If you saw my post about our pasta class at flour + water, you know that cooking classes were a theme of Christmas 2013. The second attempt to make me less hopeless in the kitchen was Pizza Making 101 at The Cheese School of San Francisco. If you live in the area and haven’t been to The Cheese School, you are really missing out. Their gorgeous new spot in the Mission has a covered, outdoor area—where you are always greeted with wine—with greenery and a wood-burning pizza oven, plus an indoor classroom and kitchen. Intimate classes are categorized by tasting & pairing, hands-on and professional with options like Big Reds, Big Cheese and Cheesemaking. So far, we’ve done Cheese & Wine 101 and Pizza Making 101, and I’m currently stalking additional dates for Cheeses of Italy. I’ll share more about the full experience and some tips soon. In the meantime, I didn’t feel right keeping this pizza recipe to myself. From Forrest Smith, A16 veteran and State Bird Provisions manager, himself, here’s how to perfect pizza at home.
P.S. In typing this up, I learned that “cornicione” means the edge or end crust of the pizza. For more esoteric pizza terms to help you sound like a pro, check out this glossary from Serious Eats.
recipe for pizza dough
- 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (100° to 105° F)
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 cups “00″ flour or all-purpose flour
- Extra virgin olive oil
- To make the dough, in a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let proof for 10 minutes. If the yeast has not dissolved into a soft, frothy paste in that time, hunt down a fresher batch and repeat the process. Stir in the olive oil and salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour and yeast mixture and mix together on low speed for about 2 minutes, or until the dough is shaggy and most of the water has been absorbed. Knead on medium-low speed for about 10 minutes, or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and looks smoother. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes. Knead on medium-low speed for an additional 10 minutes, or until the dough is very smooth, soft, and warm to the touch.
- Lightly coat a large bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl, turn the dough so that both sides are lightly coated in oil, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, punch down the dough with your fist, then fold over the sides and turn the dough over in the bowl. Re-cover and return to the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a floured work surface. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. One at a time, cup the pieces in your hands and tuck under the sides until you have a formed a smooth ball. Place the balls on the floured work surface, providing plenty of room between the balls, and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let the balls proof for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in volume. Keep a water-filled spray bottle handy, and if you see a skin forming on the surface of the dough, spray the surface to dissolve the skin. The skin will prevent the dough from rising properly and will make shaping the dough difficult.
making your pizza
- To make your oven pizza ready, place a pizza stone on the lowest rack and preheat the oven to its maximum temperature (typically between 500° and 550° F) for at least 30 minutes.
- To shape a ball of dough into a pizza base, place it on a well-floured work surface. Using the tips of your fingers, pat down the ball, flattening it into a disk. Place the palm of one hand in the center of the dough and gently but firmly press down. At the same time, with the other hand, pull the dough outward while rotating it clockwise to form a flat circle with a slightly raised edge, or cornicione. If the dough feels resistant as you stretch it, set it aside, covered with a damp kitchen towel, while you work on a second ball of dough. This will give the gluten a chance to rest, making the dough more pliable once you return to it. The entire time you are working on the dough, maintain a thin layer of flour underneath it to prevent it from sticking. If you don’t feel confident handling pizza dough, try starting with a rolling pin to ensure you begin with an even circle, and then return to hand stretching. Continue to stretch the dough, allowing time for it to relax as needed, until it is 10 to 12 inches in diameter.
- Generously dust a pizza peel or a rimless baking sheet with flour. Slide the pizza base onto the peel, and then immediately shake the peel to ensure the dough isn’t sticking to it. Dress the base with the selected toppings. To transfer the pizza to the pizza stone, place the peel over the stone and quickly jerk it back. The pizza should slide smoothly off the peel onto the stone in one piece. It is important to bake the pizza immediately after putting the toppings on it, or the dough will soften and stick to the peel. If you are grilling the pizza, follow the instructions below, making sure not to add any of the toppings until the base has been brushed with olive oil, grilled on the first side, and flipped over.
- Bake the pizza for 6 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is crisp and golden brown and the top is bubbling. Take care not to open the oven door often to maintain the high oven temperature. Using the peel or baking sheet, remove the pizza from the oven, drizzle with olive oil, and cut into 4 pieces with a knife or pizza cutter. Serve at once. Repeat with the remaining 3 balls.
- 1 28 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes
- 1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt
- 1/2 clove of garlic, grated on a microplane (optional)
- Mill the tomatoes with their juice through the medium disk of a food mill, or just crush them in a bowl with your hands. The rough texture is desirable. Add the salt, and if so desired, flavor with the grated garlic. For marinara sauce, add a pinch of dried oregano.
tools for the home oven
- Pizza peel
- Pan (optional)
While I don’t plan to make pizza again anytime soon (come on, Pizzeria Delfina is two blocks from home), I had a blast and am happy to benefit from what Jon learned. More to come soon and happy pizza making!