Pizza Night!

 
Friday night is always pizza night in our house.  It’s tradition!  Sometimes we get tired of the pizza options around town, so I’m always on a quest to make pizza at home that’s better than take-out. For many years I’ve been trying to master just that. The crust in particular.  It has to have flavor.  It has to have crunch but yet be soft and airy.  Not too thin or too thick.  Well by golly, I think I’ve found it.  The best and only pizza dough recipe you’ll ever need.  Not only is it the best pizza crust I’ve ever made, it’s also the easiest.  It all sounds way too good to be true.  (I promise, it’s not.)
 
 
It all started about a year ago when I purchased this book, The New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  I came across the book randomly and was probably intrigued by the title and photo on the cover.  At the time, I was spending around two bucks (or more) for a loaf of half-baked artisan bread from the store to go with soups and such.  I thought if the bread was really that easy to make, it might be worth just making it for myself.  Well let me tell ya, I went on a bread baking bender.  It was fun!  There were artisan loaves, cinnamon raisin breads, cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, and more artisan loaves.  It was a lot of yeast.  In fact I’m not sure I’ve ever actually gone through a whole jar of yeast before it expired, until I got this book!  Then came… the pizza chapter. “Pizza,” I thought. “Pizza?… PIZZA!”  Well I’m here to say, MIND. BLOWN.  I have been making the olive oil dough recipe for pizza ever since and I will probably never use another recipe again!  Mark my words!

It’s not only the recipe, but the method for baking this pizza that has created the best at home pizza yet.  

Do you want to know the real secret to the best home pizza?  I suppose I could tell you. We are friends afterall, aren’t we?

The secret to crispy crust with airy bubbles?  A pre-heated oven and pan that are HOT.  (We also do this in the summer months on the outdoor charcoal grill! It’s even more amazing then.  It’s the same theory, preheat the pan on the grill, with indirect heat.)

Since we’re talking pizza pans, there’s something else you should know. If you want crisp and crunch, you can’t use just any old pizza pan.  I have used pizza stones in the past, but they break easily in an oven that’s too hot.  After some frustration from broken stones, I switched to ultra-durable cast iron and it works perfectly!  Lodge makes a great pizza pan, which is the one I have.  If you like deep dish pizza, you can also use a cast-iron skillet.

So here’s the deal, you MUST pre-heat your oven with the pan in it, for at least 30 minutes at 450°.  <—- That is the secret to a crisp crust, a crust that is actually brown and will crunch when you bite into it.  You can heat your oven as hot as it will go, but I like 450°.  The cast iron doesn’t smoke up the house as badly and you still get a nice crust.  It’s a nice, happy medium.

Now for the recipe!

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Olive Oil Dough

Recipe for olive oil dough was adapted from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Dayartisanbreadinfive.com.

Yield 4 10-12 inch pizzas

Ingredients

For Dough

  • 3 1/4 cups lukewarm water around 100°F
  • 1 Tablespoon Yeast any kind
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 7 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For Pizza

  • Flour
  • Cornmeal
  • Olive Oil
  • Marinara Sauce
  • Cheese
  • Favorite toppings

Special equipment

  • Cast-iron pizza pan
  • pizza peel the size of your pan
  • kitchen shears

Instructions

For the Dough

  1. Put the lukewarm water in a large 6 quart bowl, sprinkle the yeast on top and let set for a couple of minutes while the yeast dissolves.  With a large wooden spoon stir in the olive oil, salt, sugar, and flour until just combined.  The mixture will look "shaggy" and there shouldn't be any dry flour.  Do not knead.

  2. Cover loosely and let rise for two hours in a warm spot.  Then, either use right away or refrigerate until ready.  Dough will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

To Make the Pizzas

  1. At least 30 minutes before you want to make pizzas, place your cast iron pan in the top 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 450°F.

  2. When ready to make pizza, clear your work surface and sprinkle it with flour. Prepare your pizza peel by sprinkling it with cornmeal, set aside.

  3. Next, sprinkle a handful of flour on top of a portion of the pizza dough.  With one hand, grab that spot on the dough to pick up a large handful (around 1 lb of dough or a quarter of the dough).  With the other hand, use kitchen shears to cut the dough ball in your hand free from the rest of the dough in the bowl.  

  4. Gently fold the edges of the dough around to the bottom to make a ball and place on the lightly floured surface.  With a light dusting of flour, use a rolling pin &/or your hands to gently roll or pat out the dough into a disc that is slightly smaller than your pan.

  5. Gently move the dough to the prepared pizza peel.  Brush the surface with olive oil making sure to get the edges.  

  6. Top with sauce, cheese, and toppings of your choice.  

  7. Give the pizza a jiggle while it's on the peel to make sure it will slide easily off of the peel and onto the pizza pan.  If it's sticking, lift the edge and sprinkle more cornmeal.  If it seems to be moving freely, quickly open the oven and slide the pizza onto the hot pan.  Close the oven and bake for approx 7 min, keeping an eye on it for desired doneness.  Remove the pizza with the pizza peel.  Slice and enjoy!

  8. Repeat above for more pizza or store leftover dough for pizza tomorrow!

Recipe Notes

  • You can halve this recipe to make enough dough for only two pizzas.  
  • It seems like a lot of steps, but I assure you that once you've done it a couple of times it will be like second nature!
The dough: mixed and rising!
Getting started with a ball of dough.
It’s looking like pizza!

As far as the rest, it’s up to you!  The girls like plain cheese or pepperoni.  The rest of us happen to love pepperoni, fresh garlic, tomato, and sausage.  Another favorite is pepperoni and pineapple with a few red pepper flakes over the sauce or jalapeño!  Spicy and sweet. Try it!

See? Nicely browned!

 If you have any inkling to make your own breads at home but are intimidated  by the process, I urge you to try the methods in the book!  It really makes the process of making bread and working with yeast fun!

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