35 years ago I worked in a small pizza restaurant in the NY suburbs owned by a guy who grew up on Mulberry Street in NY's Little Italy. Tommy had the best pizza around, he told me his secret was to use the best ingredients and he charged more accordingly. I started off washing dishes and quickly progressed to counter man, prep cook, kitchen cook and finally pizza maker. I learned how to make sauce, we didn't just open a can and add water to it. I figured out the proportions to make the sauce at home and continue to make Tommy's sauce to this day. His dough was a different story, he had an air of secrecy to it. When it came time to mix the dough, I dumped a 50# bag of Pillsbury Bread Flour into the Hobart, in the mean time Tommy weighed out the yeast, he used cake yeast. He would dump the yeast in the mixer, then he started adding water by eye and I turned the mixer on. He continued adding water until he was satisfied then he added a handful of sugar and a handful of salt, occasionally he added more water. It mixed for a couple of minutes then again by eye he added olive oil. It continued to mix until it started to climb out of the mixer at which point Tommy said "Its done mixing, lets weigh it out".
So, 35 years later, I move to Richmond VA. This is my wife's home town. We lived in Richmond a short time when her brother invited us out for pizza. I can say it sort of looked like pizza and that's about it. One night my wife ordered Papa Johns, I commented to her it wasn't pizza. We tried several more disappointments and finally I posted on Facebook about my Richmond pizza experience. A childhood friend posted "You used to work in a pizza place make your own". This started my journey (as my wife calls it an obsession) of home pizza making perfection.
I had the home made sauce down, the challenge was the dough. I googled pizza dough, looked at a couple of recipes and decided on one. I mixed it up in the Kitchenaid mixer but when I went to stretch the dough, it started to tear. I somehow managed to stretch it out to 14" to fit my Teflon coated pizza pan, with only a few dough repairs. My wife loved it, I hated it. Next several batch's I added more water until I had a dough I could at least stretch without tearing and having to repair it.
I wasn't satisfied, my wife and her family loved the pies. I went back to google and discovered this forum about 16 months ago. I spent many hours reading these forums. First thing I did was buy a baking stone, I chose a custom size 17"x17" Fibrament baking stone because I wanted to make 16" pizzas. Next I bought an 18" peel at a local restaurant supply. Using a large peel in a small oven was a bit hair raising launching the pie onto the stone so I bought a 16" screen. I start cooking the pizza on the screen and then pull it out after 4-5 minutes and let the pizza finish cooking on the stone. These few things made huge improvements in the cooking of the pies, but I still wasn't satisfied.
I went back to reading on the forums, the next improvement was to age the dough for two days in the refrigerator. That improved the taste a lot and the workability of the dough slightly. I tried up to four days in the refrigerator, which resulted in even better flavor. I still wasn't satisfied because, I didn't have those big holes in the crust. At this point I was using my trial and error dough recipe for two dough balls:
4 cups flour
1 ¾ cups water
¾ tbsp salt
¾ tbsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cake cake yeast
Notes: tried 1 ¾ cups water, 1 ½ is too dry dough doesnt stretch
I finally broke down and used the dough calculator and came up with this recipe:
Flour (100%): 690.1 g | 24.34 oz | 1.52 lbs
Water (65%): 448.57 g | 15.82 oz | 0.99 lbs
IDY (.5%): 3.45 g | 0.12 oz | 0.01 lbs | 1.15 tsp | 0.38 tbsp
Salt (1%): 6.9 g | 0.24 oz | 0.02 lbs | 1.24 tsp | 0.41 tbsp
Oil (1%): 6.9 g | 0.24 oz | 0.02 lbs | 1.53 tsp | 0.51 tbsp
Sugar (1%): 6.9 g | 0.24 oz | 0.02 lbs | 1.73 tsp | 0.58 tbsp
Total (168.5%): 1162.82 g | 41.02 oz | 2.56 lbs | TF = 0.102
Single Ball: 581.41 g | 20.51 oz | 1.28 lbs
First thing I noticed, the dough balls were about one third larger. My scale is only accurate to one gram so for yeast I use 1 1/4 tsp, salt 1 1/4 tsp sugar 1 3/4 tsp and oil 1/2 tbsp. Using more dough on my 16" pies made another big improvement. My only complaint is the crumb, the crust is more bready then airy. I am open to suggestions.