Over the last few months I have tried various methods of making pizza at home. I have played around with different types of dough, sauce and cooking techniques. I am still far from reaching perfection and I have been only concerning myself with the basic elements of dough and sauce.
Dough: The pizza dough recipe I offered in the post Pizza 101 is an excellent starting point. It is the recipe I learnt in baking class and produces great crust without too much effort or forward planning, it can be easily frozen and pulled out whenever needed.
The next step though was to create a sourdough pizza base which adds several dimensions in taste and texture. The naturally occurring yeasts and slow fermentation of the dough allows for a greater depth in flavour and a better crust texture. Sadly I do not yet have my own perfected sourdough pizza recipe, however I have achieved very reasonable results with the method below.
200g sourdough starter (40%) Recipe and method of how to make starter see sourdough post
325 g water(65%)
500g all purpose flour (100%)
1.5 teaspoon fine sea salt (2%)
Once you have your dough you can allow it time to develop. There is nothing to stop you kneading and proofing your dough ready for baking that same day, however, improved results can be seen with some patience. By allowing the dough to cold ferment over several days you will see benefits in both flavour and texture taking the finished product closer to something you might expect from a wood fired pizzeria.
Once the ingredients are fully mixed allow to rest for 10 minutes, this will allow full hydration and help develop the strength of the dough. Knead for a short time, try 12 quick turns. If you were to imagine the picture as knead 1 you would then turn the piece of dough 90 degrees on the bench and repeat the action by picking up the point furthest from you and folding it towards you, turn on 90 degrees and repeat. Once again cover the dough and leave for 15 minutes. Repeat the kneading process 3 times with 10 min rest in-between. Your dough is now ready to go into the fridge for at least 48 hours.
Over this time it will double in size and remain in good condition for up to 6 days in the fridge. There will be subtle changes to the structure of the dough most easily seen once baked. Before baking you will need to remove as much dough as you need and shape it into a small ball and allow it to rest covered at room temperature for 2 hours. You will then be ready to stretch your base. For instructions see Pizza 101
Some background reading on homemade pizza making at the Slice blog led me to a good all round tomato sauce.
2x 400g whole peeled tomato cans (go for San Marzano if you can)
1x tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1x tblsp unsalted butter (optional)
2-3 x garlic cloves mashed or grated fine
1/2x tsp dried oregano
pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 x tsp fine salt
1x onion peeled and cut in half
1x tsp sugar
Puree the tomatoes using a food mill or processor. Heat the oil and butter with garlic, oregano, chili flakes and salt for a few minutes, stir regularly and do not allow garlic to burn. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to simmer, turn the heat down to its lowest setting and reduce the sauce by half (approx 1 hr) check for seasoning and allow to cool before refridgerating. (Store for 1 week or freeze).
The new cooking technique I have been using came from the same source. As author himself points out in his post it seems rather obvious yet it took several goes before it became obvious.
The most common method is to use a simple pizza stone and give it a long heating period at the highest temperature your oven will go to. This gives the base enough time to brown while allowing the dough and toppings to fully bake. The downsides to this method are a very hot apartment (simply not viable in Summer in NY), a long cooking time for the pizza which can be a problem serving multiple guests and a lack of puff/char in your crust.
The alternative which will solve all these problems is to use a combination of your broiler (grill) and the gas stove top. The secret is all in the different transference of heat in cooking techniques. (For more info see the Slice blog post….) Simply enough start your pizza under the grill, the heat from above will give the dough a good oven spring allowing it puff up quickly while imparting good colour/charring. Once everything on top is cooked as you like, transfer to the gas stove to give the base its crisp texture and colouring.
You should preheat your grill and your pan on the stove top. Once the dough is flattened out to the size of your pan, carefully drop in and begin to top. Once the pizza is assembled place as close to the grill as you can. Once the edges of the pizza have puffed up sufficiently (2 minutes approx) you can remove and place back on the stove top to cook the base. After a couple of minutes you should be able to lift the pizza to see underneath, once you have some colour and are happy that it is cooked through you are ready to serve.
The final result is as close to a wood fired pizza as is possible without the oven. You should have a slightly charred and chewy base, with very puffy and slightly blackened crust.