It’s 2019, and time to make new year resolutions. Over here at Slice or Die HQ we decided on a very delicious resolution - to nail the perfect pizza at home. We are going to spend the next 12 months trying all kinds of different styles, methods and techniques - from the very traditional to the completely crazy. Every experiment, be it a success or total failure, we’ll document here in a new series called DIY:PIZZA. This is ground zero, episode 001.
The first thing to consider was of course the dough, perhaps the most important element in any pizza. After some research, it looks like there’s two ways to get the maximum flavour and deliciousness from your dough - patience or hard work. Without a professional (and fucking expensive) dough mixer and with muscles more akin to Squidward than Schwarzenegger, we opted for patience. What we chose was a no knead dough recipe from Andris Lagsdin that promised great flavour with one key caveat - a 72 hour prep time. Here’s how to make the dough:
After starting our dough on Thursday, 72 hours have passed and it’s Sunday afternoon and pizza time. We work in two very different industries - video game production and hospitality, so our hours often clash. Sunday however is our exception, and tends to be the holy day of pizza.
When it came to making our pizza sauce, there’s a huge amount of differing opinions online amongst famous chefs and pizzaiolos: purists with sauces made entirely of tomato, and other with a cupboard full of seasonings included. Furthermore, there’s sauces that are simmered for hours and others that are blitz-and-go. We’re sticking to our guns and our lazy mantra - we wanna make pizza at home as easy as possible. So we’ve adapted and merged a few different recipes, to create something we think was a first time home-run! No cooking required, just a blender and some jazzing up from the old spice rack. Here’s our Slice or Die Sugo number 1:
Combine the following: 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400g), 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon of tomato puree, 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon of oregano, 1 teaspoon of sugar, salt & pepper (to taste).
For our toppings we’re lucky to own some delicious extra virgin olive oil (evoo) from a relative’s restaurant and olive groves in rural Catalunya, but any decent quality evoo will suffice. For our cheese and meats, we went to Margiotta - an independent deli in Edinburgh with Italian roots. There’s a few locations in town and they stock great local produce as well as a lot of Italian products and are definitely worthy of your support.
It’s no secret that the key to a perfect pizza is the way they are cooked, and nothing beats a pie straight from a 500 degree pizza oven. The challenge at home is to try and recreate this to the best of your ability. For this experiment we used a pizza stone, that heats up to approximately hot as fuck. You gotta get your oven as high as it’ll go (ours is 250 degrees) and get that stone preheated early - you'll want at least an hour. If you’re smart you’ll do this before you make your sauce and prep your toppings, but if you’re like us - you’ll have an hour to kill. Go for a beer, that’s what we did.
For our first pizza we wanted to make as close to a traditional Neopolitan Margherita pizza as possible, so after shaping our dough, we topped it with our pizza sauce, buffalo mozzarella and a glug of evoo. We popped our first born in the red hot oven for 7 minutes, before topping with fresh basil. You’re gonna need some semolina to act as wee ball-bearings when transferring your pizza from peel to stone. Your pie should wiggle and jiggle when you shake the peel. If it doesn’t, try putting on some hip-hop and extra semolina. For our first ever pizza, we were pretty happy with our little pie. What we found though is this style of pizza doesn’t work to well in this oven set-up, with the much longer cook time compared to the traditional pizzerias 60-90 seconds meant the freshness of the mozzarella was ruined: it seemed to almost disappear and loose a lot of flavour.
For pizza number two, we stuck to a Margherita but this time used a hard style of mozzarella literally called ‘pizza cheese’. For another point of difference, we chopped our basil and cooked it on the pie. For our cook time we wanted to see a little more char and pushed the pie to 9 minutes. What we got was a better bake on the dough, but the cheese accidentally joined the char party. Still, this was fucking delicious - the firm mozzarella definitely a better choice for home-cooked pizza.
For the last pizza of the day, we decided to recreate a guilty pleasure. Look, we like good pizza as much as the next - but sometimes, you’re hungover AF, you feel like a shitbag and you don’t deserve good pizza. That’s when the shameful anonymity of ordering from the big three happens. For us, Papa John’s American Hot is a guilty pleasure. I mean it’s just a pepperoni pie with jalapenos, but fuck, we love jalapenos. We loaded this last guy with tons of cheese, pepperoni, peppers and a good glug of evoo. The result was an oily, gooey mess - but a delicious one. I guess if you’re at home it doesn’t matter if half the pizza is down your front.
Overall, we were super happy with our sauce, made gains on toppings, but our dough and bake time needs work - maybe it kneads work. In episode 002 - we are going to invest in a baking steel - a bigger, more badass version of the pizza stone. Using both steel and stone to create a mini oven in an oven, we will get this bake nailed.