Pretty Damn Good Pizza

For years, I’ve been circling pizza perfection. I’ve tried more crust and sauce recipes than I can count. Two years ago, Soren accidentally mangled an unbaked pizza trying to get it off the peel and onto the pizza stone. What had been a thing of beauty ended up half upside down, cheese sizzling on the searing hot stone. Maybe there’s no crying over spilled milk. But spilled pizza? You’re goddamn right I cried. I cried my face off. I’m kind of emotional like that. The incident became known as the Pizza Fiasco of 2010.

I still haven’t achieved perfection, but these days I’m much, much closer.

I forgot to take a picture of the interior of the crust, so this here is a cold pizza shot. Not as appealing

A few weeks ago, I taped an episode of America’s Test Kitchen because Christopher Kimball planned to visit my neighborhood pizza joint — DiFara. Dom DeMarco, the owner, makes some of the best pizza in New York. I was hoping Kimball would get him to spill his secrets. That didn’t happen, but Kimball did offer us a simple crust recipe that you can make in a food processor. He pronounced the finished product delicious.

I was skeptical from the get-go. The recipe spurns sourdough starter in favor of regular old yeast, and it breaks a lot of perfect Neapolitan pizza crust rules — mainly, thou shalt not use sugar or oil. But I decided to give it a try anyway.

This crust isn’t the perfection I’m seeking, but it’s a winner because it’s so simple, perfect for people just getting into the pizza scene. Especially perfect if you have a food processor with a dough blade.

The Crust

High doughy sides because I didn't stretch this dough thin enough.

Rather than outlining the whole process here, I’ll just give you the link to the recipe. I followed the crust recipe exactly, and I let my dough rest in the fridge two days. Soren pronounced this crust nicely crisp, but perhaps not as chewy and flavorful as some of its predecessors.

One quick tip: Make sure you stretch the dough out to a full 13-inch round. If you don’t, you will get really high, doughy edges. I speak from experience.

The Sauce

The Kimball no-cook sauce recipe has good flavor, but it suffers from one major defect: it’s too watery. If you follow this recipe, I would advise breaking up the tomatoes with your fingers and then draining them. That way you get all the liquid out of the middle of the tomatoes too. Thicker sauce = better pizza.

The Toppings

Soren and I have stumbled on at least two killer combos:

1. spicy sausage (we get ours from these guys), hot pickled peppers, thinly sliced red onion.

2. proscuitto, pineapple, hot pickled peppers

Apply these toppings very sparingly, and make sure you’ve drained the wet ones well. You want to avoid adding extra moisture to the top of the pizza. We also sometimes add goat cheese or feta to the mozz/parm combo we use for most pizzas. Also, I added less cheese than the Kimball recipe suggests. But that’s a personal preference. Let your tastebuds be your guide.

Fresh basil goes on last.

The Pizza Stone

Kimball offers this intriguing tip: Rather than putting the pizza stone on the floor of the oven, as many people suggest, he places it on the top rack. That helps the top of the pizza cook as fast as the bottom, he claims. And the technique seems to work. But I didn’t get the nice spots of char I usually get when I bake pizza on the oven floor.

Baking Time

Bake the pizza until you think it’s almost overdone. The cheese should be browned, not just melted. That will help ensure that the dough is cooked through.

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