Baking Pizza at Home – and Maple Bacon Pizza!

From The Joy of Pizza: Everything You Need to Know by Dan Richer with Katie Parla

oven spring pizza
Illustration by Katie Shelly

How to Launch and Bake Your Pizza

Tools: Pizza peel: I like using a wooden peel (never metal) for launching my pizzas into the oven, but I’ll improvise and even use a clean 12-inch piece of rigid cardboard in a pinch.

You’ve got your pizza on your peel. You topped it cautiously, making sure you didn’t get any moisture onto the peel, and you’ve dried your hands. The oven is completely and fully preheated to 500°, with a baking steel or stone ready inside. Your whole house is hot. It’s time.

Before you open the oven door, give the peel a quick jerk. The pizza should move slightly in response to your movements. If the pizza sticks to the peel, it’s pretty hard to salvage. You can, theoretically, try to lift up the part of the dough that’s stuck to the peel and dust it with additional rice flour, but for me it’s not worth the risk of the dough staying stuck and launching cheese and sauce all over the inside of my oven.

When this happens, I just fold the dough in half and make it into a calzone, the most delicious way I know to recover from a round pizza failure. There’s a lot riding on this moment, but it’s important to be confident as you launch the pizza into the oven. Swift, confident movements count. Grip the peel with your dominant hand and open the oven door with your other hand. Land the tip of the peel about a half inch from the far edge of the stone or steel. Pull the peel swiftly away, cautiously allowing the dough to fall into place.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t pull this off at first. This is a legitimately difficult part of the process and it takes practice. Close the door and turn on the oven light. The pizza needs to bake for 6 to 7 minutes. Set a timer for 3 minutes. Check the pizza at the 3-minute mark to inspect the oven spring and rim caramelization.

Oven spring should be complete—meaning the rim should be prominently raised. Caramelization should be in progress—meaning the rim will be beginning to brown. Most ovens have hot spots, so if you see one part is cooking more quickly than another, slide the peel underneath the pizza and use your fingers or tongs to reposition it so the pizza cooks evenly, then close the door quickly. You want all these movements to be efficient so the oven loses as little heat as possible. Set the timer for 3 minutes.

The pizza should be baked and the toppings should be melted or cooked within 6 to 7 minutes total, but use your intuition to tell when the pizza is done.

Maple Bacon Pizza

This pizza is an undeniable crowd pleaser and really takes me back to my early teens when sweet and savory bacon dishes were all the rage. We like to keep the sweetness in check and only use a teaspoon of maple syrup for the whole pizza, which is enough to contrast the savoriness of the bacon without being cloying. Use the best syrup you can get your hands on.

For the Maple Bacon Pizza (makes 1 pizza):

Dough for 1 round 12-inch pizza

100 grams fresh mozzarella, torn or cut into 1-inch pieces

2 strips bacon, coked 75 percent of the way and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

2 tbsp Caramelized Onions (recipe below)

1 tsp high-quality maple syrup

For the Caramelized Onions (makes 1 cup):

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp pork fat or butter or extra-virgin olive oil

6 medium onions, thinly sliced

Sea salt

 

 

Maple bacon pizza
Photo by Eric Wolfinger

Stretch the dough as outlined in the book. Transfer to a floured peel.

Distribute the mozzarella over the pizza dough to the edge of the raised border followed by the bacon and onions. Drizzle with the syrup.

Bake as directed above.

Serve immediately.

 

For the Caramelized Onions:

Heat the pork fat and onions in a large pan over low heat. Season with salt.

Cook until soft and caramelized, about 45 minutes. The caramelized onions will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3 days.

 


Excerpted from THE JOY OF PIZZA by Dan Richer with Katie Parla. Copyright © 2021. Available November 2021 from Voracious Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group.