Our pies are big.
Learning to toss one of these enormous dough balls into a thin, perfectly proportioned circle of heaven takes time and patience.
A tad of OCD helps, too.
Lightly flour your paddle and dough ball.
(ironically enough, this particular paddle was handmade by the gentleman in the photo above)
Make your own dough, or buy some from your local pizza place. If you are using frozen dough, please stop reading my blog. Now.
The best dough is proofed for 48-hours prior to use, and should feel smooth to the touch.
Roll your dough into a circle, but not too thin.
(What are those black lines, you ask? I’m not sure. I think Whitey drew them on when teaching someone how big the slice pies must be.)
Hang the dough from one hand while scraping the paddle with your other hand. Be sure to get any oil spots or flour accumulation off of the paddle, otherwise your pizza will stick.
Cornmeal is your friend. The grains are like little itty-bitty roller skates to help your pizza enter the oven. Plus they taste good on the crust.
Toss your dough. Shorties like me tend to toss vertically. Taller people toss towards the ceiling, as if it were an umbrella. Use your thumbs to stretch the dough while throwing it, creating your future cornicione (the outer edge, or crust).
Gently place the dough on to your paddle and pull the edges if you have any wrinkles. Be careful not to press down on the dough.
For a 2-foot pizza, we use about 10 ounces of sauce.
Here’s where the OCD comes in. I know that many famous pizzaiolos (or pizzaiolas) use the underside of the ladle to spread their sauce. I don’t. I prefer to use a pizza server so that the sauce is as evenly distributed as possible. It irks me when there’s (what I call) a “wave” of sauce, or a section of the dough that has too little. That section will eventually be a slice and someone will comment “there’s not enough sauce” meaning that the next slice will have too much. Follow?
Spread the sauce on evenly, leaving about a half an inch on the edges.
Use only 100% whole-milk mozzarella. No skim, no part-skim. WHOLE MILK. Okay? Good.
Put the cheese on the edges first, being careful to avoid the outer crust. You want the cheese to blanket the sauce, and adhere to the outer crust so that you avoid an obvious gum line.
Now let’s talk toppings. The pie that we’re making is The Rancher. It’s all meat, and can get a bit heavy. If we were making a straight-up pepperoni pie, we’d use the 3-inch diameter (larger) pepperoni slices. If we’re making a pie with more than 3 toppings, we use the smaller pepperonis. There is such a thing as too many toppings.
We offer over 65 toppings at our place. If someone were to order 40 toppings, you’d get ONE of each, meaning one solitary pepperoni slice, one single olive, one lonely piece of onion. You just can’t put full portions of that many toppings, capice?
Space your toppings evenly. I can’t stress this enough. And avoid the very center of the pizza.
See the blank center of the pie? Totally on purpose.
Think about when we cut the pizza and where that center of the pie is on each slice? It’s the first bite. If there are heavy toppings sitting there, they will
A: Fall off. Or
B: Make the pizza droop.
The first bite should be crispy, chewy, and cheesy, and not laden with heavy meats or veggies. It’s the thinnest part of the entire pizza. Treat it with caution.
Place your pizza paddle in the oven where you’d like your pie to land, and do a casual, slow shaking motion to allow the pie to “dance” on the cornmeal until moving uniformly on the paddle.
Slightly tilt your paddle, and slowly allow the enormous pie to slide on to the deck while pulling the paddle towards you.
The first few minutes will show the quality of your dough with the oven spring. You should have some nice bubbles forming, and unless they’re right dead-center on the pie, leave them alone! If they are in the center, give ’em a quick burst with a bubble popper.
Let that beautiful pie cook in peace until golden brown on the edges. The underneath should be predominately brown with a slight charcoal-singed color.
Place your pizza on a crust saver (or four in this case) and cut into 8 slices.
Then, watch with amusement the reactions of your customers when their table is approached with a pie as big and sexy as this.