Friday nights at Buckhead Homestead mean two things: Manhattans and pizza. A critical piece to the pizza puzzle is the crust. We’ve experimented with a few recipes, and finally found one that’s just about perfect. It’s easy to make (although it does take some time), produces a crispy crust with a slightly chewy interior, and holds up to as many toppings as you need after a week of work.
This recipe, which comes from Ken Forkish’s bread book, Flour Water Salt Yeast, also freezes well, which makes it even more perfect for Friday night pizza. Once the dough is made, we freeze three of the four dough balls and then thaw them in the fridge starting on Friday morning. The dough is just as good out of the freezer and means that you only have to make the dough monthly.
In the cookbook, this recipe references multiple pages, meaning that it can seem overly complicated and hard to follow. Don’t be intimidated. You only need four ingredients, a couple of bowls, measuring vessels, a scale (ideally), and your hands. In the end, you’ll have a pizza dough that you’ll always want to have on hand. I’ve included mass and volume measurements in the recipe, but weighing your ingredients will ensure that your dough is consistent. I also assume that you only have a 2 cup measuring cup (as we do), so I’ve adjusted the recipe accordingly.
To shape the dough, we had an epiphany at our local pizza place. One busy night, we sat at the bar and watched these experts shape the dough. It’s a relatively simple process, once you understand that you focus on the center and ignore what will become the crust. There’s no tossing necessary.
Just remember, it's a Friday night pizza. It may not look perfect, but whatever you do will certainly taste delicious. As for how we top these pizzas, watch for other posts very soon.
Friday Night Pizza Dough
Makes dough for four 12” pizzas
1,000 grams (7 ¾ cups) white flour
700 grams (2 ¾ cups) water
20 g (a scant 2 tablespoons) sea salt
¼ teaspoon dried yeast
Make the dough
For Friday night pizza, start this recipe on Thursday night.
Measure 350 grams (slightly less than 1 ½ cups) of hot tap water into a measuring cup. From this, put about three tablespoons into a small bowl. Add the yeast to this bowl.
In a big bowl, add the flour and the remaining water. Add another 350 grams (slightly less than 1 ½ cups) of hot tap water. Mix with your hands until it forms a very shaggy dough. At this point, resist the urge to add more water. The dough should be irregular and not quite come together.
Cover the bowl and let it rest for about 30 minutes. In bread terms, this autolyses the flour, or lets the water fully penetrate the flour grains.
Sprinkle the salt and yeast mixture over the dough. Pull the edges of the dough up and over to encase the salt and yeast. To incorporate the salt and yeast into the dough, pinch the dough between your thumb and forefinger, moving across the dough from left to right in 2 inch increments. When you get to the end of the dough, smoosh all the dough together and repeat. You’ll probably need to do this 4-5 times until the dough feels consistent. The dough should be a rough circle.
About 30 minutes after you’ve finished the previous step, you need to fold the dough. To do this, grab some dough from the bottom of the dough ball, pull it up until it feels like it will break, and fold that piece toward the center. Move around the dough, grabbing, pulling, and folding, until the tough is a tight ball.
After 30 more minutes (60 minutes after you finished incorporating the yeast and salt), fold the dough again.
Cover and leave the dough on the counter overnight.
After about 12 hours or when the dough is 2-3 times its original size (which should be before you go to work on Friday morning), dump the dough onto a floured work surface. Divide the dough into four pieces.
Now form each piece into a ball. Put the dough ball on an unfloured work surface. Cup your hands around the dough and pull it toward you. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat. Do this twice more until you have a tight ball of dough.
Flour a cookie sheet, put the dough on it. Sprinkle flour over each dough ball. Put the cookie sheet into the fridge until that evening. This is a good point to freeze the other three dough balls for future use.
Shape and cook the crust
Put the ball of dough on a surface that you’ve dusted with flour or, even better, with semolina. Press into the center of the dough and push out, without ever touching the edge that will become the crust. Keep pushing out until the pizza is about 12 inches in diameter.
Put a pizza stone on your oven rack about 8 inches from the top element.
About an hour before you want to cook the pizza, turn your oven to 525. (If your oven won’t go this high, turn it as high as it will go.)
Five minutes before you want to put the pizza in, turn the broiler to high.
After the broiler has been been on for five minutes, transfer the pizza to the stone. Pour a bit of olive oil over the edge of the crust to help it crisp. Turn the oven back to 525 (or as high as your oven will go).
Bake the pizza for 7 minutes.
Turn the broiler back on and continue baking for 2 more minutes.
Remove the pizza from the oven, let it cool, and enjoy with a glass or three of wine.