Old Baking Sheets #2- The PIZZA shuffle
I like making pizza at home. Sometime it comes out really really good. Other times it just comes out good enough.
Either way, I am glad to say that I have gotten past the anxious “how do I get my pizza onto my preheated baking stone/ sheet?” stage.
And my strategy isn’t one that require a pizza stone or pizza peel. Those are great tools for serious home pizza makers who have a little extra storage room in the kitchen. But, if you’re living in a small overpriced apartment in a big, remarkable, densely populated city and are lacking in kitchen storage space, due to your vast interests in all things baking and cooking related….. feel free to just use baking sheets and generous amount of semolina or cornmeal. That’s what I use. I use the same baking sheets that I wanted to throw away or donate about a year ago. The baking sheets are old. A couple of them are too small to comfortably fit 3 rows of cookies. The other is thin and rim-less, causing things to occasionally slide off while baking. And even thought they don’t work especially well for cookie making, the baking sheets serve other purposes in the kitchen and I’m glad I didn’t get rid of them. I honestly think my pizzas have been coming out much better lately (using baking sheets), then when I first started making pizza and had a pizza stone to bake them on. That being said, you can still have lots of fun baking tasty pizza without a peel and stone. You also don’t need to be super brave and coordinated and willing to try sliding your pizza directly into your small, cramped, dark conventional oven without taking the sheet/ stone out. You can leave that to the pros and just have fun with it!
A Few Extra Observations
Flour: I’ve used unbleached bread flour, unbleached all-purpose flour, and semolina flour mixed with either of those previous flours. I like all of them. They say bread flour is supposed to give you a crispier crust. For that reason, I try to use bread flour whenever I have it. However, I can’t really say I’ve noticed an extreme difference or disliked pizza dough made with APF.
Preheating and oven temperature: I do believe it is of huge importance that your oven be preheated to approximately 450degrees (give or take 25 degrees. I sometimes even preheat to a higher temperature than I intend to bake the pizza.). Also make sure that your baking sheet/stone is placed in the oven to heat for at least 30minutes before baking. This I think does contribute to whether the bottom of your pizza will be crisp. Leave the sheets in the hot oven until the moment (second or millisecond) you are ready to slide the pizza onto it.
Adding your toppings: Add your toppings just before you bake your pizza and try not to over sauce or over load your pizza. Letting the uncooked pizza dough sit with sauce all over it for an extended period of time may have negative effects on getting the center of your pizza to cook nicely and getting the bottom to crisp. At least,that’s how I feel. But, maybe its all in my head.
Making Sauce: If you don’t love your tomato sauce, go ahead and make a BBQ, or pesto, or sauce-less pizza. I’ve had times that I’ve felt very underwhelmed by my tomato sauce. I’ve noticed, I like it best when the sauce 1. contains a good amount of fennel. 2. is cooked with a splash of nice olive oil and a healthy portion of toasty, lightly browned garlic. That’s my preference. You’ve gotta find something you like.
Cheese: I like to use blocks of cheese or fresh mozzarella and I don’t have the patience to shred it. Not to mention, I just prefer how it comes out when I use this nifty little slicer. It gives me the perfect thickness of cheese and it can also slice easily through fresh mozzarella.
Now let’s get started on this cookie sheet shuffling and pizza baking routine.
If making more than one pizza, I use 2 small rimmed sheets and one with at least one un-rimmed side (can’t have a rim all around. It won’t work. I hated un-rimmed baking sheets until I started making pizza at home. They really come in handy when you don’t have a pizza peel or bread peel)
Place the small rimmed sheets into the oven to heat up. One on each rack.
prepare the un-rimmed sheet with a generous amount of semolina flour or fine cornmeal
Spread out the flour and shape your dough over the semolina/ cornmeal. It is very important that you use enough flour so that the dough doesn’t stick (even a little bit) to the baking sheet.
Before adding all your toppings (especially the ones that may roll off, such as sausage) Give your dough a little shaky shake around the sheet to make sure it’s not sticking. Did I mention that you really don’t want it sticking to the pan????
Finish adding your toppings.
Once you’ve added your toppings….
Take one of your heated sheets out of the oven and close the oven door (to keep the heat in). Place the hot baking sheet onto the stove top. Without giving the sheet time to cool, grab the un-rimmed sheet with your pizza on it and slide the pizza onto your heated baking sheet.
If you got the pizza onto the heated baking sheet quickly enough, you may hear the pizza dough sizzle when it makes contact with the heated sheet. That’s a good sign 🙂
Please keep in mind that the other baking sheet is HOT and be sure to keep your oven mitt close by.
Now, place the hot baking sheet and pizza in the oven to bake. Repeat this process with your second pizza.
When your pizza is done baking, remove it from the oven and carefully transfer it to a cutting board.
If your sheet was preheated and if you used enough semolina/ cornmeal you shouldn’t have issues with it sticking to the pan.
Whatever you do, make sure you DON’T try to slide a thin plastic cutting board between your pizza and the super hot baking sheet. The plastic from the cutting board can get stuck and melt onto the baking sheet. That’s how I lost my pizza stone 😦 plastic and bad judgement.
It’s better to use a spatula or two to lift or slide your pizza onto the cutting board. You can also let it cool on the sheet for a bit, if that makes it easier for you.
When it’s no longer too too hot, slice and enjoy!!!!