Published January 1, 2011.
With ovens that reach only 500 degrees and dough that’s impossible to stretch thin, even the savviest home cooks struggle to produce parlor-quality pies. We set out to change that.
By the time most crust recipes crisp, the interior inevitably turns dry and tough. Plus, the raw dough itself is a devil to work with: Too wet and it becomes sticky; too dry and it’s a stiff, dense wad. And forget stretching it into a neat circle: Most of the time the dough either rips or springs back like a rubber band.
We were in pursuit of a simple-to-make, simply dressed pie with perfect crust—thin, crisp, and spottily charred on the exterior; tender yet chewy within.
We opted for high-protein bread flour in order to get the chewy, nicely tanned pizza crust we were after. We tested our recipe until we found the ratio of flour, water, and yeast that gave us dough that would stretch and retain moisture as it baked.
We kneaded all the ingredients using our food-processor. (We recently discovered that a food processor turns out results comparable to those of a stand mixer, but much more quickly.) We let the dough proof at room temperature for a few hours, shaped and topped the pies with pizza sauce and cheese, and shuttled it onto a blazing hot baking stone to cook. Minutes later, the pies looked great, but the dough was severely lacking in flavor.
We knew that one way to counter the problem was to chill the dough as it proofs. This minimizes the size of the carbon dioxide bubbles that form in dough, and also makes it more flavorful. We mixed up a new batch and placed it in the refrigerator to proof. This new batch produced pizza that was flavored more complexly than any other pie we’d made up to that point. Through more testing, we discovered that when left in the refrigerator for up to three days, the dough’s flavor only improved.
To crisp the crust, we added some more oil and sugar to the dough, but the change that made the most difference had to do with our pizza stone placement. Most recipes call for the stone to be placed as low in the oven as possible, where it gets maximum exposure to the main heating element. Instead, we moved the stone up close to the top, narrowing the gap between the stone and the ceiling. This resulted in a pizza with everything in sync: a thoroughly crisp crust, well-browned on both top and bottom, and slightly chewy texture, just like a good parlor slice.list of recipes