The whole world likes pizza. But in New York City, we have a love affair with it. Italian-American pizza as we know it was born here. New York City is the “slice joint” capital of the world, but if you can’t make it out to the Big Apple, I’m going to show you how to make it right in your own kitchen at home.
First, let’s talk about your oven. What gives New York-style pizza its signature crispy crust is the deck ovens that we use. Deck ovens have thick stones that we cook the pies directly on. These stones retain a lot of heat and give our crusts that unbeatable bottom. To convert your home oven, you’re gonna need a pizza stone. Don’t have one? You can use quarry tiles.
Go to Home Depot, buy a box of quarry tiles, put your oven rack all the way to the bottom and lay your stone or quarry tile over the rack. The stone needs to be heated all the way through before putting your pizza on it; otherwise you’ll end up with a cooked top and a soggy bottom. Turn your oven up as high as it goes; we want to get to about 550-600 degrees F. Let it preheat for at least an hour.
Once you’ve got your oven ready, you can start preparing the dough. One of the other key ingredients to creating a real New York City pizza is making the dough with real New York City tap water. New York City tap water is by far the best-tasting tap water in the world. It’s a fact — Google it. But if you’re not in New York City, don’t worry because you can use Poland Spring’s, which in my opinion is a close second when talking about great-tasting water. It’s just as soft and works wonders with dough. If you can’t get Poland Spring, go with DASANI.
To make the dough you’ll need:
1 cup water
1 tablespoon dry yeast
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for the bowl
3 1/2 cups high-gluten flour
In a large bowl combine the water, yeast, salt and oil. The salt is gonna give it great taste and color. The oil provides the great texture. Then add the flour; mix it by hand until it forms a ball and looks smooth. Take it out of the bowl, add a little oil to the bowl, then place the dough ball back into the bowl (oil will keep it from sticking). Cover the bowl with a dish towel or something that will allow it to breath. Give it an hour; it should double in size.
While the dough is proofing, let’s get your sauce and cheese ready. New York-style pizza sauce is very simple. It is not cooked ahead of time; it cooks on the pie when it goes into the oven. Get a can of Italian peeled plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, but California tomatoes are just as good. For one pizza, use a 20-ounce can. Pour the tomatoes in a bowl and smash them with your hand until they are the consistency of a chunky sauce. Add 3 pinches of salt and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. That’s it, plain and simple. Real New York City pizzerias don’t add any garlic, pepper or oregano.
Now for the cheese: you’ll need to find real whole-milk mozzarella, preferably POLLY-O (the good stuff) — buy a pound and use a little more than half, about 10 ounces. Cut the block up into 1-inch cubes. You’re also going to need 4 tablespoons of grated Locatelli Pecorino Romano cheese. If you can’t find Locatelli, look for any Pecorino Romano. Now you’re going to need what we call a “peel” to get your pie into the oven. If you don’t have one, that’s ok; you can use the top of any pizza box or any other piece of cardboard that’s at least 16-by-16-inches. First flour your peel and start stretching your dough. Start by pressing down your dough from the outside and working your way into the middle. Try not to take all of the air out of the dough. Once it’s flattened, pick it up and gently toss it back and forth. Try not to let the center get thin. It’s important that the dough is even. Stretch it into about a 16-inch circle, then put it on the floured peel. Now spread the 10 ounces of cubed mozzarella evenly over the dough, and distribute two 6-ounce ladlefuls of sauce over the cheese. Start from the edge and create a bull’s eye right up to the middle. Try to distribute it as evenly as possible, and then sprinkle your grated cheese over the sauce. Let it cook for about 12 to 15 minutes, until it looks like all the cheese has melted and started to brown. While it’s cooking, jump in your car, drive in reverse to the nearest store that sells coca-cola, run in and yell, “Yo! Where’s the Coca-Cola at?” Grab your bottle, pay the guy, get in your car and punch it home while blasting Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” Take the pizza out of the oven, let it cool, get a pizza cutter, cut it up, pour some Coke over ice — cause the ice cuts the Coke — and enjoy. See that? I saved you a trip to New York. But when you do come to New York, make sure you come to Artichoke Pizza and ask for Fran.