The ideal pizza-parlor pizza is thin and crisp, with a crust that’s spottily charred on the exterior and tender yet chewy within, with simple toppings of tomato sauce and bubbly, browned cheese. It has probably lured most of us into burning the roofs of our mouths. Yet we go back for more.
In fact, we’re so obsessed that we developed a technique for replicating that pizza parlor experience at home. A parlor-quality thin-crust pizza with a crisp and chewy crust can be baked in a home oven using a few of our tricks, including the breakthrough technique of placing the baking stone near the top of the oven.
The main obstacle to achieving these results at home is the fact that home ovens don’t get hot enough to produce a deeply browned crust before the interior crumb dries out and toughens. The best solution has always been the hottest setting on the oven dial and a baking stone, which soaks up the radiating heat like a sponge. 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. But that technique doesn’t really make sense, and there’s an industry clue to prove it: commercial pizza ovens. These wide chambers with low ceilings quickly reflect heat from the oven floor back onto the top of the pie as it cooks, cooking the toppings and browning the cheese and crust exterior quickly, before the crust interior has a chance to dry out. Obviously you can’t alter the shape of your oven—but you can move the stone closer to the top to narrow the gap between the stone and the ceiling. We discovered that the best position for the stone is as close to the top of the oven as possible—4 inches or so from the ceiling.
We also use a long, slow, cold fermentation for our dough, which
has multiple benefits. It minimizes the size of the carbon dioxide bubbles that form, leading to a chewy rather than a puffy dough. The dough is more flavorful, since at lower temperatures yeast produces less carbon dioxide and more of the initial side products of fermentation: flavorful sugars, alcohol, and acids. And cold fermentation slows gluten development so the dough stays looser and easier to stretch and shape.
1 Pulse dry ingredients in food processor. With processor running, slowlyadd ice water; process until just combined. Let dough rest.
2 Add oil and salt and process until dough forms satiny, sticky ball that clearssides of bowl.
3 Transfer dough to oiled counter and briefly knead by hand until smooth.Shape into tight ball and place in oiled bowl; cover tightly with plastic and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
4 One hour before baking, place oven rack with baking stone 4 inches frombroiler and heat oven to 500 degrees. Divide dough in half; pat each half into 4-inch round and shape into smooth, tight ball. Let dough rest.
5 Heat broiler for 10 minutes. Gently flatten dough ball into 8-inch disk onfloured countertop. Gently stretch disk into 12-inch round. Transfer to floured peel and stretch into 13-inch round.
6 Slide topped pizza onto hot baking stone and return oven to 500 degrees. Rotate pizza halfway through baking.