My Pizza Journey

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Joined Apr 26, 2012
Hello All,
I am tired of buying cheap, crappy pizza. For years I have settled for the Big Three (Pizza Hut, Papa John's, Dominos). Basically over breaded, Americanized, fast-food pizza. After a while they all taste the same anyway.

However, I love pizza when it is done right. Hand kneaded, properly risen, stone oven baked. In Los Angeles, I did find a few artesian style pizza parlors that did this fairly well. But I moved from L.A. to a much smaller town and there is no decent pizza to speak of.

I have come to the conclusion that I need to find the right recipe for pizza dough, make my own sauce, and make my own damned pizza.

So I here is my pizza journey... from flour to table.

A little background
A couple things to know... I do have professional experience working in a kitchen. I actually have a fairly rounded background in professional cooking. But I have not spent more than a year or two in any one area. I have worked in a pizza place. This was a short-lived experience... about 6 months. I had to move at the time and there ended my time in the pizza business. We did make our own dough... with the flour, water, yeast, salt, sugar. It was in a large quantity, of course. This was a restaurant. The dough was mixed in a commercial mixer. You know, the floor type. About 4 feet high. Similar to the countertop styles, but 5 times larger. An entire 20lb bag of flour was used for the daily batch. So the quantities were much more than you would work with at home. But they can be reduced for a home recipe.

As many of you know, cooking in a commercial kitchen is never the same as cooking at home. Obviously, the quantities are different... but also the room heat, humidity, equipment, and time all play different parts in how a recipe works in a professional kitchen vs home kitchen. So just because I made pizza professionally, does not mean I automatically know how to make it at home.

Pizza Recipe
Here is my basic pizza recipe:

Pizza Dough
5oo g flour (00 wheat is specified)
310 ml water
2.5 g Active Dry Yeast
10 g salt
10 g sugar

Basic Sauce
28 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes
1 medium onion chooped
2 cloves garlic minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauce Preparation
Hand-crush tomatoes and set aside.
Sauté onions in a sauce pan with olive oil until onions begin to achieve some color - do not burn.
Add garlic and heat for 1 minute - do not burn
Add the tomatoes to the sauce pan and lower the temp to low.
Simmer on low for 2 hours.

Method for Dough and Pizza
Activate (bloom) yeast in warm water (106 degrees F) with sugar. This step is not required, but ensures your yeast is active.
Add salt to the flour and distribute well. Add activated yeast/water to flour.
With a Danish whisk or wooden spoon, mix dough until it can be turned out on a board. Dust the board lightly with flour and turn out the dough.
Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes. Do not add extra flour.
Allow dough to rest for 10 minutes.
Knead again for another 7-8 minutes. If the dough is sticky at this point, dust lightly again.
Divide dough into 4 equal parts and form into balls, stretching as you form the balls of dough so that the gluten structure forms properly.
Lightly oil your mixing bowl and place one of the dough balls into the bowl, coat with oil. The others can be stored or made into bread sticks or other bread sides.
Cover with tea towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rest for at least 1 hour or overnight in a refrigerator. An overnight rise will give a more complex flavor.
After allowing to rise, roll out dough in a round. You may need to allow cold dough to come up in temperature a bit. Add sauce and toppings. Add mozzarella cheese last . Place on baking stone or pan with a dusting of corn flour. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in 450 F to 500 F oven, or until cheese begins to bubble and brown lightly.

That's my basic pizza recipe...

Where do we go from here?
So you'd think that's it! I have a recipe and a way to make my own pizza now! Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple.

First, that recipe for pizza dough is a basic recipe and there are many many variations. From the type of flour to adding extra virgin olive oil. Do you add other sugars or none at all. Other rise times. Other knead times. It goes on and on.

The sauce I use is very basic. But of course, everyone has their own sauce. And basil is a dilemma too! Should you add any to the sauce? Do you add it only at the end after cooking? Fresh basil? Torn basil? Dry basil? But sauce options are easy to figure out. I just try different things and find something I like.

What do I really want?
I really want a "rustic" style artesian pizza. I do want to re-create Italian pizza, like from the "old world". And I want to stay as far away from American mass produced fast-food pizza as I can. I am aware that in Italy, pizza is considered more or less street food. It is made in restaurants as well. But in Italy, it is very good either way. The quality is consistent from small vendors to full service restaurants.

What do you consider excellent pizza?
I am interested in your ideas, your experience, and what you consider to be excellent pizza. Do you have secret tips? Are you in or from Italy and can offer any advise? Please share!
 
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phatch

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My opinions.

I use a higher hydration for the dough. No sugar. I will do a retarded ferment for thinner style crusts. But most often I haven't planned that far ahead.

I roll it out on parchment paper and it slides much more reliably off the peel with the paper. With a higher hydration dough, you can't count on cornmeal as sufficient lubricity. You can still scatter some corn meal under the dough if you like.

Sauce, don't cook it. Cooking only reduces the tomato flavor and freshness more. Simply use canned crushed tomatoes, season with minced garlic, salt, pepper, a little olive oil and oregano. let it stand 15-30 minutes for the flavors to meld. If you're sold on cooked onion flavor, cook them then add to the uncooked crushed tomatoes.

With a home oven, high quality mozzarella is too wet, at least as I've tried it. Don't use pregrated either. I usually buy a block of Frigo. Chop it up into 1/4 inch-ish chunks with the food processor--the grater disk tends to bog down with how wet mozzarella is. Mix with a bit of grated Parm/Pecorino or a bit of both.

Oven, as hot as it will go. Preheating the stone under the broiler is good, as is cooking the (first) pizza under the broiler. If you're making more than one, and I usually am, I've started preheating one cast iron pizza pan on the stove while the other is in use in the oven. It takes too long for the pan/stone to recover heat for pizza after the first on in the oven. You'll need some strength and some good insulation to move these loaded hot cast iron pans around your kitchen. But the crust improvement is worth it.
 
102
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Joined Apr 26, 2012
My opinions.

I use a higher hydration for the dough.
Can you please explain this a little? Are you just saying to use more water?

I roll it out on parchment paper and it slides much more reliably off the peel with the paper. With a higher hydration dough, you can't count on cornmeal as sufficient lubricity. You can still scatter some corn meal under the dough if you like.
Makes sense... I had not thought of the parchment paper. I would not want to burn this in a hot oven however.
Sauce, don't cook it. Cooking only reduces the tomato flavor and freshness more. Simply use canned crushed tomatoes, season with minced garlic, salt, pepper, a little olive oil and oregano. let it stand 15-30 minutes for the flavors to meld. If you're sold on cooked onion flavor, cook them then add to the uncooked crushed tomatoes.
I do agree. This sauce is a simple marinara. It works for many things as a base. The oregano is a great idea.
With a home oven, high quality mozzarella is too wet, at least as I've tried it. Don't use pregrated either. I usually buy a block of Frigo. Chop it up into 1/4 inch-ish chunks with the food processor--the grater disk tends to bog down with how wet mozzarella is. Mix with a bit of grated Parm/Pecorino or a bit of both.
There is a concept in mozzarella called "wet mozzarella" which is the type you are referring to. It is much softer and difficult to grate. The method you are describing is much better for this wet mozzarella and is a great way to make a margarita pizza.

For grating, a drier mozzarella is what I was thinking, and I believe is the Frigo you are referring to. Grated parm is absolutely a good option as well.
Oven, as hot as it will go. Preheating the stone under the broiler is good, as is cooking the (first) pizza under the broiler. If you're making more than one, and I usually am, I've started preheating one cast iron pizza pan on the stove while the other is in use in the oven. It takes too long for the pan/stone to recover heat for pizza after the first on in the oven. You'll need some strength and some good insulation to move these loaded hot cast iron pans around your kitchen. But the crust improvement is worth it.
I use a 12" cast iron skillet most of the time. It is absolutely the best pan to bake a pizza. I prefer it over a pizza stone actually. The only other way I would go is using a "cookie" sheet for a Detroit style.

This is excellent! Everything you suggest. Thank you so much! I plan to continue this thread with pictures of my attempts as well.
 

phatch

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Converting between your recipe and mine, for your amount of flour, it looks more like 400-420 ml. I mix this in the food processor. I usually do the cheese first because it cleans out easily, Then the dough.
 
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Converting between your recipe and mine, for your amount of flour, it looks more like 400-420 ml. I mix this in the food processor. I usually do the cheese first because it cleans out easily, Then the dough.
Yes. That sounds about right.

Excellent point on the cheese.
 
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Joined Apr 26, 2012
phatch phatch thank you immensely. I have just made a batch of your dough from the other link you just posted. It is really actually superior to mine. It is on the 1hr rise now and I will post pics.

I made the sauce exactly as you have in the instructions and it is waiting in the fridge getting flavors ready. I will be topping the pizza dough ad soon as the dough is done rising.

This looks as good as I have ever gotten with pizza so far!!

pics to follow
 
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The crust was a good flavor. But it didn’t have much chew. That may be a matter of going at a longer, chilled rise. I’ve put the remainder of the dough in the fridge so tomorrow I am going to try it.
 
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I use sourdough for my pizza. Plain flour (AP) with a small percentage of brown flour.
Long rise, if I remember to make the dough in time.
Sauce:
sometimes none, sometimes cream cheese, plain, or mixed with pesto or tapenade.
I actually really like torte flambee (flamkuchen).
Baking:
here is a big difference as I use a uuni 3 pizza oven (now called ooni). This little thing gets real real hot and makes great pizza. Bit of a learning curve though.

As an aside: I really enjoyed Ken Forkish pizza book. Lots of good info and recipes for pizza (in home oven)
 
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What helped my pizza making at home came with the dbl oven. The upper oven is smaller and gets up to 550 degrees. I use a heavy half sheet pan with some olive oil. The pizza bakes in seven minutes using store bough dough. I also roast the vegetables that go on the pizza to dehydrate and get most of the water out of them. It works great for the onions, peppers and mushrooms. This way you don't get any water coming out of them on top of the pizza. Also by getting out most of the water will give a better and my true taste to the vegetable.......

If you're going to get serious about making your own dough start with this.....

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About hydration: I ust remembeted reading somewhere that the high hydration (70%+) is used for naepolitan in high heat oven and thatbit would be better to go to 55-60% for your typical home oven.
But now trying to find this info back.....
I'll keep at it though
 
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Have you checked out the "seriouseats" site?
They got some good pizza ideas as well, including using a cast iron skillet
 
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I am a person of pizza lover. But I am living in a rural area where there is no good restaurant for tasting pizza. Then I decided to made homemade pizza. One day I was searching the pizza recipe on the internet and saw your recipe. That was so superb, and I have started making pizza by following your recipe. Thank you so much!
 
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