Disclaimer: I am an opinionated New Yorker who takes his pizza seriously. A little too seriously.
Great, now that that’s out of the way we can now get into a little bit of back-story. It was roughly two years ago, I was in the kitchen of my parents’ house when I came across some of my brother’s left over dough. I whipped up what I thought was a decent pie and sent a picture to him, feeling proud of my creation. Little did I know that his response would ignite my motivation and determination for the perfect homemade pizza, but most importantly to outdo him.
“It looks good, but mine are better.”
When it comes to homemade pizza I had for the longest time a preconceived notion that it was impossible to make a delicious NY style pie in your everyday home kitchen. As far as I could remember when someone said “Hey, let’s make pizza!” it always started with going to the store and buying premade dough. From there if we were feeling confident we’d try to cook up some sauce, other times we just bought that as well. Regardless of the route however I always found that whatever came out of the oven was lacking character, flavor, and was just mediocre – nothing like what I’d buy at my local pizzeria. That fateful day I took my brother’s reply as the ultimate challenge, to perfect my craft. And with that I began my homework.
To me New York style pizza has to be a thin, hand tossed pie with a soft and chewy cornicione (crust) and slices big enough to fold. The dough is made with only the most basic of ingredients – flour, water, yeast, and salt. Sounds simple, right? That’s what I thought too. At this point it’ll be a waste of your time to continue reading unless you have a good understanding of baker’s percentage. I can’t stress enough how much easier the baking process in general will be once you understand this invaluable method.
The dough formula for my 16″ New York Style pizza pies are as follows:
My workflow includes using a stand mixer, but if you don’t have one it’s not a deal breaker. It just might take a little longer by hand but is probably even more rewarding. Here are the instructions:
- Mix the starter and the water together with a fork until the starter is dissolved.
- On the lowest speed gradually add the flour until all of it is incorporated and mix for about 2-3 minutes. The dough should look a little shaggy.
- Let the dough rest for 5 minutes before adding the salt and mixing (on the lowest speed) for another 2-3 minutes.
- Preform a series of about 3-5 slap & folds / 5 minute rests, until the dough is smooth and springs back when pressed.
Divide the dough, form into balls, and let ferment for 6-12 hours depending on your starter. You can even go upwards towards 18-24 hours but be careful that you don’t let your dough over proof and eventually collapse.
Preheat oven for 1 hour at 500F, or as hot as it will get. The idea here is to have a heat saturated oven to get the best rise out of our dough. Once the oven is ready you can stretch, dress, and bake your pies for about 7-8 minutes, or until the cheese is starting to brown.
For the sake of keeping this post somewhat short I’m not including my sauce recipe but what I like to use is crushed tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar. The vinegar helps enhance the flavor of the tomatoes and is balanced out by the natural sweetness. Some people like to add more herbs and some sugar, it’s up to your personal preference.
And there you have it – one of the best homemade pizza pies you’ll ever make. Once you’re comfortable baking with your starter feel free to be adventurous and make some adjustments, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from making pizzas it’s that you learn something new with every attempt. Needless to say after two years I feel I’ve definitely outdone my brother in pizza making, but knowing him he’ll probably make another claim about a different dish and start the competition all over again.