Perfecting pizza dough - how to create the perfect pie

July 26 2013

Pizzas are undoubtedly one of the most popular dishes in Canada and North America, with customers of all generations enjoying the experience of sharing a delicious, crusty pie laden with cheese, herbs, spices and the toppings of their choice.

Given the ubiquity of pizza parlours, delivery outlets and restaurants, it is important that chefs can find a way of making their pizzas as appetizing as possible in order to fully capitalize on the growth of this market.

In a recent interview with the Globe and Mail, Rocco Agostino - executive chef of the Toronto restaurant chain Pizzeria Libretto -  gave a number of tips on how food service operators can create the perfect pizza dough, which will form the basis of a truly delicious pie.

The first step to producing a delectable pizza is to choose the right ingredients, with Mr Agostino noting that chefs need to select the best water, sea salt, flour and yeast available to them.

He recommended using a highly refined, light flour, while cautioning against adding oil to the recipe at this stage, explaining: "As far as Neapolitan pizza is concerned, you want to see the blisters come out at high heat, which won't happen with oil."

Cooks should then be prepared to adopt a patient attitude when mixing the dough, combining the water with half of the flour before letting it sit for ten minutes, then stirring the rest of the ingredients together and allowing it to sit and rise for an additional half-hour.

According to Mr Agostino, chefs who stretch their pies by hand - rather than using a rolling pin - will see the best results.

"I know it takes practice and it's something that can be a little difficult if you're not comfortable with it. With the rolling pin, you're pushing down on the dough and so when you bake it, you're not going to allow the crust to rise and be airy," he said.

When it reaches the cooking stage, it is best to heat the oven to a high temperature for the best results, particularly when using Neapolitan dough, with pizza stones helping to retain heat and expedite the cooking process.

Finally, Mr Agostino highlighted the importance of being creative and not following any recipe too closely, suggesting that the right flour and water levels can change according to subtle external factors.

"Sometimes it depends on the weather - even if you have it down to a science, if it’s raining and humid out, it’ll definitely affect it," he observed.

More and more chefs could be considering better methods of pizza production following the recent introduction of new laws that are set to make it easier and cheaper for restaurants to purchase mozzarella cheese.

The Canadian Dairy Commission's decision to create a new class of milk earlier this year brought an end to the artificially high prices of mozzarella that many Canadian eateries were being forced to deal with, a move that was welcomed by food service operators across the country and one that could drive further demand for this perennially popular dish.