Ken Forkish’s The Elements of Pizza breaks down every aspect of pizza-making, from dough to cheese to oven settings.
Call it a 1970s throwback if you will, but this works so well on pizza that every time I look at this recipe, I want to drop everything and make it (and sneak a shot of vodka into my diet). Top it with fresh mozzarella (the kind you find wrapped in plastic, not brine-packed fior di latte), fennel sausage, and tomato sauce that’s blended with vodka and cream; any leftover sauce is great for pasta.
- In a saucepan over medium-high heat, reduce the vodka until about 2 tablespoons remain, about 4 minutes. Pour in the cream and cook gently over low heat, stirring a few times, for 1 or 2 minutes.
- Measure and Combine the Ingredients. Using your digital scale, measure 116 grams of 90° to 95°Fwater into a container. For a recipe this small, a large bowl will be fine—you don’t need to pull out the dough tub. Measure 5 grams of fine sea salt, add it to the water, and stir until it’s dissolved. Measure 0.1 gram (1⁄10 of 1⁄4 teaspoon) of instant dried yeast. Add the yeast to the water and stir or swish it around until dissolved. This takes a couple of minutes. Continuous stirring is not required. Add 166 grams of flour (preferably 00) to the water-salt-yeast mixture.
- Add the sauce and cheese. Raise the heat to high for a few minutes, just until it starts to boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, keeping an eye on the sauce to prevent it from boiling rapidly.
- Mix the Dough. Mix by hand, first by stirring your hand around inside the dough tub to integrate the flour, water, salt, and yeast into a single mass of dough. Then use the pincer method to cut the dough in sections with your hand, alternating with folding the dough to develop it back into a unified mass. Continue for just 30 seconds to 1 minute. The target dough temperature at the end of the mix is 80°F; use your probe thermometer to check it.
- Set the sauce aside to cool, then pour it into a sealable container. I use a quart-sized deli container with a lid. Label the container with the date and refrigerate what you don’t use. It should keep for 1 week in the refrigerator.
- Knead and First Rise. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes, then knead it on a work surface with a moderate dusting of flour for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. The skin of the dough should be very smooth. Place the dough ball seam side down in a lightly oiled container. Cover with a tight-fitting lid or plastic wrap. Hold the dough for 2 hours at room temperature (I’m assuming 70° to 75°F for the first rise.
- Shape. Shape the dough into a medium-tight round, working gently and being careful not to tear the dough.
- If you use a dough recipe that calls for refrigeration, remove your dough ball from the refrigerator about 60 to 90 minutes before baking pizza. Put your pizza steel or stone on an upper rack in your oven no more than 8 inches below the broiler. Preheat the oven to 550°F.
- Second Fermentation. Place the dough ball on lightly floured plate, flour the top, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature for 6 hours for the second fermentation. Alternatively, you can rest the dough ball for 4 hours at room temperature, and then refrigerate to hold for up to the next evening.
- Cut the link sausage at an angle into 1⁄2-inch slices. Place the slices in an ovenproof skillet and, while the oven is preheating, partially cook them for 2 to 3 minutes (they will finish cooking on the pizza).
- Make Pizza. Make pizza anytime in the 4 hours following the second stage of fermentation. If you refrigerated the dough ball, let it come to room temperature for an hour while you preheat the oven and prepare your toppings.
- Set up your pizza assembly station. Give yourself about 2 feet of width on the countertop. Moderately flour the work surface. Position your wooden peel next to the floured area and dust it lightly with flour. Have the sauce, cheese, and sausage at hand, plus a ladle or large spoon for the sauce. Switch the oven to broil 10 minutes before loading the pizza.
- To shape the pizza, put the dough ball on the floured work surface and flip to coat both sides with flour. Use one of the shaping methods (New York or Neapolitan). Transfer the disk of pizza dough to the peel. Run your hands around the perimeter to relax it and work out the kinks.
- Spread the tomato sauce over the dough to within 1⁄4 inch of the edge, smoothing it with the back of the spoon or ladle. Place the sausage link pieces cut side down on top of the sauce. Layer the sliced mozzarella over the pizza, draping some of it over the sausage.
- Turn off the broiler, then gently slide the pizza onto the pizza steel or stone. Close the oven door and change the oven setting to bake at 550°F. Bake for 5 minutes, until the rim is golden. Change the oven setting from bake to broil and let the pizza cook until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden with spots of brown and a few small spots of char, about 2 minutes (check it after 1 minute to be safe). Use tongs or a fork to slide the pizza from the pizza steel or stone onto a large plate. Use scissors to cut the basil leaves over the top of the pizza and serve immediately, halved or sliced.
Reprinted with permission from The Elements of Pizza, copyright © 2016 by Ken Forkish. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.