Sometimes I dream about opening a pizzeria. Something about tossing flour with abandon and working soft dough between my fingertips relaxes me.
I’ve dabbled with several recipes over the years: Jeffrey Steingarten’s, Roberta’s, Marcella Hazan’s, but I always come back to Lidia’s. As long as you use “00” flour, a heavy stone, and blast the temp as high as it goes, Lidia’s dough consistently produces pizza rimmed with browned blisters, crisp on the bottom with slight chew. It’s the closest I’ve come to my favorite pizza from L'Europei dei Mattozzi in Naples, Italy.
The recipe reads four ingredients: flour, salt, yeast, and water. The secret, though, is to knead the dough for a steady 10 minute workout. Let the dough rise for a full hour and rest in the fridge for a full day. Go over a day and the yeast makes the dough delicate and smells like the floors of a post-party frat house. Let it go under a day and the dough lacks flavor or elasticity. So, you see, it’s a balance. But once you get it right, the dough can be frozen in separate plastic bags and thawed in the fridge several hours before pizza night.
This recipe makes four small pizzas, not enough for three hungry men. So if you’re having friends over double the batch. Sounds like a lot of work? Just think how lucky you are that you don’t own a pizzeria.
Some pizza making tips: summarized by a student at my 18 Reasons' pizza class.
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon dry-active yeast
3 cups “00” flour, plus more for rolling dough
1½ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or flour, for under the pizza dough
Pizza sauce (recipe below, optional)
1. The day before, prepare the dough: Put 1 cup of warm water (105°F) in a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and give it about 10 to 15 minutes to dissolve – shake the bowl to swirl the water but don’t stir.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir it into the yeast water solution little by little. When the dough comes together stop adding the flour. You will probably have about ½ cup flour left over.
3. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, flouring the surface and your hands as it sticks.
4. Once smooth, place the dough in an oiled bowl and roll it in the oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let it sit until doubled in size, 1 to 1½hours. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll them into a tight ball. Place on an oiled sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
5. The next day, set the oven to the highest setting (but not to broil). Place a cooking stone in the oven and let it heat for at least 30 minutes.
6. Using your hands, carefully stretch the dough until thin (avoid making holes - if you do, pull dough from nearby and patch them up.) Cover a sheet pan or pizza peel with cornmeal or flour. Place the dough round over the flour, gently shaking it back and forth to ensure that the pizza moves. If it sticks, add more cornmeal or flour to the bottom so that the dough moves easily when shaken. Brush off the flour and lightly oil the top of the dough. Add toppings.
7. To assemble the pizza, spread ¼ cup of the sauce evenly over the pizza, leaving the sides sauceless. For a margherita, place mozzarella, basil, and olive oil on top. Season the mozzarella pieces with salt. Place in a hot preheated oven until the crust has brown spots and the bottom is hard, 15 to 20 minutes depending on the oven. Makes 4 small pizzas. Adapted from Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen.
1. Do not add too many topping to the pizza or the weight will make it impossible for the pizza to slide off the peel and onto the stone.
2. As you add toppings, continue to shake the peel to ensure the pizza is not stuck. Make sure the toppings don't run off the edge of the dough.
3. Season every topping separately with salt and pepper before placing on the dough.
1 (24-ounce) can whole tomatoes, strained of juice, tomatoes broken up into pieces with your hand
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.