Like Rocky Balboa returning to fight King Kong after being crushed with barrels when he was so close to rescuing the Princess Adrian, I too returned to do battle with my nemesis… the baking stone. Tonight I decided to tackle homemade pizza again after my previous pizza failure. Armed with a bit more knowledge and a holster full of corn meal I set out to ensure my pizza dough would be infused with the ghost of Michael Jackson and slide with grace and ease.
Right away I found the dough was tackier than I had hoped, but dusting the counter liberally with flour made it workable. When it seemed sufficiently stretched and the bottom didn’t feel overly moist I transferred it to my corn meal coated upside-down baking sheet which was serving as my pizza peel. I then proceeded to gently shake the pan to see if the pizza would slide freely. In the areas that stuck I added additional corn meal as needed until the whole pie shimmied and shook like baby boomers doing the Hokey Pokey.
I was able to slide the pizza onto the searing hot baking stone with ease. I cranked the stove on broil, shut the door and waited impatiently for 7 minutes and was then rewarded with this:
The baking stone makes an amazing difference to the final product. It provides a crisp crunch to the crust that you’ll only find in a brick oven pizzeria. Conveyer belt pizza ovens will never provide that textural sensation. Biting into my first stone baked pizza in years brought back fond memories of a brick oven pizzeria that I lived near in Washington D.C., but totally took for granted. Though my pizza was still far from their level of quality.
There are a few adjustments I will make next time I attempt homemade pizza:
- Once I shut the oven, I will not keep opening it every few minutes to see if it is burning.
- Brush the crust edges with oil or butter to help them brown faster.
- Leave the pizza in the oven a little bit longer to encourage some charring.
- Add a little more sauce and cheese.
- Ensure the dough is slightly less tacky so it is easier to work with.
Overall I would say this is a resounding success and I now feel comfortable being able to replicate the results. It is one thing to read a recipe from someone else doing it, but it is quite another thing to do it yourself. No child has ever learned how to ride a bike by reading about it, in the same way you will never perfect a recipe until you do it. Embrace your mistakes, laugh at them and learn.