New York style pizza is hard to find here in San Francisco. There is a place on 18th and Castro that I think makes something similar to what you get at those hole-in- the- wall pizza places in NYC. Sometimes when we go shopping in the Castro area I try going with an empty stomach so I can reward myself with a slice…or two.
Still, it’s not quite the same. Maybe like wine, the context matters for good pizza? There’s nothing like that hot slice fresh out of the oven burning the roof of your mouth at 2AM in the East Village after you’ve been to three parties and as many bars on a weeknight, is there?
But I’m here on the West Coast now… the Left Coast. It’s not the same, but maybe it could be reproduced in my kitchen? I’ve always believed that it’s hard to make pizza at home, which has put me off trying. But it was finally time, that is after I’d run around a bit to get some of the basic pizza making things that I needed. Aside from getting the right kind of flour and more yeast, I also trekked over to the gigantic Target store in Colma to get a pizza stone for the oven. The stone, I’m led to believe, is the key for the right kind of crisp crust.
California pizza tends to be thin with a thin crust. The stuff is flimsy and really requires a fork-and-knife dining approach. This homemade pizza was stable enough to be eaten with the best tools on earth: two hands! That’s more like it!
I made two pies with this recipe. And though they may not have had the classic New York City terroir, or shape for that matter, they were both pretty darn fabulous.
homemade New York style pizza two ways
for the dough:
4½ tsp fresh yeast (if using dry active, cut amount by half)
1 cup lukewarm water (~100F or 40C)
3 cups of pizza flour (high gluten content) plus more as needed
1½ tsp Kosher salt
1½ tsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil, plus more
Semolina or corn meal for sliding pizza onto stone
The dough is made in 3 stages.
First, using a large bowl mix together the warm water, salt, sugar, yeast and a half cup of flour. Set aside and let rest for 20 minutes in a warm, draft free part of your house. The dough will rise and look like a thick, bubbly sauce. An intense bakery aroma of yeast will permeate the kitchen. This should be a sign that your yeast got home from the store alive and that you didn’t kill it using too hot water. (I tried making a challah bread once and killed the yeast by over heating the water. That was sad)
Next, add remaining flour and olive oil to yeast mix. Mix with a spatula to incorporate then switch to using hands and knead for about 8 minutes. If dough is too sticky add a bit more flour. In the end it should be smooth, stretchy and slightly sticky. Form an even ball shape. Place in a bowl. Drizzle olive oil over to grease the entire surface. Cover with a kitchen towel. Let it rest for approximately 1½ to 2 hours or until it doubles in volume.
You can make the pizza straight away or store the dough in plastic bags in the fridge to use the following day. I made mine in the same day.
About 20 minutes before you’re ready to cook, bring oven temperature to 485F with the pizza stone inside. It’s important to warm the oven and the stone at the same time to prevent it from breaking.
For tomato sauce:
28oz can unseasoned peeled tomatoes, chopped with juices
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp tomato paste
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp black pepper
1 dried red peperoncino, crushed (or chile de arbol)
¼ tsp sugar
½ tsp red wine vinegar
Simmer all ingredients but vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 35 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove from heat. Add reserved olive oil and vinegar, stir and set aside. It’s best to make the sauce while your pizza dough is rising. Of course, you can skip this step if you go without tomato sauce or get something pre made.
Preparing the pizza for baking:
To shape the pizza cut the risen dough into two equal pieces. Stretch each one into a pizza shape, leaving the edges a bit thicker for the crust. Now I know that pizzas at restaurants are always circular or sometimes rectangular. But this is homemade so you can let your imagination run wild as to the right shape for you. Mine were irregular organic shapes that we both quite enjoyed when it came time to serve them.
Sprinkle a liberal amount of semolina or corn meal on a wooden chopping board or pizza board. Place the shaped dough over top. Add toppings as you like. Open up oven door and carefully slide pizza off the board onto the hot stone. Close the door and bake for 20 minutes. Repeat with second pizza.
Pizza 1: tomato, cheese, olive and basil
Goat cheese mozzarella
Fresh basil (to be added after pizza is out of oven)
Pizza 2: tomato, cheese, olive, onion and sweet red pepper
Goat cheese mozzarella
slices of vine ripe tomato
sweet Vidalia onion slices
sweet pepper slices
Or add your own toppings…the options are endless.
We enjoyed these two pizzas with a chewy, dark Chilean 2007 Lucero Kingston Family Vineyards syrah.