Pizza Crust Reconsidered

Let it never be said that I can’t change my mind.

Remember that Todd English pizza crust I loved so much? It was the only pizza crust I’d made for years, but then, I stumbled upon 101 Cookbooks post of master baker Peter Reinhart’s Neapolitan-style pizza. One bite of this crust, and my stand-by crust was forgotten. It’s everything you could want in a pizza crust: flavorful, light and crispy with big dough bubbles. It has the advantage of being much easier to handle as well.

The key, according to Heidi, is a long fermentation that allows the flavor of the yeast to develop. Even better, the whole process is far easier than my other pizza dough. Just toss the dry ingredients together, add cold water, stir and knead until smooth. Throw into the refrigerator for use anytime in the next four days. By far the hardest part is remembering to take the dough out of the fridge two hours before you plan to make your pizza.

Another trick is that this pizza dough is tossed, thus avoiding the heaviness that comes from the weight of the rolling pin squashing down all the yeast bubbles. Tossing pizza is kind of stressful when you’re having friends over and you’re nervous about pitching everyone’s dinner onto the floor, but it’s not so difficult. The dough has a dreamy texture: soft, smooth and supple. You don’t have to toss very high or flashily, just a few inches will stretch the dough whisper thin and bake up into a crispy, light crust. (If this stresses you out, I recommend breathing deeply before tossing the pizza–in through the nose, out through the mouth and TOSS!)

I resisted buying a pizza stone for the longest time. I just got one, and I can’t imagine what I did without it. I don’t have a peel, so I just use a piece of cardboard sprinkled with semolina to slide the pizza onto the stone.

I’ve linked to Heidi’s recipe above, but my adaptation follows. I use a little whole-wheat pastry flour in my recipe. I like the flavor of whole wheat, and mixing all-purpose with a lower gluten flour mimics the softer flour of Italy.

Overnight Pizza Crust

3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. instant yeast
2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 3/4 c. cold water
semolina or corn meal

Combine flours, yeast, and salt. Add cold water and olive oil and mix until dough is too heavy to stir. On floured surface (or just in the bowl, which is what I do) knead dough 10 minutes until smooth and no longer sticky. Divide dough into six equal parts. Place on well floured cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight, or for up to four days. You can also freeze some of the dough for later.

The next day, two hours before making the pizza, take dough out of fridge. If using a pizza stone, preheat oven to 500 one hour before making pizza. Pick up the dough and place it over the backs of your fists. Gently stretch the dough by moving your fists apart. If you’re feeling confident, gently toss it a few inches in the air. Catch and stretch again. Do this over a clean surface in case of accidents. When dough is as uniformly thin as it’s going to get, place on peel (or piece of cardboard) sprinkled with cornmeal or semolina. Gently place toppings on pizza; avoid pressing dough down into the peel. Slide pizza onto stone, and bake 8-10 minutes. If you do not have a pizza stone, you can bake pizza on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes.



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4 responses to “Pizza Crust Reconsidered

  1. I’m w/ you – i can’t imagine my life w/o a pizza stone either! Here’s a tip to try (it’s really helped my homemade pizza’s become better) – blind bake your pizza dough on the stone for 1-2 minutes before adding your toppings and putting back in the oven to finish cooking. it not only makes it easier to add the toppings and then place it on the stone, but it produces the perfect crispy bottom w/o making it soggy in the middle (that’s if you’re putting sauce on it).

    if you’re at all interesting in getting some topping ideas, we went a little crazy 2 nights in a row w/ a “pizza-paloooza” and chronicled it on our blog:


  2. Pingback: Mushroom Umami Pizza « The Rice and Spice Cupboard

  3. Pingback: Pizza: The Perfect Thin Crust and Veggie Pepperoni « The Rice and Spice Cupboard

  4. I found this on your site while searching for Mario Batali’s Neapolitan pizza dough recipe (it’s a recipe that tries to help you mimic the dough you get with 00 Caputo flour, by using a mix of pastry/bread flour). The photo of your finished pizza is gorgeous, and what I’m looking for re: bubbles, light texture, chewy but not hard…do you still love this recipe and technique as much as you did when you wrote this in ’08? I’ve been trying to replicate the Margherita pizza at Keste in NYC for a good while now, with no real success at all.

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