I don't care how much you love your job, if you don't look forward to Friday well--you and me--we can't be friends. Sure, there are days I look forward to Mondays but this post is about Friday, so lets stick to the topic. If you know me, and some of you probably do, you already know about my Friday ritual. I am known to turn down invitations to Friday gatherings because of this ritual, and I promise you, it is totally worth it because it involves pizza. Yep, that's right. It's #FridayPizzaNight, y'all.
I don't know how exactly this ritual started, but in my distant memory it all began on a crummy Friday evening in Minnesota, most likely in January when there are still months and months before we can even bring ourselves to look forward to anything ever again. When the "winter blues" --something all but the most obnoxious of Midwesterners suffer-- set in, the body takes over and forces you to find reasons to carry on. Step in Friday Pizza Night: a reason to carry on until spring. The thing about rituals though, is that they become a part of you, a thing to obsess over, a raison d'etre. And like so many stories before it, began the quest for the perfect, easily replicable, pizza recipe.
Toppings are a non issue when it comes to pizza recipes. If you Google ingredients you have in your fridge, the likeliness that someone has already used it on a pizza is high. Since I realize Google is hard, try this keyword combo: "<ingredient> pizza recipe". There you go, 7,000 toppings ideas at your fingertips.
The first and most important challenge of homemade pizza is the dough, which leads to an even more elusive but essential component to all pizza: good crust. Now, I've lived in Italy, eaten at some of the best pizza joints in the country, and every single one of the great pizza spots in town. What separates them from the rest? You see where I'm going here, right? Crust! You can put buffalo mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes on top of a Boboli Bread Shell, but cheese, red sauce and bread shell does not a pizza make. But even the best dough does not always beget an amazing pizza. Punch won't let you take their pizza dough home with them to make your own 'za from scratch for one good reason: you don't have a wood fired oven and you'll be a sad ole panda when you pull out a limp, peaked glob of dough from your baking pan.
Perfect crust comes from good dough and great technique, which the Napoletani figured out a long time ago and what only the best shops can accomplish. Does this mean the homemade pizza maker is SOL? No chance. Great dough can be accomplished, and good technique can be faked... and guys, it really isn't that hard.
My quest to create the perfect at-home pizza crust has taken me nearly two full years to actualize, but I persevered. With dozens of techniques, cookbooks, and pizzas under my belt, I can say with confidence this crust is the. best. crust. that has ever graced my pizza stone, or more importantly, to have crossed my lips. This technique combines quantities and methods I derived from too many sources to count, so I am calling it my own. Feel free to single me out on plagiarizing if you can. I would gladly shake the hand of the man or woman who discovered this magical potion before me. Without further ado:
#FridayPizzaNight Master Crust Recipe
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 2/3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Pizza toppings of your choice
- Oven with internal broiling mechanism
- Stand mixer
- Pizza Stone
- Pizza Peel
Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer with dough hook attachment. Mix on low for 2 minutes, then on high for 5 minutes, and again on low for 2 minutes. Dough should be sticky and slightly wet. Form into a ball and lightly oil, making sure the entire surface is covered. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise, 3+ hours, or until doubled in size.
Once the dough has risen, cut into 3 pieces of equal size (approximately 275g, if you have a digital scale) cover and let rise while the oven heats. Place pizza stone approximately below the broiler and pre-heat your oven at 500 or 550 (or its very highest setting) for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes switch your oven to broil on high and allow stone to heat for an additional 10 minutes.
Meanwhile form your pizza into ~14" pie (rolling pin shouldn't be necessary but use one if you like) on a floured pizza peel and assemble toppings, ensuring the dough is loose enough to slide onto the stone. In one quick movement (have confidence!) slide your prepared pizza on the stone and cook pizza for 3-7 minutes (leaving the broiler on) and check frequently! Remove pizza from oven using pizza peel when done to your liking (I like a little char on my crust) in one quick confident motion. The next step is critical: take a picture of your magical pie and post to Instagram, remembering to tag #FridayPizzaNight. Then, and only then, can you enjoy your amazing creation.