I’ve been on a quest to perfect pizza at home for many years now, and I feel like I’ve finally reached the culmination of that journey. I’ve tried countless recipes, numerous stones, pans, and other tools & tricks claiming to result in “the best” homemade pizza, and they oftentimes left me underwhelmed. I felt like pizzeria style pizza just wasn’t attainable in a home oven and I’d have to settle for subpar pie. Boy, was I wrong.
You can definitely achieve near pizza perfection in a home oven.. And I’m going to share with you my tips on how.
First things first, the most important part of any pizza.. the dough. This dough must be bubbly, chewy, and preferably crisp on bottom (more on that later). I’ve found the very best pizza to be made with sourdough vs. commercial yeast. A healthy and hyper active sourdough starter is essential to this recipe!
The day before I plan on making my pizza dough, I pull my starter out of the fridge and feed it. I like to make my levain just before going to bed, so I feed my starter around 5-6pm, allow it to double (which can take 3-6 hours), and then make sure it’s reached it’s peak by dropping a small amount into a glass of water. If it floats, it’s ready to make levain! Otherwise, let it rise a bit longer. Patience is key to a perfect pizza! 😀
Once the starter has doubled and is very active, add 30 grams worth of starter to a bowl (you can then put the remaining starter back in the fridge, unless you’re baking other things!). I like to use a small Pyrex glass bowl (4 cup capacity) with a lid to make my levain. Add 90 grams each filtered water and all purpose flour. Mix well and cover. Let sit at room temperature overnight (or around 12 hours total). The next morning, your levain will look like this:
Test the levain by again dropping a small amount into a glass of water. If it floats, you can prepare your dough! I like to use a large Pyrex glass bowl with a lid to mix and prove the dough, and I found the 4 quart size to be just perfect! Add the levain and all the ingredients (listed below) to your bowl and mix to create a shaggy dough.
Once the dough is prepared, check the time – I usually write notes to myself and leave them on top of the lid to keep track of things. Now, you’ll begin what is called the stretch and fold. If you are unfamiliar with this term, there are numerous YouTube videos showing you how it is done! Basically, instead of kneading, you simply pull the dough from the bottom to stretch it, and fold it over on itself. I do this 4 times while rotating the bowl. Do this every 30 minutes for 1.5 hours, so 3 times total. After the 3 stretch and folds, allow the dough to rise undisturbed for 5-6 hours (or until doubled in size). Note: This is a fairly high hydration dough and can be sticky to work with. I find getting your hands wet prior to stretching and folding works great at reducing the dough sticking!
After your dough has doubled, pour it onto a well floured surface. It’s a giant blob of dough, so make sure you’ve floured a large spot. Cut the dough into four equal sized pieces, I use a dough scraper but you could easily use a knife if you needed to!
Shape the dough into balls and allow to rest up to an hour. I usually make two pizzas at a time, so the other two balls are put back in the bowl and placed in the fridge. You can keep them in the fridge up to 4-5 days. The longer cold ferment allows the dough to develop more flavor. If you won’t be using them within that time, however, you could also freeze them for future use!
About halfway through the final rest, preheat your oven to as high as it can possibly go. My oven goes to 550 F and I like to utilize every degree I can get! Now, here’s the secret on the super crispy wood-fire oven style crust.. A baking steel! They are relatively new on the market and are seriously a life-changer if you’re a big pizza person. They can be a little pricey, though. We chose this version on Amazon and it’s definitely worth the expense! I’ve busted numerous pizza stones due to baking at high heat or cooking cold dough on the hot stone, but that’s no longer an issue! The steel is indestructible and will last a life-time! Not to mention, it produces the best crust I’ve ever had come out of my oven!! Totally worth the investment if you’re serious about your pie!
After the steel is sufficiently preheated (30-45 minutes at least!), carefully shape the pizza into a circle (or as close as you can get). Again, this dough can be tricky to work with due to the hydration, so I like to oil my hands before handling it. I pick it up on opposite ends with both hands and slowly turn the dough, allowing gravity to do most of the work. It will stretch very easily and this will likely take some practice before you get it down pat. Also, be gentle with it and try not to deflate all the air bubbles you’ve worked so hard on creating! Place the dough on a piece of parchment paper, top generously with your sauce and chosen toppings, then carefully slide it onto the baking steel. I use a flat baking sheet in place of a peel and it works great!
The steel will decrease your cooking time by almost half in my experience, so really keep an eye on it! My steel only took about 5-6 minutes to bake, while typically a stone took around 10-12 minutes. It really makes a difference! Another trick using the steel, is to turn the broiler on just after you’ve put the pizza in. Allow it to cook with the broiler for a couple minutes, rotate the pizza, and then turn the oven back on full blast. I find that I have to crack my oven open for the broiler to work properly, which is fine because that means I get to watch the cheese bubbling and crust browning.. The ultimate pizza porn!! 😀
Carefully remove the pizza from the oven. I grab a tip of the parchment paper and slide the paper onto the pan I used previously. The parchment really makes this part so easy! Place pizza on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes to cool. Cut and enjoy the best pizza you’ve ever made!!!!
Recipe has been modified from it’s original source. Makes 4 large pies.
All ingredients are organic, when available.
For the levain:
- 30 grams active starter (see above)
- 90 grams filtered water
- 90 grams all purpose flour
For the dough:
- All of the levain (should be around 200 grams)
- 700 grams ’00’ flour*
- 200 grams alternate flour*
- 700 grams filtered water
- 24 grams coconut sugar**
- 24 grams sea salt
- 6 grams vital wheat gluten***
*Flour choice can be adapted to suit your needs. I find using the majority ’00’ flour produces the best, most authentic crust, but feel free to alternate! For the additional 200 grams of flour in the recipe, I usually mix up whatever I have on hand. Some of my favorite flours to combine in this recipe are: semolina, einkorn, spelt, whole wheat, and bread flour. Have fun mixing and matching to see what produces your ideal crust! 🙂
**I like to use coconut sugar in this recipe in place of white sugar. It helps add color and flavor to the crust, and coconut sugar has added health benefits as well!
***I add vital wheat gluten to my flours for added stretch and strength. A lot of whole grain flours and commercially produced all purpose flours (here in the US) are low in protein, so this adds that little extra ‘oomph’ to my dough. Feel free to leave this out if you are happy with your current flour’s protein levels!
Summarized Instructions (full detailed instructions above):
- Feed starter and allow to rise until doubled.
- Mix starter with flour/water to create levain.
- Allow levain to rise overnight (or about 12 hours).
- Mix levain with other ingredients to create a shaggy dough.
- Stretch and fold the dough over 1.5 hours, 3 times total.
- Allow to rise 5-6 hours until doubled.
- Remove from bowl and cut into 4 equal sized pieces.
- Gently shape pieces into balls.
- Allow balls to rise another hour at room temp.
- Halfway through rise, preheat oven to 500-550 F.
- Shape dough on parchment paper and add toppings.
- Place on baking steel and bake for 5-6 minutes with broiler on for half of baking time. If you have a stone or other pizza pan, allow 10-15 minutes to bake.
- Remove from oven and set on rack to cool.
- Cut and enjoy!
I hope you enjoy this tutorial and recipe! Sourdough pizza is definitely superior to any other pizza I’ve had, maybe ever!! I also hope you look more into a pizza steel, I am not in any way being compensated for promoting this product, it just really is that good! I can’t wait to try baking breads, cookies, and other confections on it as well! 🙂