This recipe is one of those things I wish I’d learned as a kid, because it makes the best homemade pizza I’ve ever had. The reason this method works so well is that it allows you to blast the pizza dough with the most heat possible from a home oven, in a really controlled way, first on the stovetop, then in the broiler. Crazy, right?
Note: This recipe calls for a starter—this is a pre-ferment, typically made of whole wheat flour, water, and yeast, that can improve both the complexity of flavor and the keeping time of bread. If you want to DIY, see how to make a sourdough starter. (And see more delicious sourdough discard recipes for using it all up.) While the deeply flavorful crust is a big part of why this recipe is so good, the skillet method also works with other homemade pizza dough—or even with store-bought pizza dough.
- Yield: About 4 pizzas
- Difficulty: Hard
- Total: 5 hrs
- Active: 1 hr
For the dough:
- 1 tablespoon (or 15 g) sourdough starter
- 1/2 cup (or 120 g) cool water (60°F)
- 3/4 cup (or 105 g) whole wheat flour
- 1 cup (or 240 g) lukewarm water (80°F)
- 2 3/4 cups (or 415 g) bread flour
- 2 teaspoons (or 12 g) sea salt
For the toppings:
- 1 1/2 pounds heirloom tomatoes
- 20-25 fresh basil leaves
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
- 8 ounces fresh burrata cheese
- Good olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Maldon salt
- Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)
- Gather your foodstuff and tools.
- Make your sourdough pre-ferment. Use starter that is sour smelling in a good way, most likely between 12 and 24 hours old. Make your pre-ferment 8 to 12 hours before you want to start mixing your dough— likely in the evening before you go to bed or in the morning. You want it to be the consistency of thick pancake batter. Put the sourdough starter, cool water and whole wheat flour into a big bowl. Mix it up real good. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap and leave it alone for 8 to 12 hours.
- Mix the lukewarm water, bread flour and sea salt and then mix them into your sourdough ferment. This dough will be a little difficult to mix. Don’t be scared; just proceed as normal, and everything will be fine. Once you’ve mixed everything, cover your bowl with a plate or plastic wrap, and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour. This dough uses a touch more flour than regular bread dough, which leads to a pizza dough that’s essentially stronger, making it much easier to shape into a pizza and also yielding a crisper crust.
- Knead the dough. After the dough sits for a while, stretch and fold it—it will be sweet and gentle yet firm. Once you’re done, cover the dough, and let it sit for 1/2 hour.
- Knead a few more times. After 1/2 hour, stretch and fold the dough another ten times. Cover the dough, and leave it alone for another 1/2 hour or so. Do this another two times, at 15- to 30-minute intervals.
- Choose your own path. Now you get to choose your own adventure for the bulk rise. Do what is convenient for you here. If you want to shape your dough into balls in 3 to 4 hours, let it sit out somewhere in your kitchen. If you want to shape your dough into balls anywhere from 12 to 48 hours later, stick it in the fridge (or just outside if it’s cool out—about 45°F).
- Shape the dough into balls. After the dough has completed its bulk rise, flour your counter and dump out the dough. Cut off a piece of dough about 8 oz/225 g—it’ll make a ball that’s about 3 in. in diameter. Use a little flour on your hands to shape it into a ball, and set it on a plate or in a baking pan, seam-side down. Do this with all of the dough, placing the balls next to one another.
- If you want to bake pizza within a couple of hours, cover the dough with plastic wrap and leave it on the countertop.
- If you want to bake in 6 to 24 hours, cover the dough with plastic wrap or a plastic bag, leave it at room temperature for an hour, and then put it in the refrigerator. If you do this, you’ll need to let the dough warm up for 30 to 45 minutes when you’re ready to make pizza.
- Prepare the toppings. We’re going simple with this pie: tomato, basil, and cheese (and salt). Heirloom tomatoes are delicious and easy to find, but if you have a favorite tomato sauce then be my guest—you’ll need about 1/4 cup of sauce per pie.
- Preheat the frying pan and broiler. Once you’re ready to make pizza, put your frying pan on the stovetop, pour in 1 Tbsp of olive oil, and turn that burner on high. Turn on the broiler as well, and position a rack as close to the broiler as you can. It will take 6 to 8 minutes for both of these to get screaming hot, and you’ll know the pan is ready when the oil is smoking. Just open your windows and get pumped.
- Stretch the dough and toss it in the pan. Toss a tablespoon’s worth of flour on your countertop, and plop a dough ball onto it. Sprinkle a little bit more flour on top of the dough, and get to work gently stretching it into a round shape.
- Use your fingertips to press the dough ball into a circle.
- Lift up the dough and gently squeeze it between your fingers and thumb, creating a lip around the outer edge.
- Lay the dough down on the counter, and hit it with a little more flour to prevent sticking.
- Pick up the dough, lay it across the backs of your hands, and gently stretch it out to 10 to 12 in/25 to 31 cm in diameter. Once it’s as big as the frying pan, toss it in there.
- Build the pie. You’ve got about 3 minutes until the bottom is baked, so there’s no need to rush this. You can do it however you want, but I like to sprinkle about 1 tsp of Maldon salt on the pizza, mostly on the outer edge of the crust, then spread the tomato slices out to within about 1 1/2 in/4 cm of the outer edge. I then artfully toss on 5 or 6 big basil leaves and rip up the burrata into five or six pieces, and toss them on the pie, covering each basil leaf so the leaves don’t burn.
- Once you’re done, use a fork or spatula to lift up the dough, and check the color of the bottom. When it has some dark brown spots, it is ready to go in the broiler.
- Pop it in the broiler. Use an oven mitt or towel to place the frying pan in the broiler. It will probably take 2 to 3 minutes to get nice and speckled, brown with some specks of black. Check it after a minute, and rotate the pan if it’s browning unevenly.
- Take it out, and finish the pie. Be careful taking it out of the broiler, as everything is hot as hell. Slide your pizza out of the frying pan and onto a cutting board. Drizzle the pie with some extra-virgin olive oil and grate some Parmesan cheese on it. Cut it up into slices, let it cool for a minute, and share it with someone you have a crush on.