(continued from American Pie by Peter Reinhart)
4. An hour before making the pizza, place a baking stone either on the floor of the oven (for gas ovens), or on a rack in the lower third of the oven. (I use the lowest shelf in my electric oven.) Heat the oven as hot as possible (500 in my oven). If you do not have a baking stone, you can use the back of a sheet pan, but do not preheat the pan.
5. Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal. Make the pizzas one at a time. You can shape them by gently stretching them on the counter, bouncing and stretching them on your knuckles, tossing them into the air (for you daring souls!), or rolling them out with a pin – your choice.
I like to shape them on the counter. To see this, watch this silly video of me teaching Aspen. Nice music, huh?
6. When the dough is stretched out to your satisfaction, lay it on the peel or pan, making sure there is enough cornmeal or semolina to allow it to slide (the cornmeal acts as little ball bearings). Lightly top it with olive oil, a sprinkle of kosher salt, and sauce. Then add your other toppings, remembering that the best pizzas are topped with a less-is-more philosophy. The American “kitchen sink” approach is counterproductive, as it makes the crust more difficult to bake. A few, usually no more than 3 or 4 toppings, including sauce and cheese is sufficient. We especially like bacon and feta or pineapple and soppresetta. Try cutting it (or pepperoni or salami) into matchsticks and frying in a little olive oil until crispy. Then add and saute a few slices of garlic until softened but not browned, drain, and add to your pizza. I totally agree with Reinhart – for pizza toppings, light is right!
7. Slide the topped pizza onto the stone (or bake directly on the sheet pan) and close the door. The pizza should take about 5 to 8 minutes to bake (8 for us). If the top gets done before the bottom, move the stone to a lower self before the next round. If the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, raise the stone for subsequent bakes.
8. Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board.
Do this carefully or this is what happens!
Wait 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving (yeah – good luck with that!), to allow the cheese to set slightly. Then dig in to your American pie!
Leftovers should be reheated on the griddle or in a fry pan to recrisp the crust. Avoid the microwave as it will make your crust, which you’ve worked so hard on, turn rubbery.
Pat yourself on the back and bask in the self-satisfaction that comes from making your own pizza. You rock!