Make Great Pizza At Home!
I was a primitive.
I started out making simple English Muffin pizza, then "graduated" up to the pizza mix in a box. A bread machine moved Michelle and I further up the ladder and we were pretty satisfied for a while, but I longed for the great pizza taste of my youth: NY style thin dough.
We purchased a book on making NY style pizza and it was ok, but not close enough. Then I found the wonderful folks on the forum at Pizzamaking.com and that's when everything changed.
This is a website where the serious aficionados congregate.
It took me about 6 months to really get up to speed on their language and methods but once I did, that's when everything changed. The biggest compliment came from my mother who told me my pizza tasted exactly like the kind my grandfather made so many years ago. High praise indeed.
That doesn't mean that we still don't make English Muffin pizza when the mood hits us. We most certainly do. Nothing like going back to your roots for comfort food.
For mixing tools, I use either a KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer or my newest addition, an Ankarsrum spiral mixer. I moved up to the Ankarsrum because so many posts I had read on Pizzamaking.com and The Fresh Loaf websites told how abusive the KitchenAid was in kneading dough. I'm still getting the hang of the Ankarsrum but I've been getting good results and I am able to make quite the batch of dough at once.
You need good quality ingredients for making great pizza...
For flour, I prefer Bread flour. It has a relatively high protein count, making the crust nice and chewy, plus it can handle the high-heat of my Blackstone pizza oven. When cooked in my regular oven, it takes a little longer but is still damn good.
I've tried many sauces and created a few of my own.
On the pizza forum, I saw frequent mention of "6-in-1" ground tomato sauce and so we deiced to try it. One taste and we were hooked and since then, we haven't looked back. We usually order 2 cases at a time and it will last us for several months before we need to restock.
The true test of any sauce is how it tastes coming straight from the can. We add very little in the way of spices (King Arthur Flour's pizza blend) and sugar (to cut down on acidity) with a pinch of salt (to balance the salt).
I want that chewy, stringy cheese so we use mozzarella cheese.
Ok, if you are using pre-shredded mozzarella cheese sold in the bags, stop and switch to whole-milk mozzarella cheese. The pre-shredded stuff is coated with corn starch to keep it from clumping together and that interfere with how the cheese melts. To the point that in comparison, it almost tastes like rubber.
Use a baking stone to get that nice crisp bottom on the crust. There is also a baking steel (heavy as hell) or in a pinch, take a standard flat baking pan and flip it upside down.
The vast majority of people making pizza at home, bake it in a regular consumer oven. Usually 425° F for about 20 minutes.
The problem is that at the most, they only get up to 550° F, but by using 2 pizza stones on different racks, and using the broiler for brief periods of time, we can reach even higher temperatures.
Us? We're nuts and purchased a Blackstone Pizza Oven (no longer for sale by Blackstone. Morons) and that gets up to 1000° F. I find a good temp around 650-725° F for 2-3 minutes gets us the pizza we want.
I imagine we will be building a brick oven at some point in the future.
With a room temperature rise (RT Fermentation) you can have your pizza (from ingredients to slice) in as little as 2 1/2 hours. This will deliver a good pizza that is sure to satisfy.
The real secret is in having a long cold fermentation by placing the dough in an airtight container and having it in the refrigerator. The vast majority of pizzerias will do a 24 hour cold fermentation to increase taste and texture.
At 48 hours, the dough chemistry changes. The yeast is done consuming the sugar in the flour and is delivering good complex carbohydrates.
3 days seems to be the cut-off when it comes to maintaining a chewy dough. After that, our dough will improve even more in taste. I've gone as long as an 11 day cold fermentation. It didn't have the chew, but it sure tasted great.