pizza tips + faqs

tips

How to deal with sticky dough
Keep your work surface well-greased, and your hands well-oiled. Why not simply flour your work surface? Well, the more flour your dough picks up, the drier and more compact the crust will be. A light, airy crust comes from a soft, sticky dough.
Best way to make an extra-thin crust
Roll pizza dough between two pieces of greased parchment or waxed paper. Once the crust is the size you want, leave it sandwiched between the sheets of parchment for 15 to 30 minutes; this will prevent the crust from shrinking, keeping it nice and thin. When you're ready, peel off the top piece of paper; flip the crust onto your prepared pan, and peel off the other piece.
A neat way to shape pizza dough
Turn a round-bottomed bowl upside-down on your countertop. Spray with non-stick vegetable oil spray, or olive oil spray. Shape pizza dough into a disk, lay it atop the bowl's bottom, and gently stretch it over the bowl. Gravity will help it stretch, and if you keep the crust pretty even around the circumference of the bowl, it'll turn out nice and round.
Covering shaped pizza dough as it rises
Greased plastic wrap tends to cling; but for best results, it's good to keep your dough covered. The large plastic cover from a takeout tray (think sandwiches for the office party, or a supermarket birthday cake) is a great see-through cover for a rising pizza crust.
Cutting pizza
Ditch the knife and use a pair of scissors. Not the clunky kind sold as “kitchen shears,” but just a regular pair of utility scissors. Use them not only to cut hot pizza into wedges, but to trim green beans, slice scallions, cut up meat for a stir-fry, snip dried apricots into pieces, cut pita bread into wedges... When done, just wash them in soapy water and towel dry.
Summer's heat got you down?
You can still enjoy homemade pizza. Remember, a thin-crust pizza bakes more quickly than a thick-crust; and any kind of pizza crust or flatbread can be “baked” on your covered barbecue grill.
The thicker the crust...

...the more toppings you can add. Please don't overload a super-thin crust with lots of juicy toppings; they'll make the crust soggy and limp. A thicker crust, however, is the perfect vehicle for fresh tomatoes, peppers and onions, chunks of soft cheese, and other substantial toppings.

Also, unless you're really a pizza sauce enthusiast, go easy on the marinara. Tomato sauce is acidic, and can drown out the flavors of your other ingredients, if you don't add it sparingly. A good way to add just the right amount of sauce? Apply it with a pastry brush.

Keep that crust crisp!
As soon as your pizza is done, slide it off the pan onto a rack; a giant spatula helps with this task. Leaving a hot pizza on its pan will steam the bottom of the crust, making it soggy.

frequently asked questions

Can I use the same dough to make a thin, crisp crust or a thick, chewy crust? Or do they require different recipes?

For best results, use a different recipe for your thin vs. thick crusts.

A thin, New York-style crust should snap when you bite into it, much like a cracker, with a hint of “chew” at the end. Start with a lower-protein flour to attain this texture; our Italian-style flour is ideal for thin pizza crust. In addition, a tablespoon or so of dry milk in the dough keeps the crust from becoming hard, rather than crisp.

For an ultra-chewy crust, use high-protein flour; our Sir Lancelot Unbleached Hi-Gluten Flour will make the ultimate chewy pizza crust. Think of it this way: the more gluten, the more chew.

Whichever way you go, keep in mind that the higher the gluten, the more water your dough will need. As a general guide, reduce the water in your basic pizza crust recipe by about 1 tablespoon per cup of flour when baking with low-protein flour; and increase it by about 1 tablespoon per cup when baking with high-protein flour.

My pizza crust tastes kind of bland. How can I perk up its flavor?

One of our very favorite pizza ingredients is Pizza Dough Flavor, a garlicky, cheese-y powder that adds “pizza parlor punch” to any homemade crust. Add a heaping teaspoon of this dry flavor per cup of flour in your favorite pizza crust recipe.

Another way to add a layer of flavor is to let your crust rise longer than normal before shaping. If you have time, begin with an overnight starter: combine 1 cup flour from your recipe with ½ cup cool water (from your recipe) and a pinch of yeast. Cover, and let rest overnight at room temperature.

Next day, continue with your recipe, adding the remaining flour, water, yeast, and any other ingredients; use no more than 1 ½ teaspoons yeast. Let the dough rise for about 3 hours, gently deflating and turning it over every hour. Then, shape and let it rise until it's nearly as thick as you want the final crust to be, before finally baking.

Another way to add flavor: let the prepared dough rise once, then gently deflate it, cover, and refrigerate overnight. The yeast will produce organic acids and alcohol, both flavor enhancers, and your dough will taste much “richer” and more complex than it ordinarily would.

My pizza dough is constantly shrinking and fighting back as I roll—what can I do to make rolling pizza dough easier?

The same element that gives pizza crust its wonderful chew also makes it a challenge to roll out: gluten. The protein in flour, when combined with water, forms a stretchy network called gluten. It's what gives pizza (and yeast breads of all kinds) their structure.

When you roll pizza crust, the gluten stretches; when you stop rolling, it's just like a stretched elastic band: it wants to snap back. As soon as you notice the crust trying to shrink as you roll, walk away, and give the gluten a chance to relax. Come back 15 minutes later, and you'll find the crust is much easier to roll.

Can I make pizza dough ahead of time, and freeze it?

You sure can. Let it rise for about an hour, then deflate it, round it into a ball, wrap airtight in a lightly greased plastic bag, and freeze. Make sure your freezer's temperature isn't below 0°F, as this will kill the yeast; and for best results, keep frozen no longer than 3 to 4 weeks.

To use, remove dough from the freezer the night before you plan to use it, and place it in the refrigerator, still in its wrapping. It's a good idea to loosen the wrapping, in case the dough starts to rise again. Let it thaw in the fridge for up to 24 hours or so. A few hours before you want to bake, remove the dough from the fridge, shape it, cover, and let warm/rise at room temperature. Top as desired, and bake.

Do I need a pizza stone, or is pizza just as good baked in a pan?

A pizza stone will make your crust brown and crackly/crisp on the bottom, and lighter-textured on top. The super-hot heat of the stone causes the dough to rise quickly (thus the light texture), while at the same time drawing all the moisture out of the bottom, making it crisp.

But don't think you have to have a stone to make great pizza; a dark-colored pizza pan, set first on the oven's lowest rack, then moved towards the top about two-thirds of the way through baking, will create a lovely, golden brown crust that's baked equally well on the bottom and top.

I like to use a pizza stone and peel. But my pizza always sticks when I try to slide it off the peel onto the stone. Suggestions?

Some folks say to sprinkle the peel with cornmeal, but we find it's not all that effective, and also tends to burn. We've found semolina does a somewhat better job, and is less likely to burn. But our favorite solution is to roll crust on parchment, then pick it up, parchment and all, and slide it onto the hot stone. The pizza-on-parchment will quickly and easily slide off the peel; and we haven't noticed that the parchment is any deterrent at all to your pizza developing a brown, crisp bottom crust.

Help! When I'm making thick-crust pizza, my toppings always seem to get overcooked before the crust is done. What can I do to prevent this?

It's a good idea to par-bake your thick crust—bake it partway—before adding the toppings. Bake the crust until it's risen and just set; it'll feel like a baked crust, but it won't be brown (or at most, it'll be brown around the edges). Remove it from the oven, add toppings, and return to finish baking. The sauce should be bubbling and the cheese melted and golden just about the time the crust is perfectly browned.

The cheese on top of my pizza tends to get rubbery, and it sometimes burns. But if I take the pizza out sooner, the crust isn't fully baked. Solution?

There are two ways to approach this. First, once you've brushed the crust with sauce, add your mozzarella or other cheeses before topping with the pepperoni, mushrooms, etc. The other toppings will shield the cheese a bit; it'll melt but not burn.

Alternatively, add the cheese only during the last 10 minutes or so of baking. With practice, you'll discover just how long it takes, at what oven temperature, to produce melted cheese that's to your exact liking.