Mastering Pizza

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In 1955  Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee introduced his boxed pizza mix to supermarket shelves which was revolutionary at the time.  Ettore Boiardi was a real person who founded the company in 1928 after his family immigrated to America from Italy.  As a young child I thought it was so fun to help my mom stir water into a packet of flour from the mix and it magically turned into a dough.  I  thought it was something so much more exotic than helping her make a meat loaf.  That’s how my love of pizza began.  Thank goodness my palate has matured.  From Marc Vetri and David Joachim’s book, Mastering Pizza, I can learn the science and art of homemade pizza.

The book will explain the science going into the pizza dough whether it is made in a home oven, cast iron pan, wood oven, kamado-style grill, gas grill, or charcoal grill.  The authors say if you really want to learn about pizza, start with the dough.  Great dough is what makes great pizza.

A lot of pizza books will focus on “one” dough or the “best” method for making pizza.  The authors say there is no “one” pizza dough to rule them all and there is no one “best” method.  It depends on what you are trying to achieve and what tools you have.  Different doughs and different ovens make different pizzas.  The first few chapters of the book dive into various types of flour and ovens that can be used to make Naples Dough Pizza, Roman Dough Pizza, Whole Grain Sourdough Pizza, or Pizza Al Taglio.  Other chapters cover sauces, toppings, and even moves on to calzones, rotolos, focaccia, and even dessert pizzas like Wood Oven Crème Brûlée Pizza, or Home Oven Nutella-Stuffed Pizza!

I decided to start my lessons not with a pizza but with a focaccia.  As the authors said try first with what you have on hand and what tools you have available at the moment.  I really wanted to try a grilled pizza, or one on my Ooni Pizza oven, but outdoor cooking is not conducive to a Chicago winter at this time.

I made the “Heritage Wheat Rosemary Focaccia” because I had what was called for: whole grain spelt, King Arthur Bread Flour, yeast, sea salt, olive oil, and fresh rosemary, plus a half-sheet pan.  It looked and tasted good but I didn’t get those airy bubbles that are supposed to show with a focaccia when cut.  I’ll try again!

If you are a serious pizza lover who loves making your own, don’t delay in getting this cookbook.  Pizza brings people together in a way nothing else can. As the authors say, “There’s just something magical about hot pizza.”

5.0 from 1 reviews
Heritage Wheat Rosemary Focaccia
  • 2 cups (258 grams) whole grain spelt
  • 2 cups (258 grams) King Arthur Bread Flour
  • 1-1/3 cups (307 grams) water at 55 degrees F (13 degrees C)
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons (7 grams) active dry yeast (1 packet) or 1-1/2 Tablespoons fresh yeast
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (9 grams) fine sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon (13 grams) extra virgin olive oil, plus some for the pan and drizzling
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • Flake salt for garnish
  1. To Mix and Knead: Put flours and water in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the yeast and water and mix on low speed for 2-3 minutes. Switch to medium speed, add the salt, then stream in the oil. Mix until dough is smooth and silky, about 10 minutes.
  2. To Ferment: Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Lightly oil a half-sheet pan (18-by-13-inches) then punch down the dough and turn it out onto the oiled pan. Fold the dough over itself in thirds, cover tightly and let rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, punch down the dough, fold it over itself again in thirds, cover tightly and let rise in a warm spot for another 30 minutes.
  4. To Shape and Ferment Again: Press the dough onto the baking sheet, all the way to the edges of the pan, so the dough is about ½-inch thick. Dimple the surface all over with your fingertips. Cover and let rise in a warm spot for a final 30 minutes. The multiple risings help create lots of bubbles and flavor in the dough.
  5. To Bake: Preheat oven to 500 degrees F (260 degrees C.) Drizzle the top of the focaccia with oil and tilt the pan to get oil in the holes, or press the oil right into the holes with your fingertips. Scatter on the rosemary and some salt. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack and then cut into 3-inch squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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12 Responses to Mastering Pizza

  1. January 25, 2023 at 5:12 am #

    I’m struggling to find the best pizza dough for outdoor pizza oven. I am using a sourdough overnight version at the moment but I am not getting a crispy crust on the bottom. I’d love to know what recipe you are using for your outdoor oven.

    • January 25, 2023 at 6:00 am #

      So would I–we have an Ooni also ! I’ve used Trader Joe’s, Mariano’s and Whole Foods doughs. Actually the Whole Foods Ancient Grain pizza dough is very good.

      • January 25, 2023 at 1:20 pm #

        Barb, as I wrote to Lisa about the dough on the Ooni, I haven’t even used mine yet. It’s in the box waiting for good weather!

    • January 25, 2023 at 1:18 pm #

      Lisa, my Ooni is still in the box! Haven’t even tried it yet so I’m no help with the dough. However, the pizza cookbook has plenty of suggestions. I really think you would love the book! It’s very scientific.

    • January 25, 2023 at 2:05 pm #

      This is the recipe I’ve used for our Ooni oven. The bread dough makes a crispy crust! And it’s a quick and easy recipe.

      Pizza Dough

      Baking & Spices
      3 1/2 cups Bread flour
      2 tsp Kosher salt
      1 tsp Sugar
      1 envelope Yeast, instant dry

      Oils & Vinegars
      2 tbsp Olive oil

      1 1/2 cups Water

      • January 25, 2023 at 8:19 pm #

        Thanks for sharing your recipe, Lynne!

      • February 3, 2023 at 10:35 am #

        Thank you. I get my dough crispy on the edges but not the center bottom. I will give your a try.

    • January 26, 2023 at 5:20 pm #

      Here is Todd English’s recipe from his restaurant Figs.

      • Figs Pizza Dough

      The dough is far wetter than you’d ever believe; it makes a light, crisp crust It may take you a few tries before you get it right. Be patient and err on the side of underworking the dough; if you overwork it, the crust will be tough and dry.
      This recipe makes four rounds of pizza, though the topping recipes make two pizzas. We figure that this way you only have to make the dough every other time. Simply wrap the remaining two balls of dough in plastic wrap and freeze for up to two weeks.

      Makes four 8- to 10-inch pizzas
      (Serves 1 to 2 people per pizza)

      1/4 cup whole wheat flour
      3 1/2 cups all purpose flour plus additional for rolling
      2 teaspoons (1/4 ounce) fresh yeast
      2 teaspoons kosher salt
      2 teaspoons sugar
      2 teaspoons olive oil
      1 2/3 cups lukewarm water

      • Place the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour; yeast, salt, and sugar in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. While the mixer is running, gradually add the oil and water. Knead on low speed until the dough is firm and smooth, about 10 minutes.

      • Divide the dough into four balls, about 7 1/2 ounces each. Line two cookie
      sheets with parchment paper. Place two balls on a sheet and cover with a damp towel. Let them rise in a warm spot until they have doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

      • To roll out the dough: Dab your fingers in flour and then place 1 ball on a generously floured work surface and press down in the center with the tips of your fingers, spreading the dough with your hand. When the dough has doubled in width, use a floured rolling pin and roll out until it is very thin, like flatbread. The outer border should be a little thicker than the inner circle. Pick the dough up with a spatula or the back of a knife, allowing it to fold up almost like an umbrella and transfer it to a paddle. Do not worry that the pizza is not round, you are looking for; an 8- to 10-inch shape, a cross between an oval and a rectangle. If you get a hole; simply pinch the edges back together. Repeat with the remaining balls and proceed; with any of the following recipes.

      Makes 2 pizzas:

      2 pizza rounds
      Cornmeal for sprinkling
      2 teaspoons olive oil
      1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
      2 pinches kosher salt
      2 pinches black pepper
      1/2 cup Basic Tomato Sauce
      8 thin slices mozzarella cheese
      12 whole fresh basil leaves
      4 teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

      • One hour prior to cooking, place a baking stone in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees.

      • Roll out 1 pizza dough as thinly as possible. Place it on a pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover the surface with 1 teaspoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic, and 1 pinch each salt and pepper. Be sure to leave an outer lip of 1 inch all the way around.

      • Evenly distribute 1/4 cup Basic Tomato Sauce on the pizza. It is not necessary to cover the bottom completely. Top with 3 to 4 slices of mozzarella cheese, 6 basil leaves, and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons Parmesan cheese.

      • Shake the paddle lightly and slide the pizza onto the baking stone. Bake until browned, about 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a firm surface and cut into slices.

      • Serve immediately.

      • Repeat with the remaining dough.

      • January 26, 2023 at 8:53 pm #

        Thank you for sharing the recipe, Mary!

      • February 3, 2023 at 10:33 am #

        thank you!

  2. January 25, 2023 at 7:17 am #

    I remember helping my mom with Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee Pizza too! We’d often have it on Saturday nights. We have made pizza outside using the Traeger with dough from Trader Joe’s. It’s like baking in the oven but with a fired flavor. Quite good if you don’t have a pizza oven.

    • January 25, 2023 at 1:14 pm #

      Karen, I don’t have a Traeger (I wish!) but I have tried Trader Joe dough and it was good!

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