I love homemade pizza, and ever since we discovered the wonderfully fast and easy dough that our bread machine makes in about 2 hours, we haven’t bought a commercial pizza except on very rare occasions.
The best pizza comes from using a good thick pizza stone, preheated for about 30 minutes at 550F (the maximum available from an electric home oven). It would of course be better to use the requisite 700F of a commercial oven, but we do the best we can with what we have (and it’s pretty damned good).
But using a pizza stone has its pitfalls, the most important being getting the pizza off the wooden peel and managing to land it perfectly on the stone with the traditional quick jerk of the wrist.
It rarely works well for me, even when I dust the peel with cornmeal (the cornmeal is supposed to act like little microscopic ball-bearings to help the pizza slide off properly). It’s probably the fact that I tend to put a lot of ingredients on my pizza and the dough gets too heavy to slide off easily. The result is usually a mess accompanied by much cursing, as ingredients slide off the pizza and fall onto the heating element, or the pizza folds over onto itself.
But this is all now moot! I’ve discovered a great way to get the pizza on the stone with absolutely no fuss. I set up the pizza on one of my traditional “holy” pans, and lay the pan onto the hot stone for about a minute. The heat from the stone immediately cooks the base of the pizza, which now slides off the pan very easily and with great precision onto the stone for the remaineder of its cooking time.
Last night’s pizza was magnificent, the dough simultaneously soft yet with just the right elasticity (I use bread flour), and with the slightly charcoal flavor from the wheat sugars being caramelized by the high heat. Using the pizza stone also makes the process much quicker; each pizza took about 7 minutes to cook.