The Pizza Dough That Changed My Life
Most of this recipe and the shaping technique that accompanies it is taken from Nancy Silverton’s The Mozza Cookbook. I have also just finished reading the profoundly inspiration homage to pizza, American Pie, by top U.S. bread writer Peter Reinhart. On his advice, I rest the dough between mixing it and kneading it and have added the optional extra stage of leaving the dough to ferment overnight in the fridge. However, with or without these extra steps, this dough recipe is amazing.
I have eaten and made more pizza than I could ever remember, and this is, hands down, the best-ever home oven pizza dough I have come across. It requires a few specific rising stages that you will probably need to set an alarm for, though none of them actually take more than a few seconds to do.
It will also require you to heat your oven on its highest possible heat for at least an hour (environmentalists, look away now). This might seem excessive to some, but to me, for this quality of pizza out of my home oven, it is a very small price to pay. I follow neither Nancy Silverton’s nor Peter Reinhart’s advice on where to position your pizza in the oven, instead going with the recommendation of Heston Blumenthal, who says that you should cook your pizza at the very top of the oven, as close to the grill element as possible, where the heat rises. This position has yielded the best results for me.
Final caveat – you can only cook one pizza at a time, else the temperature of the oven will drop and the quality of the pizza will suffer greatly. To feed two or three people I haven’t really found this a problem. We just eat one while the oven heats back up again and have a little rest in between each round, but for more people, you might need to serve something else to keep the ravenous hordes at bay.
I have made this both with and without a pizza stone, and although it is definitely better and easier with a pizza stone, when I used to make it on just a preheated baking sheet, it was still the best home pizza I had ever had.
The centre of the pizza is thin and crisp and the edges (the cornicione, as I have learned from Peter Reinhart) are puffed, crunchy, chewy and delicious. This contrast is achieved with specific shaping, so if you want to re-create this shape – and I seriously suggest that you do! – follow these instructions carefully. I use a Thermomix to knead this dough, but I’m sure a pair of strong arms could do just as good a job.
Makes 2 large pizzas
- 310 g lukewarm water (much hotter than body temperature will start to kill the yeast)
- 8 g fresh yeast (or 1/2 tsp active dry yeast)
- 370 g strong bread flour
- 1 tablespoon rye flour
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 teaspoons of flaky sea salt (I used Maldon), plus more for sprinkling on the crust
- Oil for coating the bowl
- Semolina or cornmeal to stop the dough sticking to the stone
- Pizza sauce (see recipe below)
- Toppings, as desired
Add the water and yeast to the mixer and leave for a few minutes until the yeast is dissolved. Add all the other ingredients except the salt to the mixer and mix on a low speed until the ingredients are fully combined. (At this point Peter Reinhart recommends leaving the dough to rest for 5 minutes to improve the flavor and allow the flour to fully hydrate.) Add the salt and knead for a further 8 minutes. Adding the salt later in the kneading process gives the dough more lift, as salt reduces the action of the yeast. Check the dough isn’t too wet – the dough should be quite sticky, but should have pulled away from the sides of the mixer. If it hasn’t, add a little more flour and mix again for a minute. If it doesn’t seem sticky at all, add a little water to achieve the correct consistency.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface, and imagining the dough has four corners, fold each corner of the dough into the center. Grease the inside of a bowl large enough for the dough to rise in and turn the dough into the bowl, folded corners down. Turn the dough to coat it in the oil. Cover with plastic film.
Optional Peter Reinhart Step: If you want to skip this step, you will still have mind-blowingly amazing pizza, but I include it here for the obsessive pizza perfectionists among us. Leave the dough for 30 minutes at room temperature, then transfer to the fridge and leave overnight. Remove from the fridge 2 1/2 hours before you plan to bake the dough and continue with the recipe below.
Leave the dough to rise in the bowl for 45 minutes. When the time has elapsed, turn the dough gently out onto a floured surface and, imagining again that the dough has four corners, fold each corner of the dough into the center. Turn over so the folded edges face down and place back in the bowl. This folding technique adds bigger air bubbles to your dough and makes the crumb lighter. Recover with plastic film and leave for a further 45 minutes.