Pizza

May 2020

Baltimore has crab cakes, St. Louis has ribs, New Orleans has gumbo, and New Haven has pizza. New Haven pizza ovens are heated with coal, which burns hotter than wood, so the iconic pie has charred, crunchy spots on the bottom and edges. Basic pies are topped with tomato, oregano, a bit of garlic, and a scattering of pecorino. Mozzarella is optional and applied sparingly. Unlike San Francisco’s artisan pizza scene, the most famous New Haven joints use everyday toppings: think bell peppers and sausage, not broccoli rabe and caciocavallo.

This recipe is my attempt to marry the New Haven-style pizza of my youth with San Francisco’s exuberantly seasonal, Neapolitan style.

Dough

Mix all ingredients into a rough mass. (Since the dough cold-ferments for days, there’s no need to mix the water and yeast separately.) In a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment or by hand, knead dough until smooth (about 5 minutes). Divide into 4 pieces, each about 260g. Shape into balls and store in lightly oiled gallon-sized plastic bags. Refrigerate 2–3 days. (After 1 day, dough can be frozen.)

Sauce

Mix crushed tomato and a bit of dried oregano. Add salt and sugar, a little at a time, to round out the tomato flavor. Toppings are usually salty, so the sauce should be slightly under-seasoned. Do not cook the sauce.

This sauce is all about the tomatoes. Crushed tomatoes are better than diced or whole, because they’re made from the fruits that are too ripe to be peeled. Hand-blending tomatoes works in a pinch, but over-blending will release too much water.

Shaping and Baking

  1. Remove dough from the refrigerator and gently re-shape into balls. Allow dough to come back to room temperature, usually 3–5 hours.
  2. An hour before the dough is ready, remove the top rack of the oven and place the baking steel onto the middle rack. Preheat at 500°F for 50 minutes.
  3. Lightly flour a dough ball. From the middle of the ball to the edges, flatten the dough with your fingertips, leaving a thin rim of untouched dough to make the crust. Anchor an edge of the crust with one hand, then stretch from the opposite side, rotating a quarter-turn between repetitions. There should be a groove between the raised edge and the flat center. (This video shows the edge stretching technique.) Once the ball is about 8 inches in diameter, stretch it to 12 inches across your knuckles. At this point, the ideal pizza has a thin, raised rim of untouched dough with a sharp transition to a wide, flat center.
  4. Dust a wooden pizza peel (or a piece of parchment paper) with a bit of flour and cornmeal. Transfer the stretched round and top quickly. Transfer to the hot steel, set the oven to broil at 550F, and bake for 5 minutes. The crust should be browned everywhere, with some lightly charred spots.
  5. Retrieve with a metal pizza peel and cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before slicing. After every fourth pizza, let the steel reheat for 10 minutes at 500F.

Toppings

Notes

Going to New Haven?