I’m from New Jersey. We take our pizza very seriously. When I go for a visit, the first thing I do (after a trip to Wawa) is get a piece of pizza from my favorite pizza shop. (Primo’s Pizza. No kidding, it’s the only phone number from my childhood that I remember.) And I get another one right before I leave town. And probably once or twice during my visit. My love for pizza runs deep. I’m not ashamed.
For excellent pizza the crust must be thin. It must be crisp. (It should be able to be held in your hand without drooping.) It cannot have too much sauce. Or too much cheese. A great piece of pizza is like a piece of artwork. Everything works together and is in balance. Making great pizza at home can be a challenge. In my experience, my pizza at home has always been good, but not the kind that I crave (and dream about) from my home state.
Not anymore. You guys, I have it figured out.
The key to incredible pizza at home is a great crust recipe, the highest quality ingredients, and an oven so hot it will burn your arm hairs off.
I’m going to share with you some of my best tips for making crave-worthy pizza at home.
1. You need to use the best ingredients you can get your hands on. We are fortunate to have a little Italian market close to us that carries only products from Italy. (I can’t read most of the labels, I trust them to tell me what I am buying.) Italian 00 flour is a finely milled flour that is worth looking for. The dough is soft, but also easy to work with. Extra virgin olive oil. You are going to use it to finish your pizza, so use the best you can afford. San Marzano tomatoes, and the only time that I insist on them being whole. Fresh mozzarella cheese, I used two different kinds and I actually prefer the kind that is not in water (it’s fresh, but wrapped tightly in plastic wrap), it holds it’s shape better and doesn’t weep on the pizza. Sea salt and pepper. In my opinion, this is what makes all the difference. A little sprinkle before you take a bite and it changes everything. Fresh basil. You cannot have a Margherita pizza without fresh basil.
2. The highest temps you can get. Run to Sam’s Club (or order online) and get yourself a BakerStone Box. Seriously, I get a lot of kitchen stuff sent to me and more often than not I try it and it never sees the light of day again. But this, I am so excited about. A BakerStone Box is a pizza oven that goes on top of your GRILL. It gets to crazy (arm hair sizzling) temperatures and makes the crispiest, most delicious pizza known to mankind. Now, if you live in New England, you know that most homes are not air-conditioned. Mine is not. I will do just about anything to not turn on my oven in July and August. I will be using my BakerStone every day. Not only does is make perfect pizza, but it also can roast meats and vegetables. If I was a camping sort of girl, I would also think that this is the best tool ever. I made a hot Mexican dip in it and it worked perfectly. (I’ll share that recipe soon.) I am going to try and bake a few desserts in it too.
If you don’t have a box, make sure that you preheat your oven with a pizza stone as high as it can go (500°), and for a good 20-30 minutes before you add your pizza. The crust should start cooking on the bottom as soon as it hits the oven. (You can also use a flipped over sheet pan.)
3. Don’t weigh your pizza down. Too many ingredients will make your pizza heavy. Just a few spoonfuls of sauce, just enough cheese to get it in each bite but not so much that it oozes everywhere. Same goes for toppings. A little goes a long way.
4. Let it cool for a bit before slicing. This is a hard one. As soon as it comes out of the oven you want to get busy, but let the cheese cool a little for cleaner slices (and not burning the roof of your mouth.) This way your cheese won’t fall off the crust.
To make your pizza, roll the dough out as thinly as possible. This crust recipe made 4 small pizzas. I stretched and pulled more than rolled. Letting the dough sit on the counter for about 15 minutes before I rolled it out helped a ton to get it thin. I used about 2-3 tablespoons of sauce and the back of a spoon to spread it thinly all over the crust. Top with slices of cheese. They baked in about 7 minutes. Add torn basil leaves to the top, drizzle with olive oil, and salt and pepper. HEAVEN.
The pizza was so good that we didn’t even bother to sit at the table and eat it. We stood on the porch and ate it as they came out. I can’t even describe how good it was.
This is the best recipe I’ve found. It makes enough for 4 small pizzas, or 2 large.
2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water (100°-110° F)
Extra virgin olive oil
3 cups Italian 00 flour, plus more for the board
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water; stir gently to dissolve. Let the mixture stand until the yeast comes alive and starts to foam, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Turn the mixer on low and add the salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the flour, a little at a time, mixing at the lowest speed until all the flour has been incorporated. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium; stop the machine periodically to scrape the dough off the hook. Get a feel for the dough by squeezing a small amount together: if it’s crumbly, add more water; if it’s sticky, add more flour – 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix until the dough gathers into a ball, this should take about 5 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold it over itself a few times; kneading until it’s smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a round and place in a lightly oiled bowl, turn it over to coat. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot (i.e. over a gas pilot light) until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Once the dough is domed and spongy, turn it out onto a lightly floured counter. Roll and stretch the dough into a cylinder and divide into 3 equal pieces. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes so it will be easier to roll out.
1 (32-oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes (I like the fire roasted kind)
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons extra virgin live oil
Drop the garlic cloves through the feed tube as the food processor is running. Pulse until the garlic is finely minced. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, salt, pepper, and oil to the food processor. Pulse to get the desired consistency. (I like mine fairly smooth, but it’s up to you.)
Give a taste and add more salt, pepper, or vinegar as needed.
Drain the tomatoes for a slightly thicker sauce.
Makes enough for about 8 pizzas.
Refrigerate unused sauce for up to a week.
Freeze any extra pizza sauce for up to 3 months: Spoon any unused sauce into muffin tins. Freeze until solid, then pop the frozen cubes out of the mold and transfer to a freezer container. Thaw overnight before using on pizza, or microwave the cubes in 30-second bursts until they melt into a sauce.
BakerStone gifted me a BakerStone Box, but all opinions are 100% my own. I love this oven and will giving one to all of the dads in my life for Father’s Day.
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