If you’re serious about pizza, it may seem impossible to create really good pizza at home. While there’s definitely a ceiling to what you can do without a coal- or wood-fired stone pizza oven that gets up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the goal of beating your local delivery joint in a pizza battle is definitely obtainable. This article runs through the best home cook practices of making the dough, making the sauce, shaping the dough, topping the pizza, and cooking the pizza. Gone are the days of pizza crusts you pop out of a can and roll into a rectangle on a baking sheet. Here are the days of impressive homemade pizza nights.
It should be noted that pizza styles and preferences obviously vary wildly. Here, we’re focusing on the New York Neapolitan-type pie (those in the know should think Roberta’s, not Two Boots). We’re looking for a doughy, chewy crust rolled thin, with a good lip and really great sauce. We’re looking for dark spots on both the top and bottom, and a little less greasy than a standard two-napkin N.Y. pie. We’ll break tradition, though, and discuss topping combinations beyond just a few circles of mozzarella cheese. Live a little.
1. The crust
There’s a noticeable difference between your standard slapped-together, one-hour rise pizza dough and a really good, flavorful crust. The difference is found equally in the dough hydration and the rise time. The more water in the dough, the crisper it will be on the outside and the chewier it will be on the inside.
The longer you allow the dough to rise — slowly, preferably — the more flavor you’re extracting from the flour as the yeast slowly eats its way through the sugars. To make the idea of starting your dough the night before more appealing, we’ll cut all the kneading from the equation with Jim Lahey’s no-knead pizza dough. Coming from Epicurious, this recipe calls for enough flour to make six 12-inch pizzas. That’s a lot of pizza, so we’ve halved it. If you’re having a pizza party, bring it back to the full recipe.
Note that this recipe calls for an 18-hour rise. This is, for most people, not the right number of hours: Your life is going to get in the way. It’s OK. More rise time is great. If you let the dough rise for a couple of more hours, especially in a slightly cooler area of your house (not cold!), nothing bad will happen.
- 3¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping dough
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1½ cups water
Directions: Whisk flour, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl. While stirring with a wooden spoon, gradually add water; stir until well incorporated. Mix dough gently with your hands to bring it together and form into a rough ball. Transfer to a large, clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise at room temperature in a draft-free area until surface is covered with tiny bubbles and dough has more than doubled in size, about 18 hours.
Transfer dough to a floured work surface. Gently shape into a rough rectangle. Divide into three equal portions. Working with one portion at a time, gather four corners to center to create four folds. Turn seam side down and mold gently into a ball. Dust dough with flour; set aside on work surface or a floured baking sheet. Repeat with remaining portions.
Let dough rest, covered with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, until soft and pliable, about 1 hour, before shaping your pizzas.