From the blog April 16, 2013 Judy

Build the Perfect Pizza in 12 Steps

You can build a great pizza if you master three crucial elements: making the dough, creating the toppings, and baking the pizza. Stretching out pizza dough is a delicate art that rewards patience and practice. Topping a pizza is all about balancing an ideal ratio of dough to toppings that allows the pizza to cook quickly and evenly, producing a combination of crispy, chewy textures. Baking a pizza well requires the right tools: a very hot and stable oven and baking surface, a pizza peel of the right size, and a keen sense of timing. We designed our baking steel to deliver heat quickly and consistently to a pizza.

Follow these steps from start to finish to create pizza perfection.

1. Remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator. Cover it and let it warm up to room temperature for an hour. If the dough was frozen, first defrost it in the refrigerator overnight. Covering the dough keeps the surface from drying out and forming a crust.

2. While the dough is warming, set the oven temperature as high as it will go (260 °C / 500 °F is a minimum), and prepare a baking surface. In dozens of experiments involving more than 100 pizzas, we explored a wide range of materials and methods for cooking pizza at home. Our goal was to find the cooking surface that best transfers heat to raw pizza dough. Every surface will cool to some degree when the pizza goes in, but the dip in temperature should be as shallow and brief as possible. Our conclusion: a dark steel plate just ? in thick is the best option.steel on white

3. Stretch and flatten the dough on a floured work surface by using your fingers to press the middle of the dough flat, and then work the dough outward. Leave a narrow ridge along the perimeter of the dough.

Step 3a Pressing outward

4. Dust a pizza peel or baking sheet with a light, even dusting of flour. Tap the side of the peel on the countertop to knock off any excess flour. If the cooked pizza crust tastes like burnt flour, the peel was overfloured. If the pizza crust sticks, you probably used too little flour.

5. Drape the dough over the back of your hand, and then rotate it slowly. The weight of the dough should gently stretch it to a circular shape and even thickness, 30–35 cm / 12–14 in. in diameter. Small blisters and bubbles should form in the dough. These are good!

Step 3b resting

6. Place the dough onto a pizza peel. Jerk the peel sharply back and forth; this prevents the dough from sticking to the peel.

7. Spread the sauce evenly over the dough, but leave the outermost 2.5 cm / 1 in of the perimeter dry.

8. Sprinkle grated cheese evenly over the sauce.

Step 6 cheese

9. To avoid losing heat from the oven, slide the pizza from the peel onto the baking steel as quickly as possible.

10. Cook the pizza until the crust turns brown and blisters, 2–4 minutes. Some of the larger bubbles should look almost burnt. A well-cooked pizza has scorched blisters on the bottom of the crust—although, pizza can also be delicious without a blistered crust. If you don’t see any blisters, your cooking surface is not hot enough. This is another reason why we recommend using our baking steel.

MCAH_PIZZA_Bake_Step10

11. Remove the pizza from the oven by using the pizza peel or baking sheet, and slide it onto a cooling rack. This keeps the crust crisp.

12. Season the pie with fresh basil, chili flakes, salt, and olive oil. Don’t forget to season the very edge of the crust, and give it a little drizzle of oil, too. Serve the pizza immediately.

–Adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home

Discussion

  1. le matou April 17, 2013 Reply

    I have the 16 x 14 x 1/4? – 15 LBS baking steel and had some good results with it. I tried the “no-yeast-no-rise-champagne-pizza-dough recipe with WRISE” but I’m just curious to know how different is the result with the added thickness to the steel plate.

    Have you tried a gluten free pizza dough?

    Alex

    • Judy April 19, 2013 Reply

      Hi Alex,

      We tested many different thicknesses and we found that we achieved the most consistent results with this one.

      We actually have found that the key to great pizza dough is extra gluten, not the other way around. Check out this post for more on the science of added gluten: http://modernistcuisine.com/recipes/neapolitan-pizza-dough/

      • Mr. T. September 1, 2013 Reply

        The gluten information is interesting. I have found that one of our national brands provide a wheat flour with 13% protein. Not sure how much of that protein is gluten.

        In a few hours a no-knead bread using this flour will go into the oven.

  2. SCChris April 22, 2013 Reply

    I’ve been experimenting with a steel plate in my home oven and happy with it and it works well. Have you tried using a second steel one rack up over the cooking steel to speed the cooking of the top of the pizza? I’ve seen some pizza fanatics setup 2 pizza stones narrowly separated to accomplish a bottom up top down pizza cooking environment.

    Thanks
    Chris

  3. Madilyn April 25, 2013 Reply

    Do you recommend the aluminum pizza or is my old wood pizza peel fine? And why is 3/8″ thick steel perfect? Why not 1/2″, what were your findings?
    Thank you

    • Judy April 26, 2013 Reply

      Hi Madilyn,

      We use a wooden peel.

  4. Bryan May 28, 2013 Reply

    The http://modernistcuisine.com/baking-steel/ site mentions that it can also be used as a griddle on a stovetop. I have an electric oven with ceramic class cook-top. Can the baking steel be used on that?

    I would love to use it to cover my burners to fit larger cooking options like as a way to heat a large paella pan.

  5. Robert November 16, 2013 Reply

    One very important step not in here is to rub the pizza peel with a small amount of semolina flour before putting the dough on it. It will keep the dough from sticking in a way nothing else will, and make it easy to jerk the pizza onto the Baking Steel and remove it after baking as well. Search for Caputo Semola flour on Amazon if you can’t find semolina locally. It makes ALL the difference and takes the stress out of having to rush to load toppings on your pizza and get it in the oven. It also keeps the pizza from sticking to the peel after the toppings are on, which is always a disaster.

  6. Judy April 19, 2013 Reply

    Yes, you should position the pizza near the broiler. This page talks a little more about it: http://modernistcuisine.com/baking-steel/

    We have found that many toppings work well, including very wet ones–even tomatoes! But because pizza cooks so fast on the pizza steel, you may want to try precooking toppings that will need more than a few minutes beneath the broiler.

    The amount of toppings you put on a pizza can be a tricky balancing act. You don’t want to overpower the pie.

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