March 1, 2011

Homemade Pizza

I’ve never had much success making pizza at home. The problem is never the sauce or toppings, just the dough. In the past, I’ve bought pizza dough from the grocery store. I’ve tried in vain to stretch it out to the sides of my pan, only to have it spring stubbornly back to the middle. I usually give up after several minutes, ending up with an amoeba-like form in the center of the pan. Not surprisingly, this results in an unpleasantly doughy crust.

If I lived in New York, I’d have had no incentive to delve into the realm of homemade pizza. In New York (the whole tri-state area for that matter), you can find a deliciously drippy, saucy, cheesy slice at even the most modest pizza establishment. This is the pizza I grew up eating and taking for granted. But alas I live in Boston now. And I have yet to find a slice that even comes close to what I’d call “real” pizza.

So homemade it must be. Last year the Boston Globe ran an article for Ultra-crisp No-fuss Sheet Pan Pizza. The recipe was adapted from one published in My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work No-Knead Method. This book was written by Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York. If his name rings a bell it’s because he’s the guy who shared his now-famous no-knead bread recipe with the NY Times’ Mark Bittman. With credentials like that, I thought I’d give this recipe a try.

The recipe starts out with yeast and flour in one bowl and flour, salt and sugar in the other. Once the yeast has had a chance to bloom, you combine it with the flour and form a sticky dough.

Then let the dough rest for two hours while you go about your business. At the end of the two hours, the dough will have increased in size and should look more regular.

At this point you oil your sheet pan and stretch your dough. As with most doughs, it will resist being stretched to the edges and will pull itself back into the center. But that’s okay! Because this dough needs a little nap to relax. So once you’ve stretched the dough, you let it rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

Then you stretch it again. And this time, the dough will yield to the gentle pressure of your fingertips, stretching out the sides and staying in place. I have no idea what happens to that dough while it’s resting, but this method works!

After that it’s just a matter of adding some sauce and toppings.

Bake the pizza in a really hot oven and voila! You have pizza!


Ultra-crisp, no-fuss, sheet-pan pizza

Makes: one 17-inch pizza

You’ll need a rimmed baking sheet, preferably non-stick, about 11 1/2-by-17, or a 16-inch pizza pan, and a plastic dough scraper.


1 1/4
teaspoons active dry yeast
cup warm (105 to 110 F) water, or more if necessary
1 3/4
cups flour
teaspoon salt
teaspoon sugar

Olive oil (for the pans)

Extra flour (for sprinkling)

Extra salt (for sprinkling)

1. In a bowl, sprinkle yeast into water; set aside for 10 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Stir to blend.

3. With a wooden spoon, stir in the yeast mixture. Add enough additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to make a dough that holds together, but is sticky and too moist to knead. (I had to add 1 additional tablespoon.)

4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap so the wrap does not touch the dough. Lay a dish towel on top. Set aside for 2 hours.

5. Rub a large rimmed baking sheet or pizza pan with olive oil. Rub the center of 1 long sheet of foil with oil and set it aside.

6. Sprinkle the dough with a little flour. Use a dough scraper to transfer the dough to the baking sheet or pizza pan. Pat the dough with a little flour to within 2 inches of the edge of the pans. Cover with foil, oiled side down. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or as long as overnight. (I usually make and stretch the dough in the morning and then let it rest in the fridge until the evening.)

7. Remove sheet or pan from the refrigerator. Dip your hand in flour and pat the dough with your hand, adding as little flour as necessary, until it reaches the edges of the sheets. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Assembling and Baking the Pizza

(The Boston Globe recipe called for topping the recipe with provolone, cherry tomatoes, ham and parmesan. I made a simple pepperoni pizza this time. In the past I’ve topped the pizza with sautéed zucchini and mushrooms, my personal faves.)

1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
12 ounces of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I used Classico tomato and basil)
Pepperoni or any other toppings you love

1. Arrange racks on the lowest and center parts of the oven. Set the oven to 500 degrees F.

2. Spread spaghetti sauce on the pizza dough to within ¾ inch around the perimeter. (Don't overdo it on the sauce. This crust is pretty thin and you don't want it to get soggy.)

3. Top with mozzarella and pepperoni or other toppings.

4. Bake the pizza on the lowest rack of the oven for about 10 minutes (check after 8 minutes to make sure edges are not burning).

5. Transfer the pizza to the center rack and continue baking for 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, the dough is golden and crisp at the edges, and the bottom is firm. (If your cheese isn’t bubbling, you may want to stick it under the broiler for just a minute or so – keep a careful eye on it so it doesn’t burn!)

6. With a wide metal spatula, lift the pizza from the pan and transfer to large wooden board. Cut into rectangles, wedges, or strips.

Two Sheet Pan Pizzas

To double the recipe, use these proportions for the dough.

1 2/3 cup warm water, or more if necessary
1 envelope (2 ¼ tsp) active dry yeast
3 ¾ cups flour
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar

Follow the recipe above, using two sheet pans, and the same rising and baking times. Double the topping recipe. 
Freeze one batch of dough before first stretching.

1 comment:

  1. Holy Moly this looks good! So trying it next week!


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