View our Main Site »

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pizza Siciliano

With homemade mozzarella
By Chris Siciliano

In our house, Friday night is pizza night, a tradition that began in earnest soon after I discovered and began experimenting with Peter Reinhart's method for making incredible crust. The key here is to let the dough ferment in the refrigerator at least overnight and up to three days. During the long, cold, slow fermentation the dough ages much like a fine (barley) wine, developing excellent flavor and its own natural sugar. For best results, bake quickly on a blazing-hot pizza stone. But even baked at lower temps on a regular old cookie sheet, this pizza will surprise you -- it's better than most any you can buy.

The following recipe will make one 20oz. crust, enough to feed two people to the point of discomfort (I speak from many Fridays of experience).

  • 200g (1.5 cups) Natural Premium white flour
  • 125g (1 cup) fresh-milled whole wheat "bronze chief" flour
  • 225g (8oz) water
  • 25 – 30g (2TBL) olive oil
  • 6 – 8g (about 1tsp) salt
  • 2g (1/2tsp) Saf-instant yeast
Directions: Bring all ingredients together in a bowl. Mix into a rough ball. Turn out onto counter and knead for 1-2 minutes. Resist adding extra flour. Dough will by sticky and shaggy. Let sit, covered, for 5-7 minutes (no more than 10 minutes). Knead again for 1-2 minutes. Dough will be much less sticky; it should feel smooth and satiny. Let sit another 5 minutes if necessary. Knead 1-2 more minutes. Dough will feel smooth and satiny. If baking the same day, place the dough into a bowl, cover, and let rise 2-3 hours, depending on room temperature.

For best flavor, let the dough age in the refrigerator overnight or up to three days. After kneading, cover the dough ball lightly with oil. Place in plastic zip-lock bag. Leave on counter for 30 minutes, then refrigerate. Dough can stay in the refrigerator for up to three days. Remove from the refrigerator two hours before estimated baking time.

The dough can also be frozen for to 2-3 months. Follow above directions, but place in freezer rather than refrigerator after 30-minute counter rest. To thaw, remove dough from freezer and place in refrigerator a day or two before baking.

To bake with pizza stone: Preheat oven to 550 (or as high as the oven will go). Roll dough into a disc, square or rectangle. Use parchment. The pizza should be thin—if the dough resists rolling or shaping, let it relax for 5-10 minutes. Par-bake crust for 2-3 minutes without toppings. Remove crust from oven, dress with toppings, bake again for 7-10 minutes until crust, cheese, and toppings are browned to preference.

To bake without pizza stone: Preheat oven to 425. Shape dough as desired on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Dress with toppings. Bake 15-20 minutes on middle rack until crust, cheese, and toppings are browned to preference.

Tips, tricks, and notes

  • While it's true this dough benefits from extended aging in the refrigerator, even a short 2-3 hour fermentation will produce an excellent pie. In fact, I've baked in as little as one hour with decent (not sublime) results. For extremely short fermentation times (less than 2 hours), you may want to add a little sugar, no more than a tablespoon (even that much is pushing it). Having fresh-milled flour will contribute good flavor as well.  
  • Regarding yeast: (1) Increasing the total yeast amount from 2 to 4 or even 6 grams will hasten the rising process, desirable if you plan to bake the pizza that day, but not if you want to age the dough for any period of time. (2) Active dry yeast is an effective substitute for instant yeast, which can be hard to find for those not within driving distance to Siciliano's. Just be sure to hydrate the active dry yeast according to the directions on the package. Instant yeast does not need to be hydrated before use.
  • Keep in mind that your baking stone will NOT reach temperature as quickly as the oven it's in. Allow at least 30 minutes for the baking stone to reach 500F.
  • Par-baking ensures against soggy, under-baked crust, which can happen underneath the sauce especially. Avoid par-baking for too long, however, as this will result in a dry, overly-crispy crust after the second go-round in the oven. 
  • Most people don't know this, and it might sound crazy, but pizza and beer compliment each other wonderfully. I suggest you give the two a try together. Wine is good too.


  1. Another little flavor trick that I like to do with my pizza is brush some olive oil on the crust and then sprinkle some sea salt, kosher salt, or what ever spices you like to add that little extra kick to the crust.