Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pizza night and results of my N.Y. Style pizza research

Yesterday was a resting kind of day after our company left. I got a ton of computer work done - mainly deleting files on my back up laptop. My 3 TB stand alone hard drive has been formatting for over 4-5 days and still not finished, so I may have to call the manufacturer to find out if this is normal, or if there is something else I need to do to format it quicker.  The progress bar seems to be stuck around 2/3rd of the way toward finishing; and I can't believe it should be taking this long.

Tonight is pizza night. I got my dough made before breakfast using a new recipe I found on you tube. I'm still searching for the perfect dough. I made enough dough for 3 pies. It would be best to let it do a slow, cold rise in the fridge for about 24-72 hours to develop flavor (72 hours being the best). The dough seems firmer than what I'm used to so it will be interesting to see how it works. If it's not great, I have a back up recipe to try.

After breakfast I did a bit more research on the bakers percentages for a typical N.Y style pizza, which is a thin pizza, with crispy bottom, yet foldable. Then I went to an on line pizza calculator, entered the percentage numbers recommended for New York style pizza dough, and the type of flour, salt and yeast I plan to use, the size of pizzas I wanted to make and the number of pizzas I wanted. It automatically gives you the exact amount of each ingredient in grams or ounces. Weighing is the best way to be precise about measurement when making pizzas and breads.

If there are any pizza makers reading this and want to play around with the pizza calculator, here's the link:

The New York pizza percentages I used in the calculator were: Flour 100%, 63% (hydration)water, 0.1 % thickness,  1% Olive oil, 0.25% instant dry yeast, and 1.75% sea salt.

NOTE: Although some people put sugar in pizza dough, that can cause the crust to burn cooking at the ideal high temperatures. So I would omit that if you plan to cook your pizzas in a very hot, long preheated oven.

There are plenty of professional, detailed mixing and forming instructions on the Internet and on you tube. I bake my pizzas on a 15" silicon carbide shelf in a 550F preheated for one hour. That's about as hot as most home ovens will go. A thin pizza takes around 7-8  minutes around the 500-550 temperature range; but don't go by the clock. Let the pizza tell you when it's done. You may turn the pizza a bit around the half way mark if you see if cooking unevenly.

Here are some hints for good New York pizza making that my pretty extensive research has shown are:

Preheat your oven and pizza stone one hour at 550 Degrees or hotter. A point and shoot thermometer shows my new oven goes up to 575F.

Before you start forming your dough, have your pizza peel prepped with a light coating of semolina flour or corn meal and have your cheese and all your other toppings ready. You want to get those toppings onto the formed pie as quickly as possible, so you won't have a problem getting your pie off the peel and into the oven.

Don't use too much sauce or the pie will be soggy. One small ladle full of sauce is more than enough for a 14-15" pie.
Shred or grate the cheese, which is what N.Y. pizza makers do. If you buy the good, moist mozzarella, squeeze it dry to get a lot of the moisture out. Commercial pizza makers put chunks of mozzarella in their dough mixers on a# 4 setting and let it shred that way. You can also coarsely grate it with a hand grater or in a food processor. Don't use pre shredded cheese which is often treated to keep it from sticking and that hinders the melt.

Don't use too many toppings. Remember, N.Y pizza dough is thin, less than 1/8" thick before being cooked and too much weight can be a problem getting it off the peel and on to the stone. I prefer it plain, or with just a couple of vegetable toppings like thin sliced mushrooms and thin slices of yellow bell peppers.

Don't roll out the dough or overwork it, otherwise it will be tough. Watch some of the many videos of how the pros, prep the dough and form the pizza pies through the push and stretch method, and find one that works for you.

Check the cooking half way and turn the pizza if one side is cooking faster. Do it quickly, using the pizza peel in one hand and a pot holder in the other to help hand turn it. I don't bother with the pot holder, but if you're not used to handling hot things, you may want to use one.
Let the cooked pie rest a minute or so before cutting. First cut it in half, then half again and then smaller slices if needed.

Here's the recipe I got from the pizza calculator for a N.Y. style pizza, using the recommended bakers percentages.. This is for one 15" pizza which is as big as I can make that fits my silicon carbide stone and oven. You can just double or triple each ingredient for two to three pizzas. The pizza calculator lets you choose ounces or grams, but I find the grams to be more precise. You can busy very inexpensive gram scales these day for twenty or thirty dollars that give you the option of weight in either grams or ounces. These are invaluable for all bread making as well.

301.8 grams King Arthur Bread flour
190.13 water
   0.75 grams Instant dry yeast
    5.28 grams of sea salt
    3.02 grams olive oil

Dough mixing tricks for N.Y. Style pizza: Start with cold water and cold flour and even a cold container.. Over heating the mixing dough is considered to be not a good thing. Don't forget, you are using instant yeast which doesn't need warm water and you're doing a cold rise. Ideally the flour after mixing should be in the low 70 degree range and no more than about 81-82 degrees. The cold rise, helps develop that wonderful flavors that are characteristic of the best N.Y and Neapolitan type pizza doughs.

If mixing in your kitchen aid or similar, add the water first. Separately, mix the dry ingredients and then, add only about 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the water, and mix on low for about 3-4 minutes. This get the yeast started without over heating the mix. Then add the rest of the flour mixture and knead on lowest setting for another 4 minutes or more. Use an instant thermometer to check the dough temperature. If it's getting close to being too warm, I remove it and let it sit on the counter a couple of minutes and then hand knead it another minute or so, cover it with a towel and let it rest another ten or 15 minutes. Then I weigh out the dough and form the tight balls (you can see demos of this technique on you tube)., then place them in very lightly greased 1 qt plastic storage containers and let them cold rise in the fridge 24-72 hours. After the first day or more of cold rise, you can freeze them. This works better than freezing them before that first good rise.

NOTE: If you are only making enough dough for one pie, mixing in a food processor using the metal blade may even work better and faster than in a stand up mixer.

The day of making, take your dough out of the fridge 1-2 hours before you'll be forming the pizza. If dough is frozen, take it out of the freezer that morning and let it defrost. Once it's defrosted put it back in the fridge until an hour or so before making the pie.

Other tricks to try: Some people bake their pizzas on the bottom of the oven, but with uneven temperatures, some people find that putting a second pizza stone on a shelf about 5-7 inches above the shelf where the pizza is cooking makes for more even cooking. Another person recommended baking the pizza toward the top of the oven to get it to cook more evenly. You can try different methods to find what works best in your oven.

The commercial pizza ovens are low, and using the two stone method make a regular at home oven a bit more like those ovens.

For sauce, a nice simple sauce using canned San Marzano tomatoes with some spices like oregano and basil (not too much), maybe a bit of garlic and olive oil is all that's needed. A trick is to cut a medium onion in half and lay it flat side down while your sauce cooks and remove it when the sauce is done. Just take the tomatoes out of the can and  put them in a food processor along with some or all of the liquid, and process till it's no quite pureed. There should be tiny little pieces about 1/16" to 1/8".
Heat a saute pan, line the bottom with a thin layer of olive oil (1-2T). Add a minced, large clove garlic and saute on low just till you can smell the garlic aroma, then add the processed tomatoes, the cut onion and enough herbs to suit you palate. Cook till sauce is flavorful and cooked down to the proper thickness - like a marinara sauce. Season with salt after it's cooked down. I also add a pinch of dried red pepper flakes to mine a couple of minutes before I think it will be done.


  1. June, I take it you like pizza?

    1. I love GOOD pizza, which is why I've spent so much time experimenting to get the kind of pizza I grew up eating in New York. We have a New York pizza place in our local mall's food court and it's just as good those pizzas I grew up eating in the New York area - thin crust, crunchy base, yet foldable,right balance of sauce and cheese. Oh yeah!

      Our son has a wood pizza oven and they are making some pretty good pizzas. Our daughter in law makes the dough, sauce and toppings, and our son tends the fire and cooks the pizzas. He builds a wood fire for about 4 hours before he starts baking the pizzas; and he's really become quite expert at cooking pretty authentic Neapolitan type pizzas.If I were younger I'd get me one of those wood fired ovens; but at my age, my kitchen set up works pretty well for the type of pizzas I'm making.

  2. Thanks the calculator and other info. I have made the Rhinehart recipe that you told me about, which is a fairly close in technique and I enjoy the texture and taste. I look forward to trying this, thanks.
    Hope you are feeling better.

  3. Any time Ron. So far, your recipe is my "go to" one. I'm still searching for the kind I grew up with so I'm going to make the dough for the one I show in this blog message. I'll let it cold rise and make the pie Friday.

    Another thing I want to try is adding a couple of anchovies to my sauce. I read about that yesterday. It supposedly doesn't give an anchovy taste to the sauce but just adds a bit more saltiness and depth of flavor; and since Jim loves them, I'll try it. I have a bunch of tomatoes that I need to process today for Fridays pizza, and I'll give the anchovies a go.
    I'm doing well - just have to deal with limited activity for another month; but every day I feel a bit stronger and more energized. So all is good. Hope all is well with you and Maria. Please give her our love!

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