How to Make the Best Pizza

Learn the basics from Wolfgang Puck.

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1. In order to make the best pizza, you'll need to have a mixer with dough hook (or food processor), a pizza stone, a baker's peel, a rimless baking tray or very wide spatula, and a pizza cutter or large sharp knife.

2. Make certain that the ingredients that have been sautéed are not hot when you arrange them on the pizza. This will soften the dough, and if the dough gets too soft it will be difficult to release it from the peel to the oven. Put the toppings on the pizza dough just before transferring it to the oven.

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3. My recipes recommend an oven temperature of 500 degrees F. If your oven thermostat does not reach 500 degrees, preheat it to the highest possible temperature.

4. Check the pizza after 10 minutes, since every oven bakes differently, and if it is not browned enough, continue to bake 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Pizza Dough

Yield: Enough dough for four 8-inch pizzas

Prep time: 1 hours, 15 minutes

Cook time: 12 minutes

Ingredients

1 package dry active yeast

1 teaspoon honey

1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F.)

3 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

Toppings of your choice

1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and honey in 1/4 cup of the warm water. In a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour and the salt. Add the oil, yeast mixture, and the remaining 3/4 cup of water and mix on low speed until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and clusters around the dough hook, about 5 minutes. (The pizza dough can also be made in a food processor. Dissolve the yeast as above. Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse once or twice, add the remaining ingredients, and process until the dough begins to form a ball.)

2. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand 2 or 3 minutes longer. The dough should be smooth and firm. Cover the dough with a clean, damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot for about 30 minutes. (When ready, the dough will stretch as it is lightly pulled.)

3. Place a pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500º F. Divide the dough into 4 balls, about 6 ounces each. Work each ball by pulling down the sides and tucking under the bottom of the ball. Repeat 4 or 5 times. Then on a smooth, unfloured surface, roll the ball under the palm of your hand until the top of the dough is smooth and firm, about 1 minute. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. At this point, the balls can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

4. To prepare each pizza, dip the ball of dough into flour, shake off the excess flour, place the dough on a clean, lightly floured surface, and start to stretch the dough. Press down on the center, spreading the dough into an 8-inch circle, with outer border a little thicker than the inner circle. If you find this difficult to do, use a small rolling pin to roll out the dough. Lightly brush the inner circle of the dough with oil and arrange the toppings of your choice over the inner circle.

5. Using a lightly floured baker's peel or a rimless flat baking tray, slide the pizza onto the baking stone and bake until the pizza crust is nicely browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Remember that the oven is very hot and be careful as you place the pizza into and out of the oven. Transfer the pizza to a firm surface and cut into slices with a pizza cutter or very sharp knife. Serve immediately.

Pizza with Smoked Salmon

Yield: 4 pizzas

Ingredients

1 Pizza Dough recipe

16 ounces smoked salmon, sliced paper-thin

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium red onion, cut into julienne strips

1/4 bunch fresh dill, minced, plush 4 small sprigs for garnish

1 cup sour cream or crème fraîche

Freshly ground pepper

1. Before you are ready to bake the pizzas, preheat the oven with a pizza stone inside for 30 minutes to 500 degrees F.

2. After the dough has been rolled or stretched into four 8-inch circles, place the pizzas on a lightly floured wooden peel. Brush the center of each pizza to within 1 inch of the edge with olive oil and sprinkle it with some of red onion. Slide the pizza onto the stone and bake 8 to 12 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

3. Mix the dill with the sour cream or crème fraîche and freshly ground pepper to taste. Transfer the pizzas to heated dinner plates and spread them with the sour cream mixture.

4. Divide the salmon, and arrange decoratively over the cream.

5. Cut each pizza into fourths and serve immediately.

mcx-0909-wolfgang-puck-sm.jpgAll recipes from Wolfgang Puck's Pizza Pasta, and More!

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