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10.28.2002

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the perfect slice how to make 
a great pizza: part two (topping and baking)
 
by
Yee-Fan Sun
1 2 3

In the first part of our two-part article on crafting the perfect slice of homemade pizza heaven, we showed you how to make the pizza dough. Time now to actually form those pies Ö

get rolling
There are basically two easy methods that any pizza novice should be able to handle for flattening out the dough: use a rolling pin, or simply smush and gently stretch the dough into place using your (clean, of course) little fingers. I generally use a combination of techniques, starting with the rolling pin first, then further shaping the dough with my fingers. I also occasionally make attempts to pick up the dough, drape it over my fists, and very gently stretch it between my knuckles Ė you know, the way you see them do it in pizza shops. (This, as you might imagine, is a bit trickier, and if you're not careful, can result in holes.) Dough is very elastic, which means itíll feel like a constant struggle between you trying to get the dough to stretch outwards, and the dough wanting to spring back into a tight lump. Your job will be a lot easier if you let the dough rest for five minutes or so whenever it starts to feel too elastic Ė thisíll give it time to relax, and allow you to mold it into shape with a lot less effort.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until you have the desired size and shape. If youíre using a pizza stone, transfer the dough to either a floured pizza peel (a wooden paddle made specifically for sliding pizzas onto and off of pizza stones). Alternatively, if you donít feel like spending the money for such a specialized piece of equipment, a basic baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal will do just dandy.

Note: Pizza stones help a lot for baking thicker pizzas, but if youíve followed my advice and rolled/squashed out your dough nice and thin, a regular old baking sheet will work just fine as well. I like to use baking sheets because theyíre bigger than my pizza stone, easier to clean, and let me make rectangular/oval pizzas, which is the shape I prefer when Iím planning to serve them as finger food. Rectangular/oval pizzas can be sliced on a rolling diagonal (see illustration) to yield adorable little mini-wedges that make for perfect bite-sized eats.

top this
You can pop just about anything you like on your pizza, be it vegetable, meat or cheese, but the key is to avoid overloading your pie. This is particularly important with wet, heavy ingredients, which will weigh down the dough and make it unappetizingly soggy. I generally like to pre-cook my topping ingredients to ensure that (a) every ingredient cooks through properly, and (b) any water released while cooking can be simmered-off/drained.

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