I must say I am very impressed with this sting of perfectionists and I thought I would add my two cents worth (and that's probably all its worth). Years ago I worked for a very well known Pizzeria in Boston that took Best of Boston Awards many years running and still does today... Let's call it Pizzeria "R". If you know pizza, you'll know this landmark in Boston and it's history. That was where I learned to make Real Pizza (at least as real as I care to make it). I've been to all the well known NY establishments and, unfortunately, I don't have a coal oven so I am not going to waste my time trying to duplicate something I never can. Period.
I also believe that most of you here make far better pizzas than the best-known, award-winning establishments. The problem is you've never tasted your pizza right beside the one you are trying so hard to reproduce. Perception is everything. When you walk into a landmark pizzaria you expect the very best and when you eat a slice you taste the very best but any true pizzaria makes sacrifices to maintain quality and consistency. They don't have the time to run fresh tomatoes through a mill and they make their dough such that it has a shelf life of several days. You are already making better pizza right at home... you just don't believe you are!
If you want to duplicate Pizzaria "R" pizza you have to get the ingredients. So, first look in the yellow pages under pizza suppies or food service supply and find one that supplies pizza shops. Give them a call and tell them you are in the process of testing recipes for a pizzeria you intend to open and need to perfect your recipe before you open. Tell them you want cash and carry and they will sell to you. If one won't, call the next number on the list. Then, go to their distribution center and buy your supplies. All you are buying is flour, a sauce base, and some quality cheese because. Buy a 25lb bag of Gold Medal Full Strength flour & a case of Stanislaus Full Red Pizza Sauce. Stanislaus produces the best fresh packed tomato products available in my opinion. Get some bricks of quality cheese. Empire whole milk is the very best (now owned by Great Lakes Cheese I believe) but tough to get. If they don't have it go with Grande... If they don't have that go with what they consider their premium brand. Premium cheese is more expensive but you use less of it on a NY style pie and it provides a substantial increase in flavor that you will never find in a supermarket. Don't be afraid about buying too much... the longer the cheese ages under refrigeration the better it gets. I've had bricks in my fridge for 6-9 months that I simply leave the plastic wrapping on and cut right through the wrapping for my chunk and then seal with plastic wrap and a rubber band so there are no air pociets whatsoever. You will notice that after time in the fridge it will begin to turn a light yellow instead of the usual white... This is the best Mozz you ca use... as it ages it develops netter flavor and it's melting properties improve greatly. Many say whole milk Mozz doesn't give that "Cheese-String" experience. Let it sit in your fridge for 2-3 months and it will. We bought cheese by the truck-load and aged it to a light yellow before shreding and using it.
Most NYS pizzerias believe in Whole Milk Mozz (we used only aged whole milk Empire Mozz) Whole milk tends to burn easily due to the fat content. During the bake, unless you are in authentic pizza land people think your pizza is greasy. Unfortunately, greasy pizza has been associated with low quality when the exact opposite is true... The quality whole milk cheese used results in that layer of highly flavorful butterfat. Personally, I prefer a bit more cheesey texture stringy melt of part-skim without the wait of aging so a trade-off is to mix the two as many here have discussed. While there buy some stuff you like... like some canned mushrooms (love canned mushrooms on NY Style pizza. Fresh have too much water in them unless you microwave them ahead of time and get all that water out.) canned bananna peppers, vinegar peppers, canned artichokes hearts... whatever ya want. Use these toppings after substantial draining and patting dry with paper towels.
You will need a pizza wheel cutter, a wooden pizza peel and rectangular pizza stone 14" x 18" or so (steer clear of round ones as sliding a raw pie on a round stone just doesn't work for the unskilled). If you have a Kitchenaid mixer (a little counter top hobart with dough hook you won't have pop-eye arms by the time you are done perfecting dough).
Spices... Fresh is best but only fresh basil is worth the effort.. buy the rest dried. I recommend you buy spices from Penzeys spices (they have a web site) and are well known for the best spices in the U.S. Buy some oregano, basil (if you don't have fresh), whole black peppercorns and crushed red pepper flakes (don't screw around with garlic power, onion powder, tyme, rosemary, fennel, and all that crap you see in recipes that are trying to duplicate Pizza Hut's garbage and such). At the grocery store buy some Diamond superfine salt, a jar of dry active yeast, a squeeze bottle of honey, some fresh grated (not shredded) Romano Cheese, a small bag of Semolina flour (for dusting your peel) and some of those cheap Glad storage containers if you don't have anything to freeze sauce in.
What I will tell you is this, "Less is more when it comes to NYS pizza". Many overseason their sauce, over cheese their pizza, and toss a crust that is too thick. (God help us if they use a rolling pin). As you all know, NY Style pizza is tossed to a thin membrane topped with a watered-down yet rich and flavorful sauce with light cheese that sears and melds into a fantastic eating experience under intense heat.
Some comments on Dough and what I have read here... Dough is dough. Dough is flour, water & yeast. That is dough. From there we can incorporate oil, salt, & a sugar be it honey or plain ole table sugar. Dough is dough... how it is handled, stretched and baked is the difference. You can make a better pie with all-purpose flour if handled correctly than you ever could with some premium imported high gluten/full strength stuff that is not handled properly. I truly repsect the various perfectionists here who are calculating water amounts to the 10th of an ounce but flour comes from various sources and by the time you get it, it has been through various levels of humidity and time has passed. No pizzaria in history has ever invested in some kind of "dry storage 0% humidity air-sealed compartment where they can return the flour to 0% humidity and form a base-line to determine the amount of water to be added to a dough batch. On a humid day, flour from a bin equates to less water, on a dry day, more water to the mix.
Your Dough... Yes many who have researched pizzaria pizza will say use no sugar, use cold water, do the thing where ya mix the dough and 2/3 water first and let it sit for 20 minutes before ya add the rest so gluten can build, let it cold rise for one to four days in the fridge. Bottom line... In my opinion and I admit it is only worth 2 cents... The VERY BEST DOUGH IS FRESH MADE AND COOKED THE SAME DAY. PERIOD! Tom the Dough Doctor or whatever his calls himself is making dough for the masses with a long shelf life. He hasn't a clue what real Pizza should taste like. He is just a dough doctor. Im my personal opinion, fresh dough gives the greatest oven "spring", the crispiest exterior curst and the lightest interior cell structure. That is what real pizza is about. I am not going to argue that extened fermentaion in a fridge gives you a more yeasty/malty flavor but it comes at the expense of reduced "spring". When I read reviews of pizzarias and they say "the dough had a wonderful crisp crust and chewy interior" I am thinking... Chewy... raised in the fridge.. old and tough. CHEWY is not a quality a great pizza crust should have. You want crisp, light and airy, melt in your mouth crust. You want more yeast flavor.. add more yeast but don't think Chewy is a good trait. A CHEWY is what I give my dog to keep her entertained. Nuf said.
Assuming you have a kitchenaid "little hobart" mixer...
Start with 1 3/4 cups water 110 degrees or just not so hot that you can't leave your finger in it
add to this... 2 tsp honey and 1 1/2 tsp of dry yeast and mix. Allow to set until foamy. (I know... I am gonna hear the no sugar and add the dry yeast with the flour and the oil after a few minutes of this and that and it is truly all BS. Take about 4 1/2 cups of flour and dry mix in 1 1/2 tsp of superfine salt. When the yeast/water/honey mix is foamy add about 2 tsp of Cottonseed oil (cottonseed oil imparts a wonderfully nutty flavor & has one of the highest smoking points of all oils so your pizza doesn't taste like burnt oil... and that's what we used at Pizzaria "R") and start mixing with the dough hook. Add 3 cups of your flour and then keep adding SLOWLY until the hook has picked up all the dough and it is no longer stuck on the sides. In 4-5 minutes the dough should begin get a sheen to it. Shut your mixer off every now and then and press your fingers into the dough... if the dough is very sticky add more flour. NYS pizza dough is a moist dough and is "somewhat but not too" sticky. (sorry guys here is where your 10th of an ounce water calculations go out the door). You shuold be able to press your finger into it for about 5 seconds and remove it "relatively" clean. 10 seconds and it will probably stick to your finger. It has to be moist to crisp right and bake properly under the high heat. When you have found the right consistancy, portion the dough into two balls and place in an oiled container. Place the container in a warm place and allow it to rise until double in bulk... it could take 30 minutes it may take 2 hours depending on ambient temperature. After rising pull the dough, punch it down into a littel circle, cover and place in the fridge.
Remember when it comes to sauce and dry spices... less spice is better. Many people have tried to duplicate NY Style pizza sauce.. they even dumpster dive for secrets and there are non. We never locked up our dumpsters and such... if they want to dive head first into a dumpster for some kinda secret good for them! Most always over-spice the sauce. Take 2 cups of Full Red pizza sauce and add a cup of water to it (maybe a bit more). This is a thin sauce for the same reason the dough is a moist dough.. the high heat will boil the water out of the sauce.. too thick of a sauce and you will have tomato paste under your toppings and it will be sickeningly pasty on the edges. Add 1/2 tsp of oregano, 1/2 tsp of basil (or 2tsp fresh) , 1/4 tsp ground black pepper and 1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbs of the fresh grated romano cheese. Stir and let set an hour or overnight.
Shred your cheese as needed.
The assemby... Dust your pizza peel with a liberal dose of that semolina flour you bought. Take your dough ball (now at room temperature) and lay it on a floured cutting board or your counter top... press it out into a small circle (say 8") and then pick it up and stretch to 14" or the size of your peel. You should almost be able to see through it. Remember one thing now.. SPEED IS THE KEY. As soon as yuo ahve your dough stretched lay it on the dusted peel and top FAST FAST FAST. As soon as the sauce hits the dough it starts to really pass on the moisture and that means sticking to peel. Spread the sauce from center to edge with the most sauce on the edge. Don't use too much sauce... You are only supposed to "paint" the pizza with sauce. If you can't see the dough you used way way way too much. Just "Paint" the sauce onto the pizza. Your sauce should be the consistancy of paint as well. Think of what it would look like if your ladel was a large paint brush that you dipped into sauce and swiped the dough skin. Add cheese edge to center with the most cheese on the edge and you should still be able to see plenty of sauce under the cheese... use less than more.. it will melt. During the bake EVERYTHING gravitates to the center of the pie which is why you top heavier to the outside.
Throw your toppings on FAST (same thing.. more to the outside and less in the middle as they will move) and slide it off the peel and onto the searing hot stone in your oven.
In a preheated oven at 550 degrees (that's right, the gas-fired brick oven at Pizzaria "R" was set at 550 degrees although it could have gone north of 650). With the pizza stone in it (allow the stone to heat in your oven for AT LEAST AN HOUR on the BOTTOM RACK. If you have a gas fired oven that heats from underneath place your stone directly on your oven's floor. It has got to get searing hot. The pie will bake in 6-8 minutes. Check the underside for doneness. You want it crisp and deep brown but not blackened. I know, "But Blackened blisters are what it should be like!" No... Blackened, blistered crusts while reminding us of a time before electricity, are not a quality trait in a quality pizza. If you want to taste a blackened crust bake it and then pull it and hit the bottom of it with a blow torch for a while until it smokes... There ya go.. blackened blistered crust. Taste the wonderful smoke. C'mon now! I have nothing against high temperature cooking but the taste of carbon has no place in a pizza.
All the best,
When ready, remove and place on a cooling rack for 3-4 minuts to allow the crust to "vent" and the toppings to stop boiling. Move to a pan or cookie sheet and slice as you see fit.
Keep working with your recipe until you have it jus thte way you like it and then think about opening a shop. It is very easy to make large batches of everything and you wil need to make some changes for mass production but remember... Dough. Sauce. Cheese. get these three down and perfected in a 550 degree oven on a baking hearth and the rest is easy.
I hope this helps everyone in taking one step closer to your dream and opening up one more shop that grosses more than a Pizza hut.. in time.
I AM THE PIZZA SHARK