MVP Recipe: Pizza
This pizza is the culmination of a long journey for me. I started making pizza as a teen in my parents oven, on a sheet tray. I’ve tried a lot of methods by now and this one is my favorite. Why? It’s the easiest. The dough is simple (albeit timely). You can cook it inside (which is great because I made this one on a 1* F day). The ingredients are simple, fresh, and blend together beautifully. The dough is both chewy and crunchy. It cooks fast. I’ll break all that down now and give my thoughts before we get into the recipe, so you can understand why/how this recipe came to be.
Dough: The dough I’m using is from Serious Eats, it’s their Neapolitan style. Yes, it takes 2-5 days for the dough to ferment. On the flip side, it’s by far the easiest dough I’ve ever made and requires no kneading or even specialty equipment. Because of that it’s the one I recommend. One the back end it also yields a bubbly, soft dough that can crisp up (depending on rolling method and how you cook it), or it can stay chewy if you’re able to cook hot and fast enough. I like a little crunch and a little chew and this recipe gives me that.
Stretching: I used to be a rolling pin only guy, but have come to hand stretch now. As alluded to earlier, if you use a rolling pin, you will be pushing the bubbles out and the pizza will be a bit more uniform. And if you go really thin it’ll be a nice and crispy crust, which is also great. But I’d say get the pizza as stretched as you can before it tears (and it often tears for me as I push the limits, just pinch back together). If stretching by hand just go slow and keep pulling it from the sides, and also picking it up. At first you’ll need to press down in it to get it a bit stretched out, and from there I like picking it up and holding one side towards the edges, letting gravity stretch the dough for me. Just rotate the crust in your hands and keep spinning the pizza 360* (still holding it) to let it droop and pull itself.
Method: I’m using the “broiler” method here. What this entails is pre-heating your over to as hot a temp as possible for at least 20 minutes (once it’s at max temp) to heat your Baking Steel. The Steel will be in the upper 1/3 of the oven, for me one row higher than the middle rack, and once the dough is stretched I switch to broil, on high. What it does is cooks the pizza from both above (broiler) and below (Steel), which typically results in 3.5-4 minute cook times for me.
Toppings: This is where you can do your own thing. I’d love if you tried one pizza this way though. When I made this last batch I had a couple people try it, my wife included, and she said it was my best pizza to date. Ordinarily she wouldn’t do the goat cheese nor the basil (the one inside the pizza, not added to the top at the end), and probably would lean against the mushroom. But once combined and cooked it’s a delicious blend of flavors that work well with each other.
Gear: The only thing I strongly recommend is a Baking Steel. Just their Steel is great, and I know this is a little on the higher side for a specialty item, but I recommend getting the Baking Steel Griddle. It’s again a bit more expensive but it’s vastly more useful and you can legitimately cook on that every day. One side is meant to bake on, and the other turns into a countertop griddle. I’ve cooked and shared plenty of recipes on it before (smashed burgers, breakfast spreads, fajitas, etc.) so you really will get a lot of use out of it. The reason I recommend the Steel in particular is due to its thermal output. Steel retains and radiates heat at a much higher clip than a normal baking stone would. In this recipe, where we’re utilizing the broiler method, that means the pizza cooks evenly from the top and the bottom. A stone would lag behind a bit on the crust and the timing wouldn’t work as well. It’s an investment, but highly worth it. Another piece of equipment that I really find handy is a pizza peel (multiple actually), which aids in getting the pizza in and out of the oven. You can definitely get away with using wood cutting boards or other flat surfaces, but the peel is best if you’ve got one.
- Dough recipe: https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/07/basic-neapolitan-pizza-dough-recipe.html
- 20 ounces Bread Flour, preferably 00
- .4 ounces Kosher Salt
- .3 ounces Instant Yeast
- 13 ounces Water
- Canned Whole Tomatoes, pureed [tomato sauce] (1)
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Fresh Basil
- Goat Cheese
- Fresh Mozzarella (2)
- Mushroom, sliced
- Pepperoni (3)
- Parmigiano Reggiano (4)
- Garlic, very thinly sliced
- Semolina Flour
Dough Directions from Serious Eats:
- Combine flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl and whisk until homogenous. Add water and incorporate into flour using hands until no dry flour remains on bottom of bowl. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.
- Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and divide into four even balls. Place each in a covered quart-sized deli container or in a zipper-lock freezer bag. Place in refrigerator and allow to rise at least 2 more days, and up to 4. Remove from refrigerator, shape into balls, and allow to rest at room temperature for at least 2 hours before baking. (5)
- 2-3 hours before cooking, take dough out of fridge and let sit on the counter. (6)
- 1 hour before cooking, pre-heat oven to as hot as it goes, 500-550*.
- Stretch out your dough, using extra flour to make sure nothing sticks. (7)
- Once your pizza dough is stretched, transfer to a pizza peel that is lightly dusted with semolina flour. (8)
- Turn oven to broil, on the hottest setting.
- Begin to top the pizza, making sure to give the peel a shake after every step to ensure the dough isn’t sticking.
- Drizzle a light layer of oil around the crust and brush with your finger or a brush to evenly coat the crust. (9)
- Spread the sauce evenly and lightly, then sprinkle a touch of salt. (10)
- Add sliced garlic, small pieces of basil, and red pepper flake to your desired liking.
- Next add goat cheese, breaking up into small crumbles and evenly distributing a light layer. Top with sliced or hand torn mozzarella. Lightly salt the cheese. (11)
- Top with sliced mushroom and pepperoni.
- Launch your pizza into the oven. At ~2 min in check the pizza and rotate 180* if necessary. When your pizza is done, with a darkened crust, crispy pepperoni edges, and melted and bubbly cheese, remove from oven. (12)
- Grate fresh parm over the top and add thinly sliced basil, if desired. Cut, serve, and enjoy!
- I use Bianco DiNapoli canned, whole, peeled tomatoes. I puree the contents of the can, juice and all, together with my stick blender and use that for the sauce. Tasty, light, simple. Any canned tomato will do, and you can absolutely use canned tomato sauce. The whole tomatoes do taste a bit better than the pre-pureed stuff though.
- Fresh mozzarella is one of the keys. Since I started using it I haven’t gone back. Get the ball and you can either slice yourself or just pull apart with your hands. Go a little thinner on the slices, if you cut too thick it won’t melt and cook in the right timeframe.
- I’ve been using Fiorucci sliced pepperoni, which is at my local market. They’re large pieces so I cut them into quarters, which benefits me because it adds more edges to get crispy. I can also place the pieces to cover more of the pizza. More pepperoni is always a good thing.
- The undisputed king of cheeses. I love the flavor and prefer it over traditional parmesan, but I’ve used that plenty of times. Go with what you like and what you have on hand.
- The recipe calls for cutting the dough into 4 portions but I’ve found those to be very large pizzas. Lately I’ve been going with 6 for individual size portions. 4 is great if you’re very hungry or want to share.
- Letting the dough come to room temp will help with the stretching process greatly. Cold dough is rigid and stiff and much like our bodies, won’t fully relax the way it will at room temp.
- Just use the same flour you made the dough with. Don’t go super heavy but a nice layer on your surface will make sure you’re in good shape, and flour both sides at the beginning of this process.
- Semolina Flour is like little balls, which will help the dough stay maneuverable and allow it to get off the surface. If you’ve eaten pizza and wondered what those little balls were stuck to the bottom of your crust, that’s the semolina. A very light layer will work here, just enough to keep the dough off the peel.
- I think this really helps in keeping the crust hydrated, and also browning. This is only that outer 1/2 inch or so, not the whole dough.
- I take my sauce basically to the edge, I leave maybe 1/4 of an inch of crust. The dough bubbles and expands in the oven, plus I prefer more toppings over a larger crust area. Go as light as you can here, almost no one asks for more tomato sauce in their pizza, but there are plenty of complaints of overly sauced pizzas. Also we haven’t seasoned the tomatoes yet, which notoriously need a lot of salt, so that’s what we’re doing.
- I probably used 1 ounce of goat cheese, maybe 1.5. I got a 4 oz log and after a couple pizzas still had 1/3 or so left, so that’s a good idea of what to use. It provides a nice tang and mellows out when cooked (for those worried about the sharper raw flavor). Plus we aren’t using much once it’s crumbled up and spread across a whole pizza.
- You can cook your pizza as little or long as you’d like, of course! I find that the crust gets dark around the same time as the cheese is bubbly (and even turning golden brown), and the pepperoni is crisping up. This stage gets fully cooked ingredients, and that crunchy but chewy dough we’re after.
© Mitchell Schwartz 2021