Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How I make ... pizza

Hey folks, so I got two sort-of requests for recipes yesterday, one from some guy I met at a birthday party one time and one from my dear mother, Sam's Mom. Well, I decided to fulfill Sam's Mom's request first. I'm trying out a format with these recipes that is useful to the way I process food and recipes. Hopefully, it will also be useful for people reading this blog. Let me know what you think.


A nice puffy crust with some eccentric toppings. Following the passage of Proposition 9, this is the only kind of pizza that is legally recognized by the city of San Francisco. A few places like Arinell and Little Star have still slipped under the radar, but their days are numbered.

Kenji's skillet-broiler method is pretty sweet, and it's basically the only way I make pizzas anymore. It's supposed to give a nice spring to the crust reminiscent of what you'd get if you were sitting in Naples watching some salty old pizzaiolo cook your pizza in a 900-degree wood-burning oven for 90 seconds. I've never had pizza in Naples so I can't speak to its authenticity--all I know is that you can make pizzas in the summertime without heating up your whole oven, and that is pretty great.

I usually make 10" pizzas for sharing among two or three people at a time, but in the past I've hosted a party for ten people with this recipe, keeping two cast-iron skillets hot and firing on all cylinders. It just takes a little dexterity to move the hot skillet from the broiler to the stovetop, and a lot of planning ahead to top the pizzas quickly. Well, dexterity and planning, that's cooking in a nutshell.

Adapted from Ratio by Michael Ruhlman and Hacker-Free Neapolitan Pizza by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt


570 g / 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
340 g / 1 1/2 cups water
drizzle of olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon yeast

plus... pizza toppings


Add the yeast, salt, and olive oil to the water and stir until the salt is dissolved. Add the flour. Using a stand mixer or by hand, mix the dough together and knead it for 5-10 minutes or more. Make sure to flour your surface if you're doing it by hand. The dough should be a sticky, cohesive mass, but it should mostly stick to itself rather than to the bowl, counter, or your hands. If not, knead a little longer.

Put a little extra olive oil in the bottom of a large bowl, toss the dough in the oil to coat. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for 6 hours or up to a few days.

About 90 minutes before you're ready to make pizza, cut the dough into portions according to the number and size of pizzas that you want. You can make about one personal-size 10" pizza per 100 g / 3/4 cup flour that you used. If you're planning on making 12" pizzas, go closer to 1 pizza per 130 g / 1 cup of flour. Spread the individually-portioned dough balls out on a baking sheet or something to rise--make sure to flour both the top and bottom, because they will stick.

Get all your pizza toppings ready.

About 5 minutes before you're ready to make pizza, turn on the broiler and place a cast-iron skillet under it. Again, a 10" skillet is good for personal-size pizzas, while a 12" skillet is fine for a small crowd.

Make sure all your pizza toppings are ready for the pizza you want to make right now.

When you're ready to make pizza, grab a ball of dough and stretch it out lightly and evenly with your hands so that it's about the size of your skillet. Don't worry too much about making it thicker on the ends to make a crust--the oven will do that for you. Pull the skillet out from under the broiler and put it on the stovetop. Turn the burner under the skillet to "high." Very quicky transfer the dough into the skillet. Top the dough as quickly as you can while it's in the skillet on the stovetop, leaving a little space around the edges for a crust to form. Don't use too many toppings or they'll turn mushy and fall off!

Turn the burner off and move the topped pizza back under the broiler. Leave it there for 2-3 minutes, just until it has a nice top crust and the toppings look good. Check on it often! Bring the pizza back out from under the broiler and place it back on the stovetop. Carefully lift it up and check out the underside. If the underside could use a little more browning, turn a burner back on and brown it over medium heat. Add any fresh toppings and let the pizza sit for a few seconds before slicing.

Wipe out the skillet if there's any charred cheese or anything and get to work on your next pizza.


Bake the dough immediately without letting it chill in the fridge; instead, let it rise at room temperature for one hour or more. It probably won't develop as much flavor, but it works. A little extra yeast might help if you're doing this.

Increase the amount of water by up to 15%--a wetter pizza dough is a little trickier to knead and handle, but it'll give you a springier outer crust when you bake it.

Add fresh herbs to the dough before kneading--thyme and rosemary, maybe oregano.

Use different flours--rye, buckwheat, whole wheat--up to 1/3 of the flour in the original recipe. More than that and the texture of the dough is going to change.

Bake it a different way--on a pizza stone would let you bake a couple at the same time, or even just on a baking sheet would take longer but still give a good result.


Toppings should be at room temperature when you put them on. Anything that won't cook after 3 minutes under the broiler (thick-cut bacon, sturdy vegetables, etc) should be cooked before putting it on.

For potatoes, slice the potatoes thinly and cook them beforehand, like in a covered pan over medium-low heat with a little oil until tender. Same thing with cabbage, fennel, etc.

For eggs, the broiler doesn't do so well producing a liquid yolk, which is really what you're going for. It's better to cook them sunny-side up in a separate pan and place them on the pizza at the last minute, after everything else is cooked, just so they melt into the cheese or sauce a little bit.

Fresh tomatoes give off a lot of water, so be really conscious of the other toppings you use so the crust doesn't get soggy. Ditto melon, stone fruits, chard, escarole, and certain other dark greens.

Don't use too many toppings or your pizza will be a soggy hot mess, girl.


Sam's Mom -- Tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, no herbs or anything green.

Margherita -- Fresh tomato sauce (canned tomatoes lightly pureed with salt and a little olive oil), torn mozzarella cheese, basil leaves after coming out of the oven. You could also use a little minced garlic and/or a fine shower of parmesan or romano.

Motorino -- Brussels sprout leaves, minced garlic, mozzarella cheese, hard cheese (parmesan or romano). Basil or oregano on top. Would also be good with raw red onion or some kind of cured pork (pancetta, bacon).

Summer -- Diced melon, soft cheese (ricotta or mascarpone), hard cheese (pamesan or romano), pancetta, herbs (basil, mint, and/or tarragon). Maybe arugula.

Summer breakfast -- Sun gold tomatoes, arugula, cooked bacon, chili peppers, an egg.

101 breakfasts -- Add buckwheat and/or rye flour to the crust. Potatoes, kale, miso walnut dressing, an egg. Top with parsley and lots of lemon zest when serving

Curry roasted cauliflower, Idonno

1 comment:

  1. This is my favorite of all the posts you have ever done. And I've read them all. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure I read most of the posts on your MIT blog too. If that's not reader loyalty, I don't know what is.