Of course putting an egg on a pizza is not the difficult part of this whole scheme-- the hard part is creating a respectable pizza in a home kitchen. Pizza ovens can heat up much hotter than your oven can (anywhere from 800- 1000 F). And since my little oven tops out at 500, there’s simply no way that I could get a crust similar to one baked in a real pizza oven, right? Well, sort of. I had heard rumors of a technique to hack a home pizza oven. Heat a cast iron skillet on your stovetop, then bake the pizza on that just a few inches underneath a broiler and you’ve got a cooking environment that looks promisingly like a pizza oven. After half a dozen trials (including one that stripped the precious seasoning right off my iron skillet) I’ve come up with my own version of the home pizza oven trick. And I’m happy to say that it will turn out an excellent pizza.
There are two sections of this instructable: the first part is my method and techniques for achieving a good pizza dough, and for mimicking a wood-fired pizza oven at home. The second part is my recipe for this pizza. If you're just looking for the recipe, you can skip to step 3. Enjoy!
Step 1: Pizza Dough Techniques
You don’t have to use my dough recipe. Not that my recipe isn’t good (it is!), but I wouldn’t want you to think that there is something secret in my recipe that will make your dough come out differently than every other dough. In fact, the best doughs undoubtedly come from using sponges and starters, but this is my "quick" recipe. Whatever the source of your recipe, there are a few very important things to look for 1. Bread flour. Bread flour has a higher gluten content than all purpose flour-- that gluten is the key to getting a chewy, stretchy dough. 2. Long, slow kneading. Once again, it’s all about the gluten. It takes time and agitation for the gluten proteins to connect and form a web that will give your dough it’s structure. I use a dough hook in a stand mixer and let the whole thing mix on the lowest speed for at least ten minutes. At this point the dough should look smooth and stretch into a long melted-mozzarella-like string when you lift the dough hook out. Waiting to add the salt and oil until after the initial mixing will also ensure that you get the best gluten development. 3. Proper hydration. In bread baking, the general rule is that the wetter your dough is, the bigger holes in your finished bread. In pizza, you want a dough with large well developed holes.(you know the kind that will swell up and char to perfection.) So you need to have a very wet dough. Wet doughs can be a bit tricky to work with (which is why you’ll find lots of recipes that are not very wet. I’d say at you want at least 1/3 the volume of water to the volume of flour. (Some recipes, including mine, may be as much as is ½ water.) If you've developed your gluten sufficiently, even a wet dough will cohere.
Shaping the dough
It isn’t actually that tricky to shape a pizza dough by hand. (As long as you don’t have your heart set on launching the dough gracefully into the air and catching it with dancerly elegance.) But don’t even think of using a rolling pin-- the hand stretching is crucial to achieving the correct dough consistency. 1. Weigh your dough. For my recipe each pizza will use about 170 grams of dough. If you don’t have a scale, sure, you can just eyeball equal portions. But if you want to practice getting that perfect, just-the-right-thickness crust, it helps to know exactly how much dough you are starting with. 2. Let it rest. Gluten is elastic-- this means it tends to spring back to the shape that it was in before. After you’ve tucked your dough into a ball, let it rest at least five minutes. It will be much more cooperative when you try to stretch it. 3. Cut parchment rounds. There’s nothing traditional about this one, I’m afraid. But I find cutting rounds of parchment to be incredibly helpful. Cut them to the exact size of the surface you'll be cooking your pizza on, and you’ll know exactly how large a circle you should be stretching your dough to. And it also makes transferring your pizza into the oven a snap. Yes, it is possible to transfer a pizza using just cornmeal or semolina. But, sadly, I am not a professional pizziaola. And I cannot accept the possibility (inevitability?) of the occasional torn, dropped, burned and ruined pizza while I work out the kinks in my technique. So I’ll stick to my parchment rounds, thank you. 4. Stretch & press. Now that your dough is ready to be shaped, pick it up over two fists (no pointy fingers that might poke holes through the dough). Rock the dough back and forth between your two fists, letting gravity stretch the dough out. Try to focus your stretching at the outside rim of the pizza, you don’t want to stretch the inside to a paper-thin sheet. Gently set your dough down onto your parchment round. Reach your fingers underneath the thicker edges and stretch the dough out to the edge of the parchment sheet. Use your fingertips to dimple the surface of the dough all over. This will ensure that you don’t get any huge dough bubbles that might create a pizza-topped balloon in the oven. You can now top the pizza with whatever you like... but use a light hand with toppings for this style of pizza. This style of pizza will not do well buried in molten cheese and laden with mounds of toppings.