Maybe I am a bit of a snob in saying this, but the take-away pizza that the great city of Durham has to offer has left me a bit disappointed. This is no fault of the take-away restaurants in the city, they make great pizza, and many people enjoy them no problem. My real issue is the specific pizza I crave is a crispy New York style that is hard to find anywhere in the UK. Especially since the start of this second lockdown, when my take-away ordering has become more frequent, I find myself lusting for a thin, crispy, saucy pizza that makes me feel like I am on a crowded street in New York city. Finally, one night, I knew that I had to take it upon myself to get the specific pizza experience I so desperately wanted.
There were a couple obstacles in my way, of course. First of all, shockingly, I do not own a giant pizza oven that goes up to thousands of degrees in heat that allow this kind of pizza to achieve its unique texture. And, just as shockingly, my student house did not come with one. Moreover, I had never made pizza from scratch before and had a feeling that my first attempt would be less than glorious. However, I also knew that many before me had probably found themselves in this dilemma as well, and I knew there would be a plethora of recipes and tips on the internet to guide me through the process.
After talking about my dilemma with one of my housemates, they recommended me a YouTube video that has proved to be both extremely helpful and successful in aiding me on my quest for New York style pizza made right at home. In a student kitchen with limited facilities, no less. The video and recipe belong to YouTuber Adam Ragusea, whose channel has all sorts of helpful recipes and cooking tips on it. The video I used is actually his second video about making homemade pizza, as he updated his first one in order to share his improvements to the recipe and to make it more accessible to people who do not have expensive kitchen equipment such as stand-mixers.
Before beginning the actual recipe, you will want to make sure you have a large baking sheet and place it in your oven. Turn your oven on to the highest possible temperature, with the baking tray still inside. Allow the oven to heat up for as long as possible so that the pizza may cook to the appropriate, crispy consistency.
To begin the recipe, you simply need a large bowl, some strong bread flour, a little salt, sugar, oil, yeast, and some warm water. In the bowl, mix 2 ½ cups or 600 ml of warm water with a tablespoon of sugar, as well as a teaspoon of active dry yeast. I just mixed all this together with my fingers. Next, put in two tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of salt. Finally, put in about 5 cups or 600 grams of the strong bread flour. You may need to add more later on, but for now this amount should be sufficient to start the kneading process. Begin kneading the dough, adding more flour when it becomes too wet and sticky to work with. Keep this up for a few minutes, and when you are able to stretch out a small patch of the dough without it breaking or tearing, you may stop kneading.
This amount of dough is enough to make four pizzas out of, so tear the dough into four equal parts and place each piece into separate bowls or containers that have been rubbed with a little olive oil to prevent them from sticking. If you wish to bake the pizzas straight away, it is best to leave them to rise at room temperature for a couple hours. If you wish to save some, simply put them in the refrigerator until you wish to bake them.
Now comes the fun part: stretching the dough and adding the toppings. Since these pizzas are very thin and flimsy when uncooked, you will want to have a piece of cardboard handy and flour it generously. Stretch your dough onto this piece of cardboard, making sure the pizza will be able to slide easily from the cardboard onto the baking tray already in the oven. Top your pizza however you wish to, I used a jar of ready-made tomato sauce from Tesco, some shredded mozzarella, some whole mozzarella that I cut up, some black olives and some pickled artichoke hearts. Make sure not to add to much sauce or cheese as too much will cause the dough to become soggy or not cook properly. Add less than you think you will need.
When you are ready, open the oven and slide the pizza straight from the piece of cardboard onto the waiting baking tray. Cook the pizza for a few minutes, checking to make sure you are not burning it. Usually it takes around eight minutes to cook but doing it by sight is best and will give you the best pizza. Take it out of the oven carefully, and enjoy some take-away quality New York style pizza from the comfort of your home.