I’m on a quest, of sorts, to replicate my favorite restaurant’s pizza in my own kitchen. Will it work? Well, I’ve got a lot working against me: no 700 degree brick oven, no special flour or wheat, no commercial baking experience… but on the plus side, even if I fall short, I still end up with great pizza.
Here’s my latest attempt in which some cast iron improv takes the place of a dedicated pizza oven.
Total Kitchen Time: 30 mins + rising time
Serves: 4 teenage mutant ninja turtles
- 1 package (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup of 110-degree F filtered water
- 1 3/4 cups unbleached flour
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
- 2 tsp salt (fine/table salt)
- 1 tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 cups mozzarella (fresh, sliced and pressed dry OR shredded)
- 2 tbsp tomato sauce, prepared
- 1 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
- If your oven has a bread proof setting (or a 100 degree setting), preheat it on that mode. Bloom the yeast in the 110-degree water for 5 minutes.
- Clear off some counter space and dump the flour into a pile. Add the salt and cornmeal and mix with your fingers until combined. Arrange the flour like a volcano with a crater in the middle. Add about 1/4 cup of the water and slowly combine with your fingertips until it is fully absorbed. Add another 1/4 cup and repeat, trying to work the dough as little as possible. Add the remaining water (or less) until the dough can be rolled into a large ball and no flour spots remain. Avoid adding unnecessary water; you may not need to use all 3/4 cups.
- Coat the inside of a medium bowl with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add the dough ball and toss in the oil to coat. Cover loosely and let rise for 40 mins.
- If you have an oven-proof griddle or very large cast iron skillet, place it in the oven on the middle rack. Now, crank your oven as high as it will go and give it at least 20 minutes to preheat. In the meantime…
- Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. As much as you can, use your hands to gently stretch the dough into a shape that will fit your cooking vessel (for me, a large rectangle fits my cast iron griddle). Remember to only handle the dough as little as possible – overworking causes the gluten in the flour to activate, leading to a dense, gummy texture. Brush the dough with olive oil on both sides.
- Once your oven is nice and hot, carefully transfer the dough to your cooking surface. It should sizzle a bit. Bake for 2 – 3 minutes, or until the bottom crust has started to char a little. Remove the dough from the oven and add the toppings. Return to the oven and bake about 7 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown around the edges.
- Remove the pizza from the oven and let it rest 10 minutes. Cut and serve!
The secret to really great pizza is, of course, great dough. This dough is simple and reliable, though it lacks the flavor and crunch profile of my “goal crust”. I’m sure that a few hundred slices from now, I’ll get it right. Enjoy!