It's been a while since I've posted to the forum, but Peter talked me into posting my latest version of my NY style recipe. It's based on lots of what I've learned here, and also based on member varasano's recipe as well (you can visit his page at http://www.think2020.com/jv/recipe.htm
I'm a long-time native New Yorker, so rest assured that the observations I make in the article about NY pizza are authentic, not just what I read out of a book somewhere
Also, my page has a detailed introduction to New York pizza, as well as detailed step-by-step instructions for some of the more difficult steps in the recipe (like stretching dough with your hands). Just about every step has an explanation as to why it's done that way and not some other way. At the end is a "quick recipe" for people who just want to "cut to the chase" and get the recipe and directions with no explanations.
For now, my recipe is at http://tinyurl.com/dt6ne
, but just in case that link ever goes down, I'll post it here as well (apologies if it's a bit long-winded).
True New York City pizza is a special experience, a concoction that is often imitated but rarely gotten right. There are lots of recipes on the Internet that claim to produce a “New York-Style Pizza,” but mostly these come nowhere close to resembling an actual New York pizza (for a variety of reasons).
There are really two types of authentic New York pizzas; I like to call them “street” pizzas and “elite” pizzas. A “street” pizza is typical of the myriad pizzerias that exist throughout New York (epitomized by the ubiquitous-yet-all-unrelated “Ray’s” which sit on seemingly every other street corner), where you can walk in and order inexpensive individual slices to stay or to go. These pizzas are characterized by a flexible, foldable crust that’s anywhere from ¼-to-½ inch thick; tomato sauce with some light spices; and a relatively thick layer of mozzarella cheese, cooked in a standard gas-fired commercial pizza oven.
“Elite” pizzas in New York can be found at only a handful of famous pizzeria restaurants that have been in existence for decades. At these legendary establishments, individual “pizza masters” have passed along a tradition of high-quality pizza. Lombardi’s, Patsy’s, John’s, Totonno’s, and Grimaldi’s are examples of these pizzerias (Lombardi’s, which opened in 1905, was the first pizzeria in the United States). An elite pizza is generally more expensive, and can only be bought as whole pies, rather than individual slices (the pie itself is cut into slices of course). The pizzas themselves are usually slightly thinner and crispier; use a higher-quality cheese such as fresh mozzarella or bocconcino, placed sparingly on the pizza; feature very lightly-spiced sauces made from quality fresh San Marzano tomatoes; and—most importantly—are cooked in ovens that are either wood-fired or coal-fired to achieve extremely high baking temperatures (700 to 800 degrees), resulting in a dark brown or black char to the crust that is extraordinarily delicious.
Which type of pizza is better? Although elite pizzas are almost always superb, there are many street pizzas that taste just as good, if not superior. In fact, a common New York pastime is arguing about which local neighbourhood pizzeria is the best. Conversely, I have tasted a few elite pizzas that were substandard. Yet some street pizzas are so bad that they barely qualify as pizza. Suffice to say, there are great examples out there of both elite and street pizza.
The following recipe will give you something between a street pizza and elite pizza--probably closer to street pizza (baking a true elite pizza is impossible unless you happen to have a wood-fired or coal-fired oven at home that goes to 700-800 degrees). As a native New Yorker, I can tell you that this recipe will give you a pizza that is close (or at least, as close as a home baker can get) to how a real New York pizza would look and taste. One thing’s for sure—it’ll be delicious no matter what it’s called.
YIELD: Two 16-inch authentic New York-style pizzas
-- 16” diameter pizza stone, or unglazed half-inch-thick quarry tiles (four 8” x 8” tiles arranged in a square is perfect), in lowest rack of oven *
-- pizza peel at least 16” wide (wooden pizza peels are generally better than aluminum)
-- two cookie tins (each large enough to comfortably hold 1 pound of rising dough)
-- pizza wheel or pizza cutter
-- electric stand mixer (kneading/mixing by hand is not recommended)
* If neither pizza stone nor quarry tiles are available, the pizzas can be made with a 16” pizza pan; see instructions following main recipe. A pizza peel is only needed if you have a pizza stone or quarry tiles. If using quarry tiles, make sure they are unglazed—glazed tiles have chemical coatings that are harmful to humans when used for cooking. Also, beware—quarry tiles of less than a half-inch thickness are almost certain to crack when subjected to the high heat of pizza baking.
Preparing dough: approximately 35-40 minutes
Baking pizza the next day: approximately 10 minutes (not including 1 hour oven pre-heat)
-- 2 pounds flour (best is a “high-gluten flour,” usually only available either online or in wholesale food supply stores. Here in Edmonton you can get some at Real Canadian Wholesaler on 149th Street and 111th Avenue. If you don’t have any high-gluten flour, use bread flour. If you don’t have any bread flour, use all-purpose flour)
-- 2½ cups cool tap water
-- 2½ tsp (or one package) instant yeast
-- 2 tsp fine sea salt
-- 1 Tbsp sugar
-- 3 Tbsp olive oil (not extra-virgin—use a good-quality normal or mild oil. I use “Filippo Berio” brand.)
-- cooking oil spray
DIRECTIONS TO PREPARE THE DOUGH
1. Combine water, yeast, sugar, and 2/3 of the flour (but not the salt) into mixer bowl. The water should be cool, although precision isn’t needed with regards to temperature. You do not have to pre-dissolve the yeast in the water.
Mix on lowest speed for 2 minutes, enough to blend the ingredients into a batter-like mixture.
2. Let the mixture rest 20 minutes (this long rest period is called an “autolyse,” which allows the flour to fully hydrate and the gluten to start developing).
3. Add the salt and olive oil, then add flour gradually while mixing on lowest speed for no more than 10 minutes or so. Near the end of that period, the dough will start grabbing whatever loose flour remains in the bowl and form into a solid ball; mix another 2 or 3 minutes at that stage, slowly adding just enough flour so that the dough ends up as a soft, smooth, slightly-moist-and-sticky ball.
(If it’s too wet and sticky and you come away with gobs of dough when your fingers touch it, you haven’t added enough flour. If it’s completely dry to the touch, you’ve added too much flour. The ideal texture is smooth and satiny, like a baby’s bottom).
4. Remove dough from mixer and divide into two equal balls. Spray the inside of your two metal cookie tins with cooking spray, place balls in the tins, and then leave closed tins inside the refrigerator for at least 24-48 hours (a 4-6 day rise is ideal, to allow fermentation for fullest taste; however, dough can be used after a 24-hour rise with minimally acceptable taste results).
DIRECTIONS TO BAKE THE PIZZA
1. When ready to prepare pizza, remove tins from fridge (or only one tin, if making only one pizza) and leave on countertop at room temperature for about 1-2 hours. A half-hour after removing the tins from the fridge, start to pre-heat oven (with pizza stone or unglazed quarry tiles on lowest rack) to highest possible temperature (usually 550 degrees). Oven should pre-heat at least 45 minutes to allow stone/tiles to fully heat—although a full hour’s pre-heat is preferred.
2. Dust pizza peel with flour, then remove dough from tin and place on peel. Lightly dust dough all over with flour from the peel so it’s not wet or sticking—flip it over to dust both sides.
3. Gently punch down dough into a flat circle about an inch high and about 8 inches in diameter (don’t hit the dough….just push down with your palm). As you do this, try to smooth out any “faults” or cracks in the dough (on both sides) so that the surface on both sides is as smooth and as unbroken as possible.
4. Carefully stretch it into a thin disk approximately 16 inches in diameter. This might take some practice before you’re comfortable with the technique, but here’s how to do it:
-- Hold your clenched fists together vertically out in front of you (thumbs on top and pinky fingers on the bottom).
-- Lift your thumbs a bit, enough so that you can get your index finger knuckles underneath the edge of the dough closest to you; then grasp the top of the dough with your thumbs and lift the dough straight up off the peel.
-- The dough should now be draped forwards and downwards from your fists, resting mostly on your index fingers, with your thumbs only gripping the outer inch or so of dough to keep it from slipping out of your hands. The bulk of the dough will immediately begin to droop from your hands due to gravity; rotate the dough smoothly and quickly with your fists so that the dough droops evenly on all sides.
-- Your first few times doing this, it might be hard to guesstimate when to lay the dough back down (i.e. when it’s 16 inches in diameter). For your first few tries, your best bet is to underestimate; you can always pick the dough up again if you lay the dough down and find that it hasn’t stretched enough. Stretching the dough some more is a lot easier than trying to make an overstretched dough smaller.
This drooping/stretching process should only take about 10-15 seconds or so; the dough should stretch well, and should not be too elastic (i.e. shouldn’t tend to spring back to its previous shape). NEVER use a rolling pin under ANY circumstances!!! Using a rolling pin will crush the gluten you worked so hard to develop, and will result in a flat, non-crumby, hard-to-chew pizza. Only use your hands—the key word here is “gentle.” If you find the dough so tough that it won’t extend without the use of a rolling pin, then you haven’t prepared the dough properly.
5. Once the 16” disk has been formed, lay the dough back onto the peel—you might need to do some minor adjustments and/or hand-stretching on the peel to make it perfectly circular again. By the time you’ve stretched out a disk approximately 16” in diameter, the dough should be relatively thin, perhaps even almost paper thin in places (usually in the middle). If you can keep the outer inch of the pizza relatively thicker, that will give the final pizza a traditional New York look—puffy outer edge, flat inner crust.
6. Slide bare pizza dough from pizza peel onto stone/tiles in oven with quick jerking movements (see Notes at the end for a hint on what to do if your dough is sticking to the peel) and bake for no more than a minute or so (just long enough to let the bottom of the crust sear and harden slightly, so you can easily get under it and pull it back out with the pizza peel). During this “pre-bake” period, watch carefully with a fork handy, and prick any ballooning air bubbles in the dough.
7. Remove pizza with peel and apply sauce, cheese, and toppings; then slide pizza carefully back onto stone/tiles in oven (try not to tilt the pizza too much as it goes back into the oven, or you’ll be cleaning toppings and cheese out of your oven for the rest of the weekend).
8. Bake pizza until cheese starts to melt a bit (usually about 2 or 3 minutes), then turn oven to “broil” and use the top element if possible (see tip below). The pizza is done when the cheese is fully melted and bubbling (perhaps even just starting to show signs of browning) and the outer edge of the crust has turned golden brown. This is where the “art” of pizza-making comes in. All ovens differ—my pizzas are usually done about three or four minutes after I turn to broil. The first couple of times you bake pizza, if it seems to be taking forever to bake the top of the pizza, you might want check the bottom of the crust to make sure it’s not burning or getting too crispy. Ideally, the bottom crust should become brown, or even slightly blackened with char, just before the cheese starts to brown and burn.
TIP: if you want a burnt, darker, crispy crust, bake the pizza a little longer (baking the bottom of the pizza) before switching the oven to top-down “broil” (which bakes the top of the pizza). If you want a softer, more flexible crust, don’t bake the pizza very long before switching to “broil.”
9. Remove pizza, let cool about three or four minutes (it’ll be really hot), then cut into 8 slices using pizza wheel or cutter, and enjoy! If making two pizzas, prepare second pizza while oven is still hot. If you’re only making one pizza and you realize you won’t be using the second dough for a while, you can freeze it and then thaw when ready to use; dough will generally be good in the freezer for a couple of months.
ALTERNATIVE PREPARATION DIRECTIONS (for those who have just a pizza pan—no pizza peel or pizza stone)
Follow all steps in above recipe, with the following exceptions:
1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees, not 550.
2. After dough is removed from fridge and warmed at room temperature for an hour or so, prepare 16” pizza disk on floured surface, then place disk into 16” pizza pan; apply sauce, cheese, toppings, then place pan onto middle rack of oven. Bake until cheese is melted and just starting to show signs of browning, then remove, cut into slices, and serve.
*** On Cheese ***
The best cheese to use is fresh bocconcino mozzarella balls. This cheese is very moist; it comes in a clear plastic bag, marinating in its own moisture. It comes in small, medium, and large sizes—I’ve found that two large balls of cheese should be enough for two pizzas. The cheese should be sliced (not shredded like normal mozzarella) and placed strategically around the pie. Important Note: you should slice the bocconcino and leave it to dry on some paper towels for a few hours before using it, or else the cheese will become almost completely liquid on the pizza as it bakes, due to its high moisture content.
If you have a favourite shredded mozza brand, feel free to use that. I personally like Lucerne’s mozzarella pizza cheese in the red ziplock bag. (Feel free to experiment with other flavours of cheese, bearing in mind that a true NY pizzeria typically uses only mozzarella).
*** On Sauce ***
An excellent sauce can be made by buying a can of Escalon’s “6-in-1” brand All-Purpose Ground Tomatoes from the Italian Market Centre, running the contents through a blender for a few seconds to smooth it out, and then mixing in table salt, olive oil, a bit of sugar, and pizza seasoning to taste before putting it on the pizza (the Italian Market Centre and WalMart sell a very good pizza spice called “Loretta’s Pizza Seasoning,” or you can get similar pizza seasoning from your local dollar store). One can of 6-in-1 will yield enough sauce for at least three pizzas. If you don’t have access to 6-in-1, you can simply use crushed San Marzano or plum tomatoes as a base for your salt, oil, sugar, and spices, but not any other types of tomatoes; regular North American tomatoes won’t do.
Note that the sauce should NOT be pre-cooked under any circumstances; just spoon it directly onto the dough before baking. It’ll cook plenty when it’s on the pizza in a 550-degree oven; there’s no need to cook it twice, you’ll lose all the flavour that way.
You can use whatever toppings you like, but be aware that although some New Yorkers like traditional toppings such as pepperoni, mushrooms, etc., a true classic New York pizza uses just sauce and cheese. Outlandish toppings like ham or pineapple or bacon are completely gauche on a real New York pizza. Also, be aware that the more toppings you put on, the slower the pizza will bake in the oven. This recipe assumes the use of just sauce and cheese; you may need to experiment with your prep and bake times if you use other toppings.
*** On Oven Heat ***
In baking this type of pizza, the key is heat. The hotter the stones get, the better. The best pizza cooks at 700-800 degrees, but of course home ovens can’t readily approach that temperature. However, there are some tricks you can do to get your oven to heat your stones even higher than normal. One trick is to wait until the stones have preheated fully, then simply open the oven door and let the hot air out. The oven sensor should then detect a lowered temperature, and kick in again. The stones, of course, remain pretty much at the same temperature as before, and will continue to get hotter once the heating coil kicks in again. Repeat this procedure a couple of times, and the stones should rise well above 550 degrees (although still not to 700-800 degrees).
*** On Sliding Pizza From The Peel To The Oven ***
Here’s a neat trick that will help prevent the dough from sticking to the peel if you’re having problems with that. When you’re ready to slide the pizza off the peel into the oven for the first time, lift the edge of the pizza closest to the peel handle slightly, blow under the pizza toward the middle of the pie, then drop the edge back down. This will create an air bubble underneath the pizza. Now when you try to slide the pizza off the peel, it will slide quickly and easily. Alternatively, of course, you could just put more flour on the pizza peel (remember, it should be at least lightly-floured to begin with).