Living in a small town has many advantages. No traffic, a tight community, and good neighborhoods, just to name a few. One thing our small town does not have, however, is a good pizza restaurant. We have plenty of Papa Murphy's and Domino's stores, but what I'm talking about is the fresh-from-the-wood-stove-with-a-bubbly-sweet-crust type of pizza. I crave this pizza. Over the years I have tried countless pizza recipes and cooking methods, and have been very disappointed each time. For such a simple concept, there's a lot to a good pizza. The crust must be crunchy on the outside, chewy and slightly sweet on the inside. The tomato sauce must be light and simple...no tomato sauce from a jar here. The toppings must also be simple and sparse. If you have too many toppings, the pizza will never slide easily off the pizza peel and into the oven. You end up with something I like to call an accidental calzone (of which I have made many).
Below is the final resting place for my pizza search. I have found the pizza mecca. And its good, oh so good.
The beauty of this recipe is that the dough freezes very well and makes approximately six 12-inch pizzas at a time. Since I rarely plan meals in advance, it is so nice to have frozen pizza dough ready to pull out of the freeze in the afternoon for the evening meal.
Professional Pizza at Home
adapted from Bon Appetit's March 2012 "No Knead Pizza Dough" recipe
makes 6 -12" pizzas
7 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
4 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
3 1/4 cups water
1 tbsp sugar
cornmeal, for pizza peel
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
Ham (sandwich meat)
fresh basil, sliced in ribbons
1 clove garlic, minced, per pizza
The Night Before
Whisk flour, salt, sugar and yeast together in a medium bowl. While stirring with a wooden spoon, slowly add 3 cups water; stir until well incorporated. If there are dry spots on the dough (patches of flour that won't incorporate into the dough), sprinkle with the last 1/4 cup water over dry spots. Mix dough gently with your hands to bring it together and form a rough ball. Dough will be a bit shaggy. Transfer to a large clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise at room temperature (about 72 deg.) in a draft-free area until surface is covered with tiny bubbles and dough has more than doubled in size, about 18 hours.
|Dough Slowly Rising|
2 Hours Before
Transfer dough to a floured work surface. Gently shape dough into a rough rectangle. Divide dough into 6 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time, form a rough ball and quickly pull from one spot out 4 corners to make a ball. (This creates a sheath around the dough and helps create the crunchy exterior and chewy interior). Set aside on work surface or floured baking sheet and cover with a tea towel. Repeat with remaining portions. If you plan to freeze some of the dough balls, spray a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray and lay one ball in center of sheet. Wrap it tightly to remove all contact with air. Repeat with other balls. They will keep well for 3-4 months.
Let dough rest, covered with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, until soft and pliable 1-2 hours. The longer it sits, the more pliable the dough will be. If using frozen dough, place in fridge the night before you plan on cooking so it can thaw.
To Make Pizza Sauce
Strain can of diced tomatoes. Place contents of can in small saucepan. Turn burner to medium heat. Add garlic, salt and pepper. Once tomatoes are heated through, use immersion blender or regular blender to mix sauce to desired consistency. If the sauce appears watery, return sauce to saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook to desired consistency.
To Make the Pizzas
During the last hour of dough's resting, prepare oven: If using a pizza stone, arrange a rack in upper third of oven and place stone on rack. Preheat oven to its hottest setting, 500-550 degrees. If using a baking sheet, arrange a rack in middle of oven and preheat to its hottest setting, 500-550 degrees. You do not need to preheat the baking sheet.
Working with 1 dough ball at a time, dust dough generously with flour and place on a floured work surface. Gently shape dough into a 10" - 12" disk.
If Using a Pizza Stone
Sprinkle a pizza peel or rimless baking sheet lightly with flour or cornmeal. Place dough on peel. Using small, quick back-and-forth movements, check to see if the entire pizza slides around. If not, add additional flour or cornmeal under pizza to the spot where it sticks. (It's helpful to use a spatula or dough scraper here if you have one to lift up the pizza corners.) Again using small, quick back-and-forth movements, slide pizza from peel onto hot pizza stone. Par-bake the dough 3 minutes. Remove from oven, and add tomato sauce, minced garlic, ham (optional) and cheese. Turn oven to broil and bake pizza until bottom of crust is crisp, top is blistered and cheese has brown spots, 7-9 minutes. Place on baking rack to cool. Top with prosciutto and basil, if desired.
If Using a Baking Sheet
Arrange dough disk on baking sheet. Par-bake pizza 3 minutes. Remove from oven and top with desired toppings. Turn the oven to broil and bake pizza until bottom of crust is crisp, top is blistered and cheese has brown spots, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a work surface to slice. Repeat with remaining pizzas.