Roberta's Pizza Dough
I could write thousands of words about pizza. I’d wax poetic about fond memories of my dad making it from scratch on school nights in high school, our frequent trips to Casa Bianca Pizza Pie in Eagle Rock where we’d take down an XL sausage and garlic pie, about the juicy, collapsing slices I huddled over in Naples when I lived in Italy. I’d describe the ring I wear on my ring finger that says PIZZA because my love for it is that serious. I would tell you about my first attempts at homemade pizza using Trader Joes’ dough in college and how the results looked more like Rorschach blobs than anything, then reference the book a co-worker gave me that taught me how to finally make a round pie. Then I’d show you the Instagrams hashtagged #mintza over the years that chronicle that transformation. I might describe the old school spot by my apartment in San Francisco where calzones are not only filled but also topped with cheese or maybe mention my grandmother’s Valentine’s Day tradition of sending her kids and grandkids frozen Lou Malnadi’s deep dish pizzas in the mail and how I hoard them in my freezer like there may never be another February 14th. I would probably mention that Bon Appetit video series that pizza people like to talk about.
But I won’t. I also won’t bore you with flour ratio philosophies, hydration techniques and why you should really invest in a portable pizza oven. Because honestly, I don’t care. To me, pizza isn’t about that. To me, pizza should be playful, creative and really tough to mess up. It should be affordable and fast.
If you spend an hour on Google or talking with that friend who makes pizza, you may feel intimidated by the process. Don’t be. I’m here to tell you that there is a dough recipe that you can make with no special equipment and that you can start on Sunday night and enjoy after work for dinner on Monday night. It hails from Roberta’s, the obscenely trendy Brooklyn pizza spot that recently opened a second location in Culver City, CA. If you care (and really, it’s okay if you don’t and you just want to make some freaking pizza), the recipe is a hybrid between classic Neapolitan (charred, bubbly crust and a delicate center) and New York style (thinner crust with more structural integrity) pizza. The recipe makes two dough balls, enough for four people to have pizza or for two to have it two nights in a row.
While this post is really about pizza dough, I do have a few words of advice for the rest of the process.
No, you do not need special equipment to make pizza. But! There are two items that go a really long way. They are a pizza stone, which you’ll place the pizza on the inside of a screaming hot oven to help it cook quickly and evenly, and a pizza peel, which you’ll use to transfer the pizza onto the stone.
In the toppings department, just about anything goes! Start with a wet base (red sauce, pesto, mascarpone) and add stuff on top. Since this recipe is relatively thin crusted, make sure to not overload the toppings to avoid casualties during the oven transfer process. If you like browned cheesy spots, use a low-moisture mozzarella.
For more detail, you might consider buying The Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish, or at the very least watching those Bon Appetit pizza videos. You are a pizza person now after all.
Roberta’s dough recipe really hits the spot between ease of use and quality, which is more than enough for my endorsement. Feel free to make slight tweaks (flour ratios, water temperature, rest times) and I promise that at the end of the day, it’ll still be pizza, which is all that matters.
Ingredients (makes two 12-inch pizzas)
153 grams 00 flour
153 grams all purpose flour
8 grams sea salt or kosher salt
2 grams active dry yeast
4 grams extra-virgin olive oil
Combine flours and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add yeast, oil and 200 grams of lukewarm water. Knead until fully integrated, about three minutes. Let rest for fifteen minutes.
Knead again for an additional three minutes. Let rest for fifteen more.
Cut the dough into two equally sized pieces. Place on a floured surface, cover with a clean dishcloth and let rise for 3-4 hours on the counter or 8-24 hours in the fridge in a parchment lined Tupperware. (If you refrigerated the dough, take it out 45 minutes before baking.)
Preheat oven to 500 degrees for one hour. If using a pizza stone, place it in the oven for the duration of the preheat.
On a floured surface, use your fingers to push the dough ball into a circle. Once a disc is formed, cover your hands with more flour and place the dough on your fists, turning the disc around using your fists in order to stretch the dough to the desired size. (If this is very challenging, you can continue stretching it out on the counter instead) If using a pizza stone and peel, place the pie on a well floured peel and add toppings (do this quickly so the dough doesn’t stick to the peel!). If you aren’t using the peel/stone, place the pizza on a parchment lined baking sheet and add toppings.
Transfer pizza from peel to stone or place baking sheet in the oven. Cook for 12-15 minutes, until the crust has risen and has some charred and bubbly bits and the cheese is fully melted.
Repeat with remaining dough ball. (But eat the first one while it’s hot!)