Upstate NY is known for many wonderful things. Pizza is not one of them. Bad pizza should be a crime, same goes for bad cookies, by the way. Something that looks so delicious, with oozy gooey cheesy goodness, should just not taste bad. In Upstate NY, it’s just too often the case. The crust is a little too thick, the sauce a little too sweet, it’s just not right. I suppose I would have never been the wiser had I not experienced good NYC pizza as a kid, visiting my Aunt who lived there for years, and subsequently having New Jersey Pizza via my New Jersey husband. I suppose I would have stayed blissfully happy with what passes for pizza up here.
Instead, I do my best to provide a great home made alternative. Nothing is going to beat some of the pizza you find in NYC. Their ovens are wicked hot, their stones are well seasoned, they have some guy who flips dough in his sleep and probably sauce recipes handed down through the ages. BUT, I try.
Then there is planning. Most of the time, pizza is the last minute I-don’t-feel-like-making-dinner-let’s-call-for-pizza dinner, but when you want good home made pizza you have prepare a day in advance. I actually really like it because it splits the work and the day you make the pizza it’s faster than calling it up.
The process begins with chilling your flour. Your 4 ½ Cups of flour in a bowl and into the fridge, or freezer. I just throw it in the fridge while I’m getting breakfast ready in the morning. I just use all purpose flour, you can use bread flour or high gluten flour too which will have better spring and holds together better with handling. The all purpose flour will have a softer chew, but will be more prone to tearing in handling. (It has to do with the protein in the flour, more protein, harder flour)
When you have sufficiently chilled your flour you can make your dough
4 ½ cups Flour (chilled)
1 ¾ teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Instant Yeast
¼ cup Olive Oil
1 ¾ cup ice water
Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting
Stir together your dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer (I think you can do this by hand…I have never tried, and I imagine it’s quite a workout, so if you want to burn some calories before consuming this pizza, go for it!). Then stir in the oil and cold water until it’s all mixed together to a blob. Now switch to the dough hook attachment and keep it mixing for another 5-7 minutes. You want to have a smooth sticky dough. Err…I hate when people say smooth sticky dough. Really, it’s tacky…so it’s not sticking to your fingers, but it has a little tack. Should clear the sides of the bowl, but stick to the bottom.
Okay, so 24 hours later, or thereabout. You take your dough out to warm up a bit on a well floured surface. Mine is my kitchen counter. Give it around two hours. During this time you can make some sauce. Oh yeah…sauce. If you have a favorite sauce that is suitable for you, use it. Sometimes I’m really lazy, and I just use the smooth marinara that Wegman’s makes, but if I’m in the mood to have real sauce I’ll make it.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3-4 cloves of garlic finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste
After you’ve got a semblance of a circle, you can add toppings. Notice your dough is pretty thin here and the more toppings you add, the harder it is to get it off your “peel” and in the end, less is more with this pizza. So you can go easy on the sauce and cheese.
Now you can carefully slide the pizza off your peel on to your already heated (because it’s already in the oven) pizza stone. 5-7 minutes, or less if your oven is hotter than 550, and you’re ready to eat pizza.