Make the dough at least one day before you plan to bake the pizzas. The dough will benefit from the slow rise in the refrigerator. Two days is even better. Be sure to put the balls of dough in containers that seal well to keep the dough from drying out and that are large enough to hold the dough after it rises. Remove the dough from the refrigerator the morning of the day you plan on making pizza. It will take 3-5 hours to warm up and rise. If you’re not ready to make pizza when the dough has doubled in bulk, just punch it down and allow it to rise again. The dough recipe makes enough for two 16 inch pizzas but the sauce is enough for four. Extra sauce will keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Since I make so much bread, I buy dry yeast in bulk. You can substitute one envelop of yeast for the two teaspoons of yeast called for in the recipe. For the sauce, use tomato puree if you prefer a smoother sauce and crushed tomatoes if you prefer a slightly chunkier sauce. In either case, really good tomatoes are called for. Buy genuine San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy, if possible. I find Cento to be a good brand and generally available in the markets in my area.
One or two days before you plan to bake the pizza, prepare the dough.
You can use the dough cycle of a bread machine, the dough hook of a stand mixer, or you can make the dough by hand following the directions in the blog post.
If using a bread machine, follow the manufacturer’s directions for the dough cycle.
If using a stand mixer, put warm, not hot, water in the bowl of the mixer. Add four cups of flour, the yeast, and salt and begin to mix. Gradually pour in the olive oil. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a slightly tacky dough. Chances are you will need all of it. Allow the dough hook to knead the dough for 8-10 minutes.
If making the dough by mixer or hand, oil the dough and place in an oiled bowl. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, covered lightly with a kitchen towel.
After the dough has doubled, or when the bread machine has completed the dough cycle, remove the dough and punch it down.
Divide the dough in half and shape into two balls. Rub the surface of each ball with oil and put each one into a separate oiled bowl or LARGE plastic container.
Cover tightly using plastic wrap if needed.
Put the dough in the refrigerator until the morning of the day you plan to bake the pizza.
On baking day, remove the dough from the refrigerator in the morning and allow it to sit at room temperature until doubled in bulk. This will take 3-5 hours (or maybe a bit longer if your refrigerator is really cold). If you are not ready to bake the pizza, just punch the dough down again and let it rest. It is better to err on the side of taking it out of the refrigerator too early rather than too late!
Mince the garlic.
Combine all the ingredients for the sauce.
Cover and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to mellow.
Some brands of tomatoes can be a bit tart. Taste the sauce right before you use it and, if necessary, add up to ½ teaspoon of sugar but no more. (Some people consider this heresy but it is a common Italian technique to counter tomatoes that are too tart. Remember agricultural products vary and sometimes you need to use your judgment to correct a situation that is not addressed by the recipe.)
Assembly of Pizza
Shred the mozzarella on the tear-drop shaped holes of a box grater. Reserve.
Lightly dust a 16 inch round pizza pan with cornmeal.
Put the dough on a metal pastry “board” or a second pizza pan and gently stretch it by pressing on it and moving your hands apart. The dough will spring back. Each time it will stay stretched a little more. After six to eight stretching motions, allow the dough to rest for several minutes to permit the gluten to relax. This will make it easier to stretch. I usually allow two or three such rest periods.
Stretch dough into a 16” round.
Flip the dough over onto the cornmeal-dusted pizza pan. (OK, I don’t have the skill to stretch the dough by tossing it in the air and putting it on the pan so this is my hack. If you can toss pizza dough in the air, please give me a lesson!)
Spread the sauce on dough to within one inch of the edge.
Add toppings of your choice, if desired.
Evenly sprinkle with shredded mozzarella.
Bake the pizza at approximately 450°F until the edges are golden brown and the dough is fully cooked, approximately 12-15 minutes.