Everyone I know who makes or eats pizza swears by the Chris Bianco pizza dough recipe in the Gourmet Cookbook. Some people prefer Alice Water’s recipe in the Chez Panisse Pasta and Pizza cookbook. My friend Gary has developed his own dough recipe that involves a starter and days of preparation.
I’m a latecomer to this game. Over the past year or so, I’ve made pizza a few times, but never gave it the attention that it deserves. Now that the weather has cooled off, I’ve made pizza one of my fall cooking projects. I’ve made and liked the Bianco dough as well as several others. Just a few days ago, however, I happened upon Jamie Oliver’s recipe for pizza dough. Now that I’ve had three pizzas made with his dough, I think I’m about to call myself a convert.
The sticking point for many home pizzaioli will be the flours he uses. He calls for a kind of flour imported from Italy called tipo 00, which refers to the high gluten content and to how finely it is ground. Tipo 0 presumably has less gluten and is not as finely ground. So, to put it in American terms, I suppose the equivalent would be high-gluten cake flour, or in British terms, finely ground strong flour. To my shock, I can now find the Antimo Caputo brand of tipo 00 in two of the stores I most often shop in.
The dough is not as wet as Chris Bianco’s dough. Actually, I don’t think that matters. Or, at least I’m still trying to make up my mind about whether a wetter dough really makes a crisper pizza. The one I made last night (in the badly lit photo above) was firm, crisp, and had plenty of chew to it. The texture, as Jamie promises, is smoother (not cakier, though), lighter. For the first time, a pizza I made really did remind me of good ones I’ve eaten in Italy.
Anyway, here’s Jamie’s instruction with interpolations by me.
• 1kg strong white bread flour or Tipo ‘00’ flour
or 800g strong white bread flour or Tipo ‘00’ flour, plus 200g finely ground semolina flour
Shadowcook: I made a batch with 400g tipo 00 and 100g finely ground semolina. I’ll never make it without the semolina. Use a scale. It’s important. As Jamie notes, if you can use “strong” flour, which in American parlance means bread flour. It has a lot of gluten in it.
• 1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
Shadowcook: for my half batch, I used two teaspoons of kosher salt.
2 x 7g sachets of dried yeast
Shadowcook: Sachet is the paper packet kind. I used one 7g packet of dried yeast.
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
Shadowcook: Caster sugar is what we call baker’s or superfine sugar. I used 1 1/2 teaspoons.
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
650ml lukewarm water
Shadowcook: For half batch, I used 11 ounces of lukewarm water.
Sieve the flour/s and salt on to a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. In a jug, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.
Shadowcook: I didn’t sieve the dry ingredients. Instead, I use a metal whisk to stir all the ingredients together. And furthermore I don’t make wells of anything on work surfaces because I invariably make a mess of things. I use a bowl. I set the timer for 8 minutes and kneaded the dough until it ran.
Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.
Shadowcook: I let the dough rise for about an hour and a half.
Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands – this is called knocking back the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in clingfilm, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straight away, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas – this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas.
Shadowcook: No other pizza dough recipe I know of calls for knocking back the dough. I skipped that step and the pizza did not suffer from the lack of it. After twisting off a hunk of dough a bit larger than a tennis ball, I covered it loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest on the board that I eventually rolled it out on. The rest I put in a plastic bag and stuck in the fridge. Over the next couple of days, the dough acquired air holes as it soured. Every day I cut off a chunk for a pizza.
Timing-wise, it’s a good idea to roll the pizzas out about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to cook them. Don’t roll them out and leave them hanging around for a few hours, though – if you are working in advance like this it’s better to leave your dough, covered with clingfilm, in the fridge. However, if you want to get them rolled out so there’s one less thing to do when your guests are round, simply roll the dough out into rough circles, about 0.5cm thick, and place them on slightly larger pieces of olive-oil-rubbed and flour-dusted tinfoil. You can then stack the pizzas, cover them with clingfilm, and pop them into the fridge.
Shadowcook: Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat to 500. The Gourmet cookbook recommends placing the stone on the bottom of a gas oven and heating to 500 in order to get the temp even hotter. Although I did that once, I think it’s chancy. Better to preheat the stone on the bottom shelf to 500 and wait about half an hour after that before baking the pizza.
Using plenty of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface, I rolled out the dough into an imperfect circle. Now that I’ve done it a few times, I see that it’s important to roll out the dough to a thickness (1/4 inch or so) that is even across the face of the circle. The thinner parts will get much darker than the thicker parts.
You’ll see in the photo that I use a pizza screen, sometimes called a pizza mesh. I think of it as training wheels in anticipation of the day when I learn how to slide a pizza off a wooden peel on to the baking stone in the oven. I’m not in a hurry. As this conversation on chowhounds suggests, the wire allows the underside to crisp up.
I rolled out the dough, picked it up and fit it onto the screen. Then, I put the screen on the peel and slipped it on to the baking stone. I baked it for 5 minutes, removed it, punctured the bubbles on top, and arranged the toppings on the pizza’s surface. I put it back into the oven for 7 minutes, looked at it and decided to leave it in for another 1-2 minutes. Watch it carefully. I waited until the edges were browned and the underside started to brown. Then I whipped it out of the oven. Cut it up and take it to the table.
Practice makes pizza perfect.