Pizza. Ahh, beautiful pizza. With a thin, bubbly crust which is slightly charred, and topped with a perfect balance of sauce, toppings and cheese. It is something worth obsessing over, and boy do we obsess over pizza.
Pizza is often our source of exploration when we set out to explore a town. Just about anywhere we travel, we’ll attempt to hunt down the area’s best offerings in pizza with the wood-fired tokens of devotion that often satisfy our personal cravings the most. We have been lucky enough to experience extraordinary pizza all over the country and of course in pizza’s homeland of Italy.
Great pizza for us isn’t something just for travel, either. In an even greater stroke of luck, in southern California, we have some of the best pizza in the country, headlined by Nancy Silverton’s Mozza. So with such extraordinary inspiration between our travels and local offerings, the bar for great pizza just keeps getting raised higher and higher.
Speaking of bar, if you are ever at the LA or OC Mozza locations, make sure try and grab a seat at the pizza bar where you get to watch the masters delicately craft exceptional pizzas. You might even pick up a technique or two to take back home into your own kitchen. We sure have.
We’ve learned things like treating the dough gently and with finesse. It isn’t mashed, pressed, and forced into shape. The dough is billowy soft before even beginning to stretch, and then great care is taken not to ruin that state.
We’ve learned to create indentions with the fingertips to seal off the outer crust, which is then rarely touched again except by the soft brushing of olive oil. The center is gently pressed with the fingers to widen out, then the dough is rested over the backside of the hands to rotate and allow gravity and the dough’s own weight stretch the dough into shape. The process is quick but done with finesse.
These are some of the techniques that we’ve put into our pizza dough as we fine-tuned it for our cookbook, Bountiful. Take that dough and add whatever topping craving you desire. Lately with autumn filling our lives, a Brussels spouts and bacon pizza seemed just about perfect.
We cooked up the bacon until lightly browned (remembering that it was going to get cooked a bit more when the pizza baked), thinly sliced the Brussels sprouts, then sautéed everything all together. Add a little Worcestershire sauce for a bit of punch and layer between sauce and cheese.
It came out great even with the ovens not firing quite as hot as normal and only getting up to 475 degrees. The crust wasn’t quite as bubbly or charred as usual, but we aren’t complaining. Everything was quite delicious.
Yield: Makes 2 -10" Pizza
Total Time: 4 hours
The pizza dough is from our cookbook, Bountiful. The dough and topping can easily be made the day before and then assembled and baked as needed. The crust comes out best if baked on a pizza stone in the oven which has been preheated for at least 20 minutes, however you can always bake the pizzas on a baking sheetpan in the oven if you don't have a stone. Just sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on the sheetpan before laying down the stretched out pizza dough.
Here's a bit of the headnote from the book talking about handling the dough, "We’ve learned a lot from listening to great bakers and watching them bake their doughs. One thing they all seem to have in common is that they don’t overhandle the dough. The more you work it, the tougher it gets. With most of the great pizzas we’ve had, the bakers are not kneading their dough, but just mixing it and letting the yeast go to work. And when they handle their dough to make pizzas, it isn’t with a heavy, forceful hand, but rather by gently letting gravity stretch and form the dough. It is graceful and gentle. The amount of flour in the recipe should yield a dough that will be easy to handle with just a touch of extra flour for dusting when you are stretching it. If you are comfortable with handling the dough, experiment with putting a bit less flour in it. This will make for a lighter crust, but because the dough is wetter, it will be a bit more challenging to work with."
If your oven doesn't go as high as 550°F, the pizzas will still come out great, it just may take a little more time and the crust might not get the char that we personally love so much. You can also use a liberal dusting of flour instead of the cornmeal to keep the dough from sticking to the pizza peel.
Over time in the fridge, the dough will gradually begin to change in texture after it bakes, and will also develop a sourdough flavor. We prefer the texture and flavor of the dough after 24 to 36 hours of refrigeration, but it is still quite good when chilled up to 1 week.