My favorite pizza, besides my own at home, is from a little food truck up in Portland called Pyro Pizza (pyropizzacart.com). It has a wood-fired oven to bake the pizzas in so they always come out with a nice chewy crust with crispy charred edges that I love.
After reading about a method for creating a similar style pizza at home created by Jim Lahey, the man responsible for the No Knead Bread movement, I tried it and became hooked. It works so well that we don’t order pizza take-out any longer.
Some essentials for this to work out nicely include a pizza stone. If you have to borrow one, do it. It really helps get the surface of your pizza hot enough to bake quickly.
Another thing you’ll want is something to use as a peel to transfer your pizza to the stone. I use a thin, but sturdy cutting board. A flat cookie sheet would work as well.
I use parchment paper to hold my pizza, but you can just flour your peel really well or use cornmeal to coat it so the pizza dough doesn’t stick to it. Parchment paper also helps me if I want my crust even thinner because I can place another piece on top and roll my dough extra thin. Then just peel off the parchment and load on your toppings.
I cut around the finished pizza so that the outer edges of the parchment don’t get scorched. You’re getting the oven much hotter than normal and even good parchment paper will brown up and flake off the edges, so trim your paper before sliding it into the oven. You just use it to keep it from sticking to the peel.
Use the pizza dough recipe found here:
It is basically the no knead bread dough many of us know and love. I also love this quick and thin crust pizza recipe, which you can use minutes after making it:
When it comes to sauce I like to make a simple béchamel, pesto or I’ll use tomato paste with
I like to keep my toppings minimal. No more than three toppings per pizza. A favorite with the béchamel sauce is ham, Parmesan and peas with a little chopped basil tossed on top once it comes out of the oven. This is a great way to use homemade mozzarella or ricotta and show off veggies you bought at the farmer’s market. Get creative with your toppings.
About 45 minutes before pizza baking begins, place the stone in the oven on the rack closest to the broiler. Turn your oven the highest it will go. Some go to 500, some 550. Let it get good and hot.
Meanwhile, shape your dough balls and get your ingredients assembled. You’ll be making individual 6- 8-inch pizzas.
Carefully stretch the dough ball out to make a circle and carefully, without over-handling the dough, shape it by stretching it on your peel. You don’t want to lose the air bubbles, so gentle pressure is important for texture.
Then spread a light layer of sauce and your toppings. Don’t drown it with too much cheese or you will have a wet soggy mess (unless you just love cheese more than anything else on a pizza).
Fresh herbs are best added when the pizza is finished or they’ll turn brown.
Now, before you place the pizza in the oven, turn on the broiler for a few minutes to increase the heat in the oven. Lahey says you can get the oven to 650–700 sometimes by doing this. Mine doesn’t get quite that hot, but it does help get the top of the pizza baked as quickly as the bottom.
Bake for 2 minutes under the broiler, then turn the broiler off and the temperature back to 500 or whatever the highest yours will go. Bake another 2–4 minutes until done. It should have a nicely charred crust and just start to become brown on top.
Experiment with temperatures and times in your own oven. Everyone’s is different, but once you get used to cranking up the heat in yours, you will see that it can make all the difference in the taste, texture and appearance of your pizzas.
You’ll start to appreciate being able to bake several different flavors of pizza in one evening because it won’t take 30–40 minutes to bake one huge one like most of us have done in the past.
I hope you love it as much as I do.
Anne Boulley is a local chef and culinary instructor with a passion for artisan foods. Her cooking classes and services are offered via her website,www.thegourmetguide.com.