Practice Makes Pizza
If you're like me, you can chart your development as a cook by the pizzas you've pulled from your oven over the years. There was the preferred pie of my early days: half an English muffin topped with brick-red jarred pizza sauce and hand-torn string cheese, baked in the toaster oven until cheese drooled from the sides and ignited on the glowing coil below. The middle years could be best described as homemade-ish. A signature technique of this period was to start with a store-bought frozen pizza and patch its sparse coating of freezer-burnt cheese with a fresh layer of pregrated part-skim mozzarella. From there I advanced to hitting up the supermarket—or an accommodating local pizza shop—for premade dough. Back home, I'd assault the dough with a rolling pin and stern language in an attempt to make it thin and round. After failing on both measures, I'd garnish my dough amoebas with up to a dozen (thoughtfully chosen) toppings and cheeses and bake them off for my ever-supportive family.
Make no mistake, I learned a lot about pizza making during these early trials. But most of my advanced pizza development happened right here at Cook's Illustrated and as a result of working side by side with senior editor Andrew Janjigian. I've learned that a freshly whirled-together mixture of flour, water, yeast, salt, and a touch of olive oil tastes of remarkably little. Worse still, when stretched, it recoils with stress. However, let that same dough vacation for a few days in the cool climes of your fridge and you'll find its attitude entirely adjusted. Once uptight and inflexible, your dough has, quite literally, relaxed. Give it a poke or a stretch and you'll see. Bake it into a pizza and you'll taste the difference. Andrew has been refining his pizza-making technique for the better part of three decades. If I could sum up his philosophy for him, it would be “Wait.” That's because dough that has fermented for three days is easier to stretch, bakes up crispier, and tastes more complex.
Unfortunately, pizza cravings aren't nearly as amenable to a three-day pause. So, for this issue, I tasked Andrew with the ultimate challenge: Make great pizza in an hour. He spent about eight weeks developing the recipe. In true form, he discovered creative solutions to the problems that plague all quick-rise doughs. His is deeply flavorful, bakes up crispy, and, best of all, is a cinch to roll out. Dough amoebas and stern language? Mere relics of the past.
Editor in Chief