Tips for Great Pizzas
A pizza made at home should be better than a commercial pizza. You get it fresh from the oven made with fresh ingredients and the combination of ingredients that you want, on a homemade crust, and with the care that is not possible commercially.
But there are tricks to the technique that will make that pizza truly wonderful.
• A great pizza must have a great crust. A soggy crust will never do. Instead of piling the goodies on the uncooked dough, partially bake it first. Usually about eight minutes will do. Then pull it out of the oven, put the toppings on, and finish baking.
• Don’t under bake the crust. The crust is done when the bottom is partially browned. Use a spatula or tongs to lift one edge and peek at the crust.
• Never use a light-colored pan for baking a pizza. It will reflect the heat and you will have a hard time baking the crust thoroughly.
• A baking stone will help bake the crust. Put the baking stone in the oven at least fifteen minutes ahead of the pizza. We like to bake our pizzas on a dark baking pan placed on top of the hot stone.
• Place the pizza low in the oven where radiant heat from the heating elements will help bake the crust.
• If you have trouble forming the pizza crust, the gluten may be the problem. Gluten gives the dough elasticity and a tight dough wants to spring back into shape. Partially shape the crust and then walk away for five to ten minutes. When you get back, the dough will have relaxed and you can finish the crust.
• A pizza crust of uniform thickness is a better crust. If you are not adept at spinning the crust, roll it to a uniform thickness of about 1/4 inch with a rolling pin. You can do that on a peel dusted with cornmeal or semolina flour so that the crust will slip off easily onto the stone or pan. If you don’t have a peel, a sheet of heavy cardboard or even a wooden cutting board will do. You can also form the crust in your pan. The lips on the pan will preclude a rolling pin, but you can purchase a little rolling pin meant for the task (and for rolling pasta) that will work within the rims. If all else fails, grab a small jar and use it as a rolling pin.
• If you don’t have time to make or buy your favorite sauce, a jar of spaghetti sauce will do. Homemade is better but a good commercial sauce is okay.
• Some people prefer tender crusts; we prefer chewy. For a tender crust, use all-purpose flour. Our favorite crusts are made with bread flour tempered just a bit with whole wheat, rye, or all-purpose flours.
• For a really great pizza crust, once the dough is kneaded, cover it and place it in the refrigerator over night. The next day, remove the dough and let it rise on the counter. Allow plenty of time for the dough to come to room temperature and rise. At lower temperatures, the yeast produces a complex yeasty flavor that is very good.
• Pizza dough that is just a bit on the wet side is easier to work with and makes a nicer crust.
• Toppings can be anything you want them to be. Measurements don’t count though less is usually better. Experiment with some of your favorite foods.
• Olive oil makes a much nicer pizza crust than vegetable oil.
• If you are having trouble cutting your pizza with a knife or pizza wheel, grab the kitchen shears.