Everyone loves pizza, but what is interesting to me is that everyone seems to like it a bit different. My husband and I loved the pizza we ate in Florence, Italy. It was simple, with not a lot of ingredients, thin crust and totally delicious.
I found this photo online and it is an example of that perfect pizza we found in Italy. I eat gluten free 99% of the time, but that one night in Italy I ate three pieces of my husband’s pizza. I had ordered a salad, but I guarantee his pizza looked a lot better than my salad. I savored every bite and unsavored it about three in the morning when I woke up quite ill. But I still loved that pizza and going forward eat in a lot more moderation.
I have been trying to made a good pizza crust for a while. I have used Paul Hollywood’s recipe and America’s Test Kitchen. I sort of combined the two to some success. I am realizing there is a real art to making great pizza.
With this pizza I used a pizza stone with a pizza dish on top. I heated the oven to 550 degrees (blew out the fan) and added the pizza.
Lesson here: Maybe a little lower temperature is okay, roll out the dough thinner and add the basil after the pizza is done. I used a fresh mozzarella, but not the best I could find, so next time I will find a buratta mozzarella, as it is softer and much more flavorful. I always make my own sauce, but find it is better if I use fresh tomatoes rather than low sodium canned. I have a wonderful herb garden on my back porch, so always use a variety of fresh herbs.
The next pizza next pizza I attempted I used my new cast iron pizza pan described by America’s Test Kitchen as being the best. For this I decided to use up the rest of some sausage from the night before. I had to wait for a turn in the oven, and the pizza dough kept rising.
After the fact I watched a video on how to use this new cast iron pan. I did not want to take it out of the oven, so attempted to put the toppings on while it was still in the oven. This is where I say: “failure”. The crust was messy, too think and had a rather odd shape. Next time, take the pan out of the oven and add toppings.
The bottom of the crust on this pizza was perfectly cooked, but it sat out a little too long, so it grew in the heat of the kitchen. I also discovered that I really don’t like sausage on my pizza, or mushrooms. Lesson learned: Get it together faster, keep it simpler and take the dang pan out of the oven to add toppings. BTW we threw this one out. One taste was enough to know neither of us liked it much. Crust was great, but toppings were too much. Great way to ruin a yummy crust.
This one was our favorite, even though cooked on just the pizza stone and not the cast iron. I do admit, I kind of messed the only one cooked on the pizza cast iron.
Conclusion of this experiment: Make the dough as it tells you in either recipe, divide it in thirds like it tells you and unless you are cooking for several, freeze two of the pizza dough balls for later. Every recipe I have tried makes way too much pizza dough for two people.
My recipe for the red sauce is as follows:
- Chop a bunch of tomatoes and I leave the skins on
- Chop up some very fresh garlic
- Add a little good quality EVOO
- Grab herbs or buy them and add them to the pot
- I like oregano, thyme & rosemary
- Cook for a while
- Add a teaspoon of sugar
- Puree till finely blended and add however much salt & pepper you like
Paul Hollywood’s Pizza Dough recipe:
- 250g/9oz strong white flour, plus extra for flouring (in the US use bread flour)
- 5g/¼oz salt
- 30ml/1fl oz olive oil
- 5g/¼oz fast-action yeast
- 180ml/6fl oz water
- semolina, for dusting (optional)
For the pizza dough, mix the flour, salt, olive oil, yeast and water together in a bowl.
Turn the dough out onto an oiled work surface and knead for 5-10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cut off a small piece of the dough and stretch part of it as thinly as you can. If you can see the shadow of your fingers through the dough – the light should shine through the dough like a window pane – without the dough tearing, it is ready to prove.
Shape the dough into a ball and tip into a bowl.
Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for an hour.
Divide the mix into three balls. Roll out on a floured surface into circles. Place each circle on a flat baking tray or a plastic chopping board dusted with semolina (so the pizza can be easily transferred to the oven later).
Place a pizza stone or an upturned baking tray into the oven and heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7 (in a non-fan oven).
America’s Test Kitchen Recipe
1 ¾ cups water divided, 1/2 cup warm, remaining at tap temperature 2 ¼ teaspoons dry active yeast (1 envelope) 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing dough 4 cups bread flour 1 ½ teaspoons table salt vegetable oil (or cooking spray) for oiling bowl semolina for dusting peel2 LARGE, 4 MEDIUM OR 8 INDIVIDUAL PIZZAS
This dough can be used for any size pizza with thick or thin crust; simply adjust the cooking time to fit the pizza. Make sure you heat the oven to 500 degrees for thirty minutes before you start cooking. Your tiles or stone need at least that long to heat up; if they’re not properly heated, your pizza crust will be thin, blond, and limp. Once the dough for the crust has been topped, use a quick jerking action to slide it off the peel and onto the hot tiles or stone; make sure that the pizza lands far enough back so that its front edge does not hang off. For a cornmeal-flavored dough, substitute three-quarters cup of cornmeal for three-quarters cup of the bread flour. Editor’s Note: This recipe was updated in 1997, when we found that adding more water resulted in a tastier pizza. This recipe contains a total of 1 3/4 cups water, while the original that appeared in the magazine in 1995 contains 1 1/2 cups.
1. Measure 1/4 cup of warm water into 2-cup measuring cup. Sprinkle in yeast; let stand until yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup warm water plus remaining 1 1/4 cups tap water and olive oil. Meanwhile, pulse flour and salt in workbowl of large food processor fitted with steel blade to combine. Add liquid ingredients (holding back a tablespoon or so) to flour and pulse together. If dough does not readily form into ball, stop machine, add remaining liquid, and continue to pulse until ball forms. Process until dough is smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds longer.
2. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead by hand with a few strokes to form smooth, round ball. Put dough into medium-large, oiled bowl, and cover with damp cloth. Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
3. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and use chef’s knife or dough scraper to halve, quarter, or cut dough into eighths, depending on number and size of pizzas desired. Form each piece into ball and cover with damp cloth. Working with one piece of dough at a time, shape as shown in illustrations below. Transfer to pizza peel that has been lightly coated with semolina, brush dough very lightly with olive oil before topping and cooking.
4. Use the following guide to determine cooking time for pizza crust with topping but without cheese. All pizzas need to be cooked an additional two or three minutes after adding cheese, or until cheese is completely melted.
14-inch pizzas (Master Recipe makes 2) – 7 to 8 minutes
12-inch pizzas (Master Recipe makes 4) – 5 minutes
8-inch pizzas (Master Recipe makes 8)- 3 minutes.
12-inch pizzas (Master Recipe makes 2) – 9 to 10 minutes
8-inch pizzas (Master Recipe makes 4) – 5 minutes
6-inch pizzas (Master Recipe makes 8) – 4 minutes.
So there you have it, probably too much information about making a simple pizza. I find using the best ingredients and doing lots of practice runs (and I am definitely still working on mine) will give you the best results.
I remember reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book telling you it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert at anything and am hoping that does not apply to making the perfect pizza.