pizza dough

pizza by Nate Everett

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Pizza is one of the best foods in existence. Period. The combination of crunchy dough and melty cheese and spicy meat and tomato sauce is divine. It's no wonder pizza is a lifelong favorite for so many of us!

Pizza is rather easy to make at home if you buy the dough and red sauce instead of make them from scratch. I prefer the latter, of course :) Most supermarkets, like Safeway and Harris Teeters and Whole Foods, regularly carry good quality dough, or you can head to your local pizza joint to score a couple balls of fresh dough - restaurants charge about five dollars a pop. It's a good option if you're in a pinch, as is store-bought tomato sauce. The toppings can be prepared in advance, so by the time your guests arrive, it's just a matter of rolling out the dough, topping it, and sliding your pizzas into the oven. 

I've made a variety of pizza doughs over the years using a variety of flours including Caputo "00," bread, and all-purpose. Pizza aficionados swear by the classic "00" flour of Napels, but after numerous test runs, I prefer bread flour. Bread flour produces a crunchy crust which is my preference; opt for all-purpose or Caputo if you like it chewy. 

To successfully cook pizza, there are a few things to bear in mind.

First, Restaurants cook pizza in wicked hot, kiln-like ovens with temperatures of 700°-800°. Extreme heat is essential to cook the dough quickly and thoroughly. Most of us, of course, do not own commercial grade ovens, so when you make pizza, be sure to crank up your oven as hot as it'll get, like 500° or more. And I highly recommend buying a pizza stone and a pizza peel. They're essential. I mean, you can roll out the dough onto a large cookie sheet greased with olive oil and then pop the sheet in the oven, but the pizza won't have the same charred, crunchy base that you get with a pizza stone. 

Secondly, I suggest getting a wood pizza peel instead of a steel one. My American Metalcraft peel looks dope AF but the dough hopelessly sticks to the peel making it difficult to slide the pizza onto the stone. It won't budge. Humph. 

And lastly, do your homework when shopping for a pizza stone. There are a plethora of stones on the market but even the sturdiest of stones are susceptible to cracking at high temperatures, even after a couple of uses. When I was shopping for one I paid close attention to customer reviews. Some of the best brands include Emile Henry and Baking Steel.

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recipe

for the dough:

  • 6 cups bread flour
  • 1.5 tsp (slightly rounded) active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt 
  • cornmeal (for the pizza peel)

for the red sauce:

  • 1 28 oz can of tomato puree
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  1. Put the yeast, olive oil, and 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon cold water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a dough hook, mix on low speed for about five minutes until yeast has dissolved and foamed. Add the flour and mix for eight minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  2. Cover the bowl with a damp dish cloth; allow the mixture to rise for 20 minutes.
  3. Add the salt and mix on low speed for about eight minutes. 
  4. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for a few minutes by hand. Divide the dough into six equal portions and roll each portion into a ball using your hands.
  5. Arrange the dough on a lightly floured baking sheet and cover it with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise for a minimum of four hours. If your kitchen isn't warm, then heat your oven to 200° and once it reaches this temperature, turn it off and place the baking sheet in the oven with the door slightly ajar.
  6. Meanwhile, while the dough rises, make the red sauce. In a medium saucepan, sauté the onions in the olive oil for several minutes, then add the garlic and cook for a minute longer. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then immediately reduce to a gentle simmer. Allow the sauce to simmer for 30 minutes for the flavors to evolve. Season to taste.
  7. Ladle the sauce into a blender in batches. Blend on medium speed for one minute to thoroughly chop the ingredients, then blend for another minute on high speed to puree the sauce. Transfer to a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.
  8. Preheat the oven to 500° (if your oven gets hotter, then preheat to its highest setting).
  9. Dust your pizza peel with cornmeal. When the dough has risen - it will be pillowy and puffy and full of air - use a rolling pin to roll one of the balls into a disk. When the dough won't stretch any further, pick up the disk and rotate it like a steering wheel. Gravity will do the work for ya; the dough will continue to stretch.
  10. Once the dough appears to be about 12 inches in diameter, lay it on the pizza peel. Work quickly so it doesn't stick to your peel. Ladle two tablespoons of sauce onto the dough and spread it to the edges. Add toppings of your choice. Slide the dough onto the pizza stone and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the crust has achieved a medium brown color. Repeat with the remaining pies. 

If you make this recipe, hashtag a pic to #spiceandhutch and post to Instagram, Facebook and/or Twitter. I'd love to see your culinary creations!