The World’s best Pizza Dough. This past April my wife Katie and I spent 5 days in Manhattan vigorously researching a topic of great importance. In addition to getting to watch the production of several TV shows; Late Night with Colbert, The Larry Willmore show, Wendy Williams and Dr Oz (I even corrected Dr. Oz’s scientific mistake he made while filming, really) we also had culinary motivations. Our research was focused on sampling some of the city’s best pizzas more specifically the classic NYC slice, plain cheese. Our prior trips to the “city” have focused on finding the best chicken wings, deli’s and Peking Duck.
The island of Manhattan is the second smallest county in the US in terms of size. However it’s one of the most densely populated places in the world, with 1.7 million people covering 23 square miles of land (on business days the population swells to almost 4 million). Manhattan also boasts at having 20,000+ places to eat which in itself is overwhelming. No problem we had social media, expert knowledge of the subway system, strong legs and an eye for a good pie!
The parameters which we followed were relatively straight forward and simple we limited the sampling to the classic New York slice, plain cheese. These slices of pizza are typically reheated in a pizza oven and served on a paper plate. The slice is then folded in half and eaten sans a fork typically while walking or leaning up against a counter. The slices were great one of my favorites was from Uncle Mario’s which was located on 739 9th Ave just to the west of the theater district in Hell’s Kitchen. On the other end of the scale was the disappointment of Greenwich Villages highly touted Keste’ this pizza which we were served sitting down via a waiter tasted bland and cost the most. After 4 days of sampling we discovered that one of the commonalities of these slices was found in the crust. After some prodding and probing I pieced together what I consider to be the world’s best pizza crust recipe. It is imperative that the dough is given at least 24 hours to rise in the refrigerator before using, enjoy!
- 4½ cups unbleached King Arthur’s high-gluten flour, it’s the Blue one
- 1¾ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tsp instant yeast
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1¾ cups ice cold water
- Mix together the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl then add oil and cold water. Knead dough for 6 to 9 minutes or until the dough is smooth. The dough shouldn’t stick to the sides of the bowl just to the bottom of the bowl.
- Cut the dough into 4 equal size pieces, shape each into a ball and place on an oiled sheet of parchment paper covering a sheet pan. Mist the dough balls with spray oil and cover with a plastic bag or wrap and place in refrigerator overnight (you can also freeze the dough in oiled freezer bags).
- Remove the dough balls from the refrigerator 1½ hours before making the pizza. Place dough balls on a counter covered with flour and sprinkle them with more flour. Press the dough into flat disks about ½ inch thick and 5 inches in diameter then cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let sit for 1½ hours.
- minutes before making the pizza, place a PIZZA STONE on a rack towards the bottom of the oven. Heat the oven and stone as hot as possible.
- While pizza stone is heating generously dust a sheet pan with flour or cornmeal. Cover your hands in flour and carefully stretch the dough in a circular motion on your hands. The best method to stretching the dough is by swirling it across the backs of your hands just like you’ve seen in pizza joints (YouTube has loads of videos). This method lets the gluten “relax” verse using a rolling pin which will literally squeeze the air bubbles out of the dough and stress the gluten. If you have trouble tossing the dough let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes so the gluten can relax and try again (no luck then use a rolling pin , although it’s not as effective as tossing the dough).
- When the dough is stretched out to 12 to 16 inches in diameter the sheet pan which is covered with enough flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide. Let the dough sit for 10 to 15 minutes after which it’s time to “make” the pizza; add sauce, cheese and toppings.
- Carefully remove the PIZZA STONE from the oven and place on stove top or the counter with something to prevent the counter from being damaged from the heat. Sprinkle some flour or corn meal on the PIZZA STONE then slide the topped pizza onto the stone place into oven and cook at 400 F for 10 to 15 minutes. If the top is getting done before the bottom, move the pizza to a lower shelve or if the bottom is getting done before the top move to an upper shelve.
- Once the pizza is done cooking remove it from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Let pizza sit 3 to 5 minutes several before slicing with a PIZZA CUTTER, enjoy!