I have reached the point of being able to make a decent pizza crust from scratch. The trick hasn’t really been a matter of mixing a good dough recipe or spreading it out properly, but how to bake it properly. A crust that is baked all the way through is hard and too crunchy. But if I didn’t bake it all the way through, I ended up with a thick layer of unbaked dough, which is also unpleasant. The solution, it turns out, is to bake it hot and fast. The formula I am currently using is to use a Baking Steel, preheated to 500° for an hour, and then baking the pizza on it for seven minutes.
The baking steel is amazing. Any pizza stone would probably work well enough, but I kept breaking them: once by letting it fall a few inches in the cabinet, and once by putting a pizza on it. Those were ceramic, and maybe pizza stones made of actual stone are more durable, but with the steel, I don’t worry about it. Also, the baking steel is more dense and a better conductor of heat, meaning that it can impart more heat faster into the pizza crust. Not only does this bake the crust faster, but it causes more and bigger holes to be created in the crust, which really add … something … to the crust. I’m not an expert on this topic; this is what I have read elsewhere. However, I can’t argue with the results.
I am still no expert in shaping the pizza crust. They never come out completely round, although I have figured out that if you begin with a well-rounded ball, they end up reasonably round. My crusts seem too thick. I would like to learn how to throw a crust. Maybe I’ll do some research on that.
If you’re curious, here are the ingredients I’m using for my crust:
- 3 cups flour
- 2 Tbsp dry milk
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2½ tsp yeast (one package)
I combine the ingredients in my bread machine and run the “Dough Mode” cycle, which is 90 minutes on my machine. (When the cycle is finished, start pre-heating the baking steel.) Divide the dough in half, coat one half in olive oil, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze. Shape the remaining half into a pizza crust. Allow to rise another 30 to 45 minutes before adding toppings.
My favorite toppings, other than sauce and cheese, are pepperoni, sausage, black olives, mushrooms, chopped onion, and bell pepper, and a healthy sprinkle of oregano. I have been buying pizza sauce in a jar. Any Ragu flavor is good. Chef Boyardee is terrible. I used to make my own pizza sauce, but I no longer have any of my canning equipment. I am mostly a traditionalist about cheese: pizza is made with mozzarella cheese. Occasionally, I will use an Italian blend. Though I am a St. Louis native, I don’t care for provel on my pizza.
Then, as I’ve said, bake it on the steel at 500° for seven minutes. Sprinkle some corn meal on the steel before placing the pizza on it, which will keep the pizza from sticking to it (as a testament to the heat transfer of the steel, this will immediately begin to smell like burnt popcorn).