As long as my wife and I have been married we’ve been making our own pizza, every Friday night. I grew up in a suburb of Chicago where pizza and Friday nights were pretty much synonymous. Ordering pizza from your local parlour was just what you did. For my family most Fridays we ordered pizza from Campagna’s, which made a crispy and often very salty thin crust. Later in life we’d frequent Dominick’s and then Pal Joey’s, which sadly is the only one of these restaurants still in business today.
It often surprises people to learn that even as a Chicago suburbanite, the pizza which you are most likely to associate with our fair city was not what I grew up on. The flakey and buttery goodness of Chicago style deep dish that places like Giordiano’s and Gino’s East made so popular was not something we ate regularly. In fact, in my hometown I don’t even know of a place that served that style of pizza when I was growing up. Chicago style pizza is far more diverse than the casserole-like pies where the sauce decorates the top, in fact it’s the thinner version of Chicago style pizza that I grew up on every Friday night and still continue to love. Now don’t get me wrong, deep dish is fantastic, that’s just not the purpose of this post today.
When my wife Sara and I got married we immediately moved to the Northern side of Pittsburgh, where she started a new job. That first Friday together as a married couple I was left with an empty and hollow feeling as we struggled to find a pizza place for dinner. There’s a place called Fox’s Pizza that’s pretty popular, but nothing about about it tasted right. For the first time in my life I didn’t enjoy pizza night. So we did what any young couple would do during a culinary crisis and we decided to make our own.
Sara used a recipe right out of the Kitchen Aid Mixer recipe book, and for years it was good enough. We struggled to find good sauce, but for awhile the local Shop’n Save had the best we could find, until they didn’t. When we finally moved to Indiana I took up bread baking as a hobby and thus unleashed a series of experiments in pizza making to find the right process, ingredients and recipe for the pizza I wanted to eat. The experimentation became so intense that one week our family ate pizza every night of the week, each a different recipe. What I ultimately found was that no single recipe accomplished the texture and flavor I wanted, so eventually I started experimenting with ingredients and ratios.
Almost five years later pizza night is as much a tradition in our family as it was in mine at my folk’s home in West Chicago; the only difference is that I make my pizza from scratch. It starts before lunch time when I mix up the dough, and concludes right after I’m done with work as I hand stretch and assemble our pizza. For a long time many of my friends have asked me to share my recipe, which is honestly quite simple. The process is more nuanced though, and as many times as I’ve tried to write it down nothing would do it justice quite like a video. So here we are. I am happy to share a complete walk through of the Lemon family pizza recipe. I hope you’ll give it a shot at home, and I hope this video helps you out.
For this recipe you’re going to need a scale, because all of my measurements are by weight. Weighing any recipe that you’re baking guarantees consistency. When you measure by volume its easy to throw off the ratio of flour and water and that can really change how things come out. So if you don’t have a digital scale at home, do yourself a solid and order one, they’re inexpensive and super valuable when baking.
I use a mixer to combine my ingredients, but you can absolutely do this by hand too. Combine all of the ingredients and work them together until you have a smooth dough. In my Kitchen Aide mixer I start at speed 1 for 1-2 minutes and then increase it to speed 2 for another 6-8 minutes. In total you’re going to mix the dough for 8-10 minutes, but the important thing is the texture. If you’re doing this by hand, try not to add too much additional flour from your work service to the dough. Gently work it, folding the dough over itself again and again until you get a smooth and consistent dough.
- Active Yeast 9g
- Water 372g
- Olive Oil 18g
- 00 Flour 300g
- All Purpose Flour 300g
- Salt 12g
See notes below for additional information on ingredients.
After you’ve combined the ingredients, divide the dough into two even balls. I used my scale to weigh them and make sure they’re equal. Then place the dough balls onto a lightly floured plate, cover it with plastic wrap and place it into your fridge for 5-8 hours. During this time the dough will rise, but thanks to the refrigeration it’ll rise a little bit slower and develop a richer flavor profile.
When it’s cooking time start your oven at the hottest temperature you can set it to. In my house this is 550 degrees. If you have a baking stone or baking steel, put it in the over before you turn it on. You’re going to want to let you oven warm for about an hour to make sure everything is as hot as you can get it. I’m a big fan of the baking steel, as it concentrates heat in your oven far better than a baking stone does. Bottom line is you want something super hot to slide your pizza on to.
After your oven has been heated for about an hour, take the dough out of the fridge. I like to give it 10 minutes or so to adjust to room temperature. Remove the plastic wrap, lightly flour the top and bottom (I like to use Semolina for the bottom) and begin hand stretching the dough by passing it from one hand to the other and letting gravity do the hard work. If you’ve never seen this technique before, check out the video.
Once your dough is stretched and shaped begin assembly. I have sauce recipe I make from scratch that I’ll share in a future video and post. I use just mozzarella cheese on the top. You can try other cheeses, but remember I’m going for the pizza I grew up with in Chicago and on the thin crusts that’s mozzarella (deep dish aficionados will recall that provolone is common in those recipes).
Transfer your pizza into your hot 550 degree oven and set a timer for 6 minutes. Your pizza will be done when that mozzarella begins to blister (the slightly brown glorious crunchiness that forms when cheese is cooked in the oven). Pull the pizza out, transfer to a cooling rack and wait 5 minutes before cutting. Then enjoy!
When cutting a pizza I’m a big fan of the Kitchy which is sharp, easy to use and a breeze to clean.
- I highly recommend Saf Instant yeast, this stuff just works. If you have Fleischman’s that’s ok, but next time you’re out shopping keep an eye out for Saf.
- 00 flour is what gives my pizza that pizza-parlour smell and flavor that is so distinct from other flour. It’s highly refined and finely milled Italian flour, often used in making pasta, but really puts your pizza over the top.
- I love King Arthur’s All Purpose Flour, most grocery stores sell this.
- If you don’t have or can’t find 00 flour that’s OK, you can substitute all purpose or bread flour. It’ll taste different, but it won’t be bad.
- If you want to try something different, substitute the all purpose flour with 00 flour. You’ll find the pizza to be a bit more chewy, so your mileage may vary.
- Using bread flour in place of all purpose flour is totally fine, it’ll produce a chewier crust generally.
- I recommend using kosher salt, but if you don’t have any normal table salt is fine too.
- For a little bit of extra flavor you can add 3g of garlic powder directly to the dough. Most of the time I do this.
- I recommend having some Semolina flour on hand for the underside of your dough, it’s coarser and will help you move the dough from your work surface into the oven.