The Slow Route to Homemade Pizza

According to the New York Times, “There’s little point in trying to match the horsepower available to a pizzaiolo. Their professional pizza ovens, especially the models that burn wood or coal, are the muscle cars of kitchens: when blazing at temperatures that range from 800 degrees to an infernal 1,000 degrees, they can turn raw dough into a blistered, bubbling pizza in as little as 75 seconds. It puts the home cook, whose oven typically reaches 550 degrees, at a permanent disadvantage.”

“No wonder some of the pizza-obsessed do everything to coax their ovens into performing above their limits. (Making pizza on the self-cleaning cycle seems to be popular.) The Johnny Knoxville approach has its appeal. But after cooking more than 200 pizzas over several months, I learned an easier way to edge closer to the kind of airy, creamy, chewy, thin crust you find at pizzerias that have otherwise sane people waiting in line for an hour. And it has less to do with heat than good baking technique. I let the dough rise overnight. It’s not a new idea. Anthony Mangieri redefined New York’s artisanal scene when he opened Una Pizza Napoletana in 2004 (now living in San Francisco, he will reopen his pizzeria there later this summer). He learned to let dough rise for 24 hours in Naples. Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco and Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix all have overnight rises; at Lucali’s in Brooklyn, the dough rises for about 36 hours; and at Saraghina, also in Brooklyn, it goes for as long as 72 hours. And yet most recipes for the home cook specify a three-hour rise at room temperature. That might be enough to let activated yeast produce carbon dioxide that inflates the dough. But the prolonged fermentation of an overnight rise not only develops the dough’s structure, it also enables starches to transform into flavorful sugars. The dough becomes complex and nuanced. It’s a crust you want to eat”