean pizza, but it took me a while to learn how. Maybe I should rephrase that – I can make a mean pizza, but it took me a while to find the right teacher. For a long time I didn’t really know where to look for guidance – I just knew I wanted pizza the way I’d enjoyed it in Rome and Naples. The key is good pizza dough.
Best Pizza Dough Ever: Watch the Video
I was smart enough to know early on, if you have bad pizza dough, you’re destined to have bad pizza. Figuring out the dough factor was not as easy as you might think. As I got going, my oven gobbled up the fruits of many deflated attempts – a little yeast here, a lot of yeast there, this flour, that flour, knead by hand, knead by mixer, high baking temps, lower baking temps, and on and on.
Then I was given a hint. A gift, really. My friends and I would visit a favorite tiny pizza place in San Francisco quite often. We would go to eat, but also to try to absorb some of the good pizza karma flowing from their single-shelf, Baker’s Pride oven. A lot of time was spent there, not because we wanted to know their secrets really – but primarily because the food was so good. Hours would pass as we chatted over thin-crusted pizzas with slightly puffy, blistered edges. It became the crust I would try to emulate at home.
One day in the aforementioned pizza shop, I noticed a copy of Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice on a bookshelf near the prep area. It must have been recently published, and my curiosity was piqued. Sure enough, the book contained an interesting (and meticulous) description of how to make just the sort of pizza I was after. The dough Peter uses for his Napoletana pizza in this book is rooted in a delayed-fermentation method – different from the other techniques I’d tried up to that point. Game on.
Make Ahead Pizza Dough
If you like to wait until the last minute to make pizza dough, you are out of luck here. The key is the overnight fermentation. You end up with a golden, beautiful crust with the perfect amount of crunch and subtle yeasty undertones. If you try this recipe and like it, Peter also went on to write an entire book about the quest for the perfect pizza, fittingly titled, American Pie. It’s a great reference for those of you who really want to geek out on pizza.
Give Peter’s dough a try, and if you are interested in baking world exceptional breads, be sure to spend time with his book.
I’m going to leave you with the dough recipe. It’s up to you to play around with the toppings. The best advice I can give you is to take it easy on that front – a little goes a long way. My favorite is a simple pizza margherita made with this tomato sauce, a few torn up bocconcini cow’s milk mozzarella balls, and a few pinches of salt before placing the pizza in the oven. And, don’t forget the magic touches. When the pizza is hot from the oven, give it a quick dusting of freshly grated Parmesan, a tiny drizzle of artisan-quality virgin olive oil, and a sprinkling of basil cut into a chiffonade. Serve pronto!
As far as oven temperatures go – I have great results at 450F degrees WITH a pizza stone. Go buy a pizza stone immediately if you are serious about making great pizza at home. They are cheap and make a huge difference in your crust.
This is the stripped-down, adapted version of Peter’s Napoletana pizza dough recipe. If you want all his great side notes, tips, and back-history on the recipe, please pick up the book.