If you truly want great pizza, don't settle for ordinary, flavorless dough. In other words, stop using yeast! Yeast is great, but it's nothing but a flavorless shortcut when it comes to pizza. Make the dough the old fashioned way by using a sourdough starter. After you get a starter the "recipe" goes everywhere. You can use anywhere between a 1:1 to a 1:2 ratio of starter to flour, depending on what you like and the method of cooking. Add a bit of salt to the mix and some olive oil if you like (I don't).
As for the actual cooking, I like either grilling or the skillet-broiler method so you can some nice crisp and char on the pizza. You can read about the latter here:
The implication that sourdoughs make superior breads/crusts is patently false. The additional 'flavor' you're finding in sourdough is either lactic or acetic acid. There's a lot of people that don't want bread that tastes like buttermilk or vinegar. If you like it that way, good for you, but please don't imply that everyone should prefer it.
And, technically, starter contains yeast, so you're still using yeast :)
In cuisine, it's generally accepted that having flavor is better than having no flavor. That's the very reason why flavor is added to otherwise flavorless grains. To ignore the potential of the crust is no different than serving couscous or white rice cooked with nothing but water and salt. Why be bland when you can add stock and spices? There's a lot of things that can be done to the crust. One can add a bit of sweetness into the dough or lightly brush it with infused oil after forming the crust. But, those things just don't compare to the sourdough crust, which is arguably the best complement to the sauce and cheese.
Where do you think the flavor comes from in a sourdough starter? Just as in any bread, flavor is a function of the kind of flour used, the fermentation process of the yeast, and the reaction of the dough to heat. Pizza crusts will vary in flavor depending on how these elements are combined and developed. You might like a sourdough pizza crust. I don’t. But to say that all crusts other than sourdough have no flavor at all is to misunderstand what yeast is and how it works.
I make pizza all the time without a stone. Mine is packed away at the moment otherwise I would use it! The biggest tip I can give you is to use 1 part semolina flour to 2 parts bread flour for the dough. Makes a big difference. Also, the highest heat, the least amount of wet toppings and thin crust. Watch carefully because it is baked in under 10 minutes sometimes. One time I made a deep dish pizza and used premade puff pastry dough. Wow that was fantastic, too. Good luck.
Highly recommend pizzamaking.com. It is a lot of technical information, but there are plenty of very nice people who will explain thnigs.
2 tips for a beginning pizza maker I haven't seen in this thread.
1. Don't use too much flour. Too much flour and over working the dough will make a tough and chewy crust. After you take the dough out of the mixer, or how ever you initially combine your ingredients, and knead for a short time. As you knead the dough it should have a bit of tack to it without sticking to your fingers. If it's too sticky dust with flour and knead a bit more.
2. Yeast selection. Cake or Dry? If you're making it ahead of time and putting it in the fridge overnight it doesn't make as much difference which you use. If you're making it in the afternoon for pizza that evening I recommend Cake. It starts to rise more quickly and you can get a couple of punch downs before it's time to make the pizza.
And I guess this could be considered a 3rd tip. It's already been mentioned though one person gave contradictory advice. Combine your yeast with warm water and let it sit for 10 mins or so. Not too warm. Temps over 110 will kill the yeast. 90 is plenty warm to activate the little buggers. Then add it to the rest of your ingredients.
Her's a basic outline of what I do. Make the dough and put it in a large oiled bowl (just a tablespoon).Cover the bowl with a dish towel. Let it rise for about 1 1/2 hours or until it nearly doubles and punch it down. Let it rise for another 1 1/2 hours and punch it down. This time take it out of the bowl and put it on a lightly floured counter. Divide the dough into pieces, each one big enough for one pie. Roll each one on the surface to make a round dough ball and put them back on the oiled bowl. Cover and let sit until your ready to make the pizza. The whole process takes about 4 1/2 hours.
Perfect Pepperoni Pizza
I’ve been making my own homemade pizza for many years now, and I serve it with the utmost confidence to my friends and family. It has never failed me! The crust is slightly crunchy with a unique buttery taste. The sauce, made with canned crushed tomatoes, oregano, and crushed red pepper, is a simple yet authentic version used by any pizzaiola throughout Italy. I prefer to use fresh mozzarella, which results in a silky texture and delicious flavor.
The recipe makes enough for two 13″ pizzas.
makes about 3 cups
* 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
* 3 large cloves of garlic
* 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* kosher salt
makes enough for two 13″ pizzas
* 1 1/3 cups water
* 2 packets (4 1/2 teaspoons) of active dry yeast
* 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
* kosher salt
* 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
* 1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
* 8 ounces thick sliced pepperoni
* 2 small onions, diced
Make the sauce: Heat oil in a frying pan on medium. Add crushed red pepper and garlic and stir. Fry until garlic starts to brown, about a half minute, then quickly add canned tomatoes and oregano. Cook sauce until it thickens. Add kosher salt to taste. Cool before using. Can be made several days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
Make the dough: Add 1 1/3 cups of water to a large glass measuring cup. Heat water in microwave to 100° – 110°F (lukewarm). Stir yeast into water until smooth. Combine flour, salt, and olive oil in a large bowl of an electric mixer. Add yeast-water to the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Add a little flour if the dough is too sticky. Use the dough hook on the electric mixer and knead dough for 10 minutes. Alternatively, flour a work surface and knead the dough by hand until pliable.
Form the dough into a ball. Grease a large bowl with olive oil, and put the ball of dough in it. Turn the dough until it is lightly coated with oil. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel (flour sack towels work great), set in a warm place, and let it rise for 30-45 minutes. The dough will double in size.
Make the pizzas: Preheat oven to 425°F. Punch down dough and form into two balls. Lightly flour two baking stones and roll out each ball of dough directly on them. Spread 1/2 cup or more pizza sauce onto each pizza, and top with cheese, pepperoni, and onion. Bake in oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
ok. so today we tried to make pizza differently than ever before. heated up a stone in my weber - got it to a temperature (via infrared sensor) of 540. spread the dough out very thin, added some sauce, cooked sausage, pepperoni, and cheese. slid it unto the heated stone.
for some reason, i thought that it would then need to cook for 7-8 minutes. checked it in 5 and the crust was already burnt! removed the pizza, scraped the fillings/cheese off, and made do.
would love it if you guys straighten me out. will try again. what did i do wrong besides cook for too long?
Agreed, with a fire under the stone the stone gets too hot and the crust will cook too quickly. But, if you build your fire so it's not UNDER the stone, the results will be much better. I use a rectangular charcoal grill (I love my Webers, I just needed more space for stuff like this) topped with 12 firebrick splits. If I center the bricks left-to-right on the grill, I can build a small fire on each end, with the heat rolling up over the bricks. The bricks still get hot, but not as much as with a fire beneath (I have never measured the actual temp). I also add a small (beer-can size) hardwood split to each fire to give it that "wood-fired" effect. That may not work as well with the Weber, as this grill is not nearly as airtight as the Weber. My wood burns with flames; with a lid on the Weber the flames will most likely go out, even with all vents open. "Smoked" pizza may not be a good thing, though it's always worth a try! Also, try using lump instead of briquettes for your fire, that will up your temps. Lump burns faster though, so you could start with a base of briquettes, topped with a half a chimney or so of lump. Or just add some lump periodically if you are cooking for a crowd.
You said you don't think your gas grill gets as hot as your oven so maybe this is a moot point. But I found, using a thermometer, that mine, when on the highest setting, with the lid down, goes just above 700 degrees. I don't use a stone on the grill (but one lives in my oven), but rather slide the pizza (w/a peel sprinkled w/cornmeal) onto the grill, put the lid down immediately. The pizza is cooked beautifully within 5 minutes. The key is a light touch w/sauce and toppings, and a good pizza dough that stretches thin, but is still sturdy enough to hold the toppings and hold its shape as you slide it onto the grill. I use the dough recipe for the "breakfast pizza" in the following link.
Although I get the best results with the grill method, I have successfully baked pizza in my oven, on the stone, at 550.
I also use the Bittman recipe and it never fails. My pizza stone lives in the oven so get that very hot, roll the dough very thin, don't overload with topping as mandymac points out, the slide onto stone from peel.
I don't spend much time worrying about flour type; what I have on hand has always worked. Quality of the toppings is much more important. I love fresh mozzarella, mushrooms sauteed in a little butter, a few oil cured black olives, and prosciutto and fresh herbs.
I've been working on my technique for awhile; and the best solution I've found is a royal pain in the butt - but it makes really, really good home pizza.
I don't use a pizza stone - the entire bottom of my oven is a layer of unglazed quarry tiles. I used a rack on the lowest setting, and lined it 3x2, they fit exactly and I never take them out.
The top rack goes on the highest setting, right under the broiler.
The oven preheats to as high as it will go. The dial tops out at 500, but my infrared thermometer says the stones hit 512.
I get the crust as thin as I can, and put it on an aluminum pizza pan covered with a sheet of parchment paper. I build the pizza quickly, and as I put it in the oven, I turn the oven off, and the broiler on high. The pizza cheese and toppings get a nice bit of color in about 3 minutes time, at which point I pull the pizza out, turn the oven back to 500, use the parchment paper to transfer the pizza to my peel, and from the peel on to the quarry tiles for another 3 or 4 minutes.
It's a complicated switcheroo, I fully admit that, but the total baking time is under 10 minutes and the results are worth it.
My crust is about 4 cups of bread flour, 1 cup of whole wheat flour, yeast, salt and a good squirt of honey.
Sauce is a can of Cento San Marzanos hit with a stick blender.
And while I love fresh mozzarella, most of the time I just shred the block stuff, sometimes adding provolone. I like the way they melt. I keep toppings relatively simple. I don't pre-cook veggies, I just cut them very thin to reduce water output.
I too use the 3x2 quarry tiles on the bottom rack, and highly recommend it. I also reposition the pizza during cooking, but I start on the tiles and then move up to the broiler to finish the toppings - I imagine both ways produce very similar results.
For others that use quarry tiles:
I've heard that some people use additional tiles to build a "faux brick oven" by placing tiles vertically through the upper rack to make "walls" that rest on the bottom 3x2 tiles and then make a 2x2 "ceiling" on the upper rack that fits in between the protruding walls.
I have yet to try this (it's on my 'to do" list) but it may eliminate the need to move the pie - even if it doesn't, my thinking is that I will still have the 2x2 set of tiles to use under the broiler and the additional tiles will at least help maintain the oven temperature after opening the door for the transfer.
As BustedFlush suggested, the faster a thin crust pizza cooks, the better it will be. To that end, I've taken to warming my sauce on the stovetop to give it a head start before going on the pie.
re: Bryan Pepperseed
I brown the toppings first because I wasn't sure if the pizza would maintain integrity on the rack without a pan for support, plus this way it leaves the oven fresh off the pizza stones, so the crust is at it's peak.
That's a crazy idea you've got there for the faux oven. I didn't understand the "walIs" on the first read through - you mean position them through the slots of the rack...but don't the rack grids run the wrong direction? I'll have to look, can't remember....It might be easier to use oven bricks to form the walls and back, then something to support the "roof"...it might just work! You'd want as close to a slot shape as possible...hmmm...I have plenty of leftover tiles....and way too much time on my hands. I'm going to have to try this!
I think we should both try each others method. As one who likes to experiment, I will be trying yours.
When I do, I think I'll take the test one step further and make two pies - one on a "cold" pan and one on a preheated pan.
If what I've read about the effects of "oven spring" on dough are true, someone who has eaten as many pizzas as I have SHOULD be able to tell the difference between the two.
As for the faux oven, not only can I not take credit for it, I also can't find on the web where I first read about it. However, my searching did come up with a couple of "semi-related" links:
The first shows that if I ever get rich, run out of tiles, or decide to stop experimenting, I have other options.
The second shows how I need to be careful with how far I take my experiments even if the tiles used are the same ones I have.
Pizzamaking.com has got to be the most technical food forum(s) I've ever seen.
These guys are fanatical about making great pizza at home. After spending literally hours reading through the various threads, I found a great recipe that works really well in our home oven on a pizza stone - for a while I was addicted to the process and every Weds was pizza night in our house.
Definitely easier with my KA stand mixer but I'm sure you can do this all by hand - doesn't need or want a lot of kneading FYI and make sure to use cold water. Seems counter intuitive but trust these guys, they know their stuff.
King Arthur Flour's Sir Lancelot makes this crust SUPERIOR IMHO but if you don't have it, you can use regular bread flour to good result.
I've made it without the overnight refrigeration (made in the morning and put in fridge until about 5pm) but it really is better tasting with the over night rest.
Another nice thing is that you can choose your preferred weapon of measurement (weight or volume - I use ounces for flour and water and teaspoons for everything else.)
Makes 1 12" pizza
Flour (100%): 209.66 g | 7.4 oz | 0.46 lbs
Water (63%): 132.08 g | 4.66 oz | 0.29 lbs
Instant Dry Yeast (.5%): 1.05 g | 0.04 oz | 0 lbs | 0.50 tsp | 0.12 tbsp
Salt (.5%): 1.05 g | 0.04 oz | 0 lbs | 0.22 tsp | 0.07 tbsp
Olive oil (1.5%): 3.14 g | 0.11 oz | 0.01 lbs | 1 tsp | 0.23 tbsp
Sugar (1.5%): 3.14 g | 0.11 oz | 0.01 lbs | 0.75 tsp | 0.26 tbsp
Total (167%): 350.13 g | 12.35 oz | 0.77 lbs | TF = 0.1092
Dissolve the salt and sugar into the water, in the stand mixer bowl. Combine the yeast and flour in a separate bowl, then add it to the mixer bowl. Mix for about 1 minute then add oil.
Continue to knead on lowest speed until the dough smooths into a ball (two or three minutes in the mixer). Remove dough from bowl and move to ziplock bag lightly coasted with oil.
Refrigerate overnight - about an hour before baking, remove from fridge, shape and top. I usually preheat my baking stone for about 45 mins at 400 degrees prior to baking, shape the pizza, dough at the 45 min mark and bake for about 15 mins give or take.
Good luck! If you have the time/inclination check out those forums, pretty amazing how such small variances can completely change the complexity of the dough and end result!
Agree totally with everything you have to say--American Pie, Pizzamaking.com. But until you've explored both rather thoroughly, printing out the results of Lehmann's Pizza Dough Calculation tool can be pretty overwhelming for the novice. Especially one who might not have a scale. (I, by the way, use the same hydration factor but choose not to add the sugar.)
I'd recommend working one's way up to that with Bittman's Basic Pizza Dough, which Mandymac referenced above:
I'm good with being able to weigh ingredients and using my kitchenaid mixer. I am concerned about the flour, though. Another pizza making friend suggested using Caputo's tipo 000. I think I can find that locally - I don't want to mail order any flour. Should I put the pizza stone on the rack or on the floor of the oven? I think I can get my oven hotter than my propane barbecue.
If one wants to make a pizza that adheres to the very strict guidelines established by the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) in Italy, it must be made with “00” flour and contain no oil or sugar. “00” is a soft flour, not as easy to work with as AP, bread, or high-gluten flour. Since you’re not looking for a DOC designation for your homemade pizza, I’d recommend starting out with a more manageable dough and perhaps graduating up to “00” or a “00” blend once you get a feel for how various doughs handle and what your personal preferences are. You can make a very good pizza dough with all-purpose or bread flour.
Do take a look at the book “American Pie” by Peter Reinhart. It will tell you more than you need to know to make really excellent pizza in a home oven.
My pizza stone lives permanently on the floor of my oven. I don’t have access to a gas grill so have never tried it and can’t comment on it. But my gas oven gets up to 550 degrees and cooks a pizza with a good bottom char in about 7 minutes.
I used to stretch out my dough on a cornmeal-covered peel, but got tired of having burnt cornmeal on the floor of my oven. I now lay out the dough on a square of parchment paper on the peel, cook the pizza on the parchment on the stone for about three or four minutes until it firms up, then remove the parchment and cook the pizza for another three or four minutes. I miss the crunch of the cornmeal, but don’t miss having to clean up the mess.
Regular oven to highest temp it will go - with pizza stone on the rack. In my oven it's 550. Roll dough very very thin - very thin. Very. Spread very very sparingly with excellent tomato puree (Italian product, if possible). Sprionkle with salt. Top with slices of good fiore di latte or other fresh mozzarella (buffalo would be fantastic). A few slivers of anchovy. Sprinkle pizza peel with semolina or cornmeal, assemble pizza and slide onto preheated stone. Bake for just a few minutes - until cheese begins to melt. Toss fresh basil leaves on top and bake for another couple of minutes. Done. Perfect. Remove from oven and eat.
Repeat as often as necessary.
Until I get a real honest to god outdoor woodburning pizza oven, this will do.
My standby recipe is Mark Bittman's from How to Cook Everything (you can google it). The trick is to let it rise and rise for a long time. I just throw it in the fridge overnight or all say or whatever, punching it down and letting it rise again.
The really key element for great pizza is temperature. Jack up the temp on your oven as high as it can go. If you have a BBQ, even better. Spritz the oven with some water from a spray bottle before putting the pizza in. That, and avoid putting on too many toppings, or too many watery toppings (tomatoes). Cook hot and fast.