Silver Oak Pizza Dough
Dough Recipe & Wood Oven Techniques
There is no way around it. If you want a true Naples, Italy-style pizza you need to have a wood burning oven. If you have a wood oven, this is an essential recipe for making an excellent deep flavored pizza crust. If you don't have a wood oven see the Chef's Note below for techniques using a pizza stone in your home oven. This pizza dough should be made a day ahead so that the flavors develop into more complex tasting dough. Take note that the dough will be very wet at first. The 3 hours “bulk fermentation” process will tighten the dough into a more familiar texture.
Four 10" Pizzas, total time:
- 1 pint water warmed to 110°F
- 1 teaspoon dry yeast
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4½ cups all-purpose flour (approximately 24 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon salt
- In a small bowl mix together the water and yeast and let sit for 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
- Add yeast mixture to a standing mixer, along with olive oil and flour. Place the salt on top (to avoid killing the yeast). Using the dough hook attachment, mix the dough on a low setting for 3 minutes.
- At this point the dough will feel very loose and "soupy". This is a good thing! Remove the bowl from the mixer and remove the hook attachment. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm location for 30 minutes.
- Now it's time for the "bulk fermentation". After 30 minutes, fold the dough in half on top of itself with a rubber spatula that has been dipped in water. Repeat this folding process 4-5 times, giving the bowl a ¼ rotation between each fold. Dip your hands in the same water as the rubber spatula and flip the dough over in the bowl.
- Cover the bowl with plastic again and place in a warm location for 30 minutes.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 until 3 full hours have passed, for a total of 5 separate folds. (The fifth and final fold of the dough will take place at the 2½ hour mark.) After the 3rd fold you will notice the dough starts to tighten up and feel more like pizza dough.
- After the 3 hours of bulk fermentation, transfer the dough onto a heavily floured work space. Generously dust the entire dough with flour and make 2 perpendicular cuts in the dough to divide it into 4 equal size pieces. The dough ball should not be sticky.
- Roll each piece into a ball and place on a tray. Brush with olive oil.
- For the best flavor cover the dough with plastic and chill in the refrigerator overnight. (If you are making your pizza the same day that you make the dough, let the dough rise for one more hour in a warm place before using.) Depending on how warm the weather is or how warm your kitchen is you will need to remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator anywhere from 1-3 hours before you plan to “spin” the pizza. If it's cold outside or your kitchen is cool, place the dough somewhere warm.
Spinning the Pizza Dough
There are many traditional and non-traditional ways to spin pizza dough. I like this "stretch and rotate" method because it's quick and easy. (For a demonstration, see the video "How To Make Pizza Dough".)
- Coat your pizza dough generously with flour then lay down flat onto a well-floured pizza peel. Using your fingers, press all the air out of the dough and press it into a flat round disk.
- Envision the disk of dough with numbers on it like a clock. With your left hand pick up the 12 o'clock edge of the dough and hold it straight up and down so you are looking at the face of the dough. The weight of the dough will cause it to naturally stretch with gravity. With your right hand pick up the 1 o'clock edge of the dough; release your left hand and rotate the dough counter clockwise around to the 11 o'clock position. Take your left hand and grip the 1 o'clock position again, loosening the grip of your right hand to let the dough hang and stretch out. Repeat this step over and over again (it will be similar to turning a car hand over hand to the left) until you have reached the entire way around the perimeter of the dough. The softer the dough, the quicker you need to rotate. If you come to spots that are thin, skip over them.
- After a couple times around the dough, lay it flat onto the peel. If the diameter of the dough is not wide enough, continue stretching. Arrange and stretch the dough onto the peel into the traditional round or oval shape.
- You are now ready to add toppings to your pizza dough.
Wood Oven Lighting Techniques
- To light a wood oven, start a fire in the center of the oven. Within 30 minutes of starting the ceiling inside the oven will become oxidized and black. Leave the fire in the center and continue feeding wood to the fire until the black oxidation on the ceiling burns away and the raw stone is exposed.
- Move the fire to the right side of the oven and push all the wood to the outer edge. Let the fire burn until the sidewalls of the oven have burned all the oxidation off and the raw stone is exposed.
- Now move the fire to the left side and repeat step 2.
- With a laser thermometer check the temperature of the floor and ceiling of the oven. It should be at least 750°F on the floor and over 1000°F on the ceiling. (For my pizzas, I ideally prefer the oven at this temperature.) Sweep the ashes from the bottom of the oven and wipe down with a wet towel.
Home Oven Techniques
- Position a pizza stone in the middle rack position of the oven. Remove all other racks and preheat the oven to its highest setting, preferably 550°F (500°F is adequate). The oven may be hot within 20 minutes however the stone needs at least one hour to reach its full heat temperature.
- Slide the pizza onto the stone. Immediately turn the oven broiler on high and shut the door of the oven. Let the pizza bake for 5-6 minutes, then rotate the pizza around and continue to bake an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden. Watch the pizza very closely; the crust will begin to bubble and brown and may become black in some areas.