We left off with the dough split into four and resting. Resting is the key to good bread! Work your dough, and it will resist you. Let it rest, and it will do your bidding.
Now take one piece and gently flatten it on your floured board. Use a rolling pin at first so that the unevenness distributes.
The dough is quite soft, although it has come together in a good shape. If it’s resisting you by seeming to spring back rather than spreading out under your fingers in a relaxed way, let it rest again…
I pressed the dough so you could get an idea…
Note that there’s a little give where you can see my fingerprints:
… while it’s resting, prepare your toppings: Crushed tomato (a 28 oz can will cover 4 16″ pizzas) with a little pepper ground into it (hilariously, my mom accidentally opened the wrong side of the can)…
Where we used to live, I did all my grocery shopping at my little Trader Joe’s, where they didn’t sell crushed tomatoes. I would just buy the equivalently-sized diced tomatoes and use my immersion blender to break down the consistency till it was more of a sauce. You can also thin out cooked sauce with some crushed tomato if that’s what you have.
Shredded mozzarella — For normal quick pizza night that doesn’t get overcomplicated, just buy the pre-shredded plain mozzarella from the grocery store. You will need a scant 2 cups per pizza. Yes, you can get artisanal about this, but you probably don’t have time, not every Friday night!
Extra flour in a jar for flouring your work space. Auntie Leila always keeps a wide-mouth jar of flour handy this way, separate from her main flour bin. That way, if she needs a tablespoon for a sauce or a dusting for the board, she doesn’t have to a) haul out the bin or b) contaminate the main supply with almost certainly somewhat grubby fingers. She can easily wash the jar off and it sits in her cupboard in a handy spot.
A bit of grated Parmesan — just a couple of tablespoons per pizza — and a pizza pan with a dollop of olive oil. Put the rack at its lowest level in your oven, and crank the temp up to 500*. In Auntie Leila’s previous range, there was a rack built into the floor of the oven! Perfect for pizza!
Now go back and roll out your dough. Roll and stretch, roll and stretch.
She says: “Awkwardly, I sort of hang the dough off the edge of the counter as I roll — I’ve tried to analyze why I do this, and I think it prevents the dough from sticking, as the bulk of it is just hanging, rather than coming into contact with the wood. Remember, this dough is quite soft! If you want to keep the flouring to a minimum (and you do, to avoid the flat taste the new flour will introduce), you need to keep the dough in the air as much as possible.”
We enjoy tossing our pizza dough, although I’m still working on technique and sometimes it can result in uneven dough.
Gravity helps stretch the dough out, so while you are rolling one end, the other is gently pulling downwards. Turn it and roll the other side, ditto.
Use the backs of your hands to stretch the dough out, and your fingers to roll the bulk of the dough out from the edges, because the middle will thin out but the edges will be thick.
Holes happen, because the dough is quite thin. Here we have photographic evidence for you that this is not a big deal. Check out how Auntie Leila just pinches the hole together (you can grab a bit of dough from a fat edge if you need a patch). Just try not to get the place oily, or the patching will be harder.
Gently push the edges of the dough towards the edges of the pan. Remember, if it starts to resist you, let it rest!
Spread a thin layer of sauce. She happens to have the world’s most conveniently-sized little ladle (a serving piece she got at her wedding which is truly perfect for spreading the sauce… as well ladling pancake batter!).
Use the back of your spoon to spread the sauce from the inside to the outside of the dough.
Note that the other pieces remain covered by the damp cloth…
Can you tell it’s a hot night?
Sprinkle your mozzarella…
Spread it towards the edges with your fingers. Don’t make the layer of cheese too comprehensive, or the moisture from the sauce can’t escape, and that will make your crust heavy and soggy. (I think I made that mistake on my last batch.)
Add your Parmesan… (I also sometimes shake on a parmesean/romano mix from a container.)
Some oregano… (this is nice, fresh oregano from the herb garden – not something I usually have access to.)
Bake at 500* for 6 minutes (well, that’s my oven — you need to keep an eye on yours and see what gives you a nice crispy bottom crust and a well browned top!)…
The cutter is from Homegoods, long ago. It cost about $4 and works much better than a wheel.
Sometimes we serve with salad, sometimes we just leave it at the pizza. A perfect Friday night meal! Enjoy!