Steve’s Pizza Senza Dolore (Pain-free pizza)

I tried a bunch of different approaches, America’s Test Kitchen-style, to make a pizza that’s easy to prepare and overcomes some common pitfalls of homemade pizza, namely soggy crust and just the aggravation of dealing with misbehaving dough. You’ll want a stand mixer and a cast iron pan for this recipe. A large griddle/pizza pan is best but a regular one will do. If you want to save time reading, the two tricks are: mix and knead the dough entirely in your stand mixer’s bowl and put the toppings on the dough while you are cooking it on the stovetop.

It’s also important to note that the ingredients I’ve chosen are all things that you can keep on hand a long time without worrying about them going bad. They’re also very cheap. You can make various upgrades to make it taste better, so consider this the base model.

The dough

  • Around 3 cups of flour. This is enough for two pizzas. Any kind of flour but bread flour or ‘00’ flour is probably better than an all-purpose flour.
  • Water
  • 3T of olive oil
  • 2T malt powder (optional, it makes the crust darker)
  • 1t of yeast
  • A little sugar
  • A little salt

The rest

  • A jar of pasta sauce (around ¾ cup per pizza depending on the size of your pizza and feel free to make your own)
  • Chopped garlic (One of those cans of pre-chopped garlic is quickest)
  • A package of shredded mozzarella (Fresh is better but doesn’t last as long and is more expensive—if you do get fresh get a brand that doesn’t have a lot of moisture if possible)
  • Sliced pepperoni (again, pepperoni is good because it keeps a long time but feel free to go crazy with other toppings. Buying pepperoni that isn’t already sliced is preferable—you can slice it thicker which makes it more flavorful)
  • Crushed red pepper (if you like a little heat)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Making the dough

Ideally the night before you want to eat your pizza, mix a little lukewarm water, a little flour, a little sugar and the yeast in your mixing bowl. Let it sit for around 20 minutes. Add about a cup of water to the bowl and then the rest of the flour, the olive oil, the salt, and the malt powder, if using. Mix it up with a fork and add enough water so it gets to be a workable dough (kind of stiff)—probably about half a cup. Then use the dough hook to knead the dough with the mixer. At this point, you might need to add a little more flour to make it a workable dough—the dough should not stick to the sides of the bowl. If it does, it really is okay, the crust will probably have a better “crumb” in fact, a wet dough just makes it much harder to work with.

I usually put the mixer on a high setting to knead it, even though KitchenAid says not too. This tends to activate those glutens faster. You’re done when the dough is a bit bouncy—if you stick your finger into it, the indentation comes back out. Then just put a little olive oil over the dough ball, put some saran wrap on it, and stick the whole bowl in the fridge overnight so it can get a slow rise. If you want to eat it the same night, you can let it rise, outside of the refrigerator, for a couple of hours but the overnight rise helps to develop flavor.

Making the pizza

Heat your oven to 500 degrees. Put your cast iron pan on the stovetop and turn the stove to medium. Put a little oil on the pan and swirl it around so it is well covered.

Get all of your toppings ready for action—the pasta sauce, the garlic, the spices, the cheese, and the sliced pepperoni.

Take about half of the dough and shape it into a round on a flat, floured surface. Typically, you’ll use your fingertips to spread out the dough in sort of a massage motion, rotating the dough as you go. You can also roll it out with a rolling pin but that’s generally frowned upon (the pizza won’t rise as well in the oven).

Put the shaped pizza dough directly on the hot cast iron pan. Now add your toppings while the bottom of your dough cooks like a flatbread (be careful it doesn’t burn). First add the pasta sauce (just a thin layer, too much sauce makes for a soggy pizza) and then top with the garlic and other spices. Then add the cheese and the pepperoni. I usually add some more cheese on top of the pepperoni to help it stick to the pizza but not so much as to cover it. As soon as you’re done topping the pizza stick it in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and a little brown. Putting it on the very bottom rack will help the crust get even crispier. This method (fry then bake) keeps the crust from being soggy. You won’t get quite the rise in the dough because of this but I think it is worth the trade-off.

Once the pizza is done stick it on a wire rack for a few minutes before you cut into it.

Yum, I’d love to print this recipe!

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