Young and Hungry

Next Time, I’ll Just Order Take-Away Pizza

dough recipeThe problem with making my own pizza from scratch is two-fold: 1) I've enjoyed so many good pies over the years that anything I produce is bound to disappoint, and 2) I know people who know how to make terrific pizza and are willing to offer up their dough recipe.

The picture to the left, believe it or not, is my recipe for two pounds' worth of pizza dough. It's based on a recipe forwarded by Mark Furstenberg, the master baker late of G Street Food. He suggested I reduce the hydration by five percent so the dough would be easier to work with. I felt like I was back in algebra class, trying to figure out the baker's math on this baby.

My headaches didn't stop there, either. Once I did the math, I had to convert it into ounces, since my home scale doesn't weigh in grams. Then I had to find a place in our old Takoma Park bungalow that was warm enough to let the dough rise — but near enough to a TV set so I could watch college football and occasionally fold the goddamn dough. My chosen spot, the basement, was not ideal.

Oh, the compromises of a home baker who grew up in Nebraska.

pizza

The Y&H pie in all its salty and crispy glory.

The next day, I pulled the dough from the fridge, let it warm and rise some more, and then shaped the ball into the closest thing to a pizza round. (This is when I learned about "resistant" dough and how to deal with the reluctant bastard.) I ladled on the home-cooked sauce (long cooked to sweeten the sauce and cut down on tartness) and applied the basil leaves, fresh mozzarella, Italian sea salt, and olive oil.

I took the prepared round to some friends' house for New Year's Eve and baked the thing on a stone. Ten minutes later, I practically had to pry the pizza off the stone because it had sat too long before we popped the pie into the oven. My fellow partiers said they enjoyed the pie; they marveled that it was my first pizza ever made from scratch.

My own review?

I loved the thin, crispy crust, which remained horizontal even when held aloft. I didn't love its lack of flavor, which I blame on the cold basement and my addiction to college football. I also wanted more chew to the dough; it was crispy, all right, but not chewy the way all good crusts are.

Finally, the whole thing was too salty (though not absurdly so). I made the classic rookie mistake: I salted everything to taste, not taking into account the pizza as a whole, how the salt would become too overpowering when I brought the dough and the sauce together and shaved a little umami-loving Parm over the top.

This is why superb pies take weeks and weeks (months and months? years and years?) to perfect. My hat is off today in humble recognition of D.C.'s best piemakers.

  • Nikki

    When the weather gets nicer you should try cooking that pizza on a grill!

  • monavano

    The pizza looks very good, Tim. I've been making pies at home for over a year now. Tyler Florence's recipe was the first I tried, and I've stuck with it ever since (actually, I've messed with the recipe using a bit of AP flour with the 00 flour, but the method is the same). Within 2 hours, you can be loading the pizza peel in anticipation of fresh, thin, nicely charred, glorious pizza.
    I too have made the mistake of over-salting the sauce (I go simple and homemade, too) which made for a salty pie. I undersalt the sauce now so as to not make that mistake again.
    I use fresh mozzarella from Blue Ridge Dairy, or buffalo mozzarella from Costco to make the version you made. My favorite.
    ps...did you use cornmeal under your dough? I put a light dusting on my peel before sliding onto the stone-preferably heating to 650 degrees in my grill. Otherwise, my oven is cranked to 550.
    Best.

  • Tim Carman

    Thanks, monavano, for the feedback. I typically put cornmeal under my dough to prevent that nasty sticking, but one source I consulted said to use only flour. This was my fatal mistake, I think, since the pizza had absorbed the flour by the time I got it into the oven.

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