All right, readers, Part 1 of this two-part series got your pizza dough to the point where it’s rising in a bowl in a warm, nurturing spot (like Mom, back in the day), and now it’s all high and light and puffy (like me, back in the ’70s), and it’s time to take that dough, make it flat, put some toppings on it and get it into the oven! Yes!

First, a word about ovens and temperatures. Now most regular people who live in regular houses in regular cities don’t have wood-fired brick ovens at their disposal. They’re expensive to build, they take up space on the patio, and they require city permits to construct and use. Of course people are always saying that you cannot make good (or “adequate”) pizza without a wood- or coal-fired brick oven that maintains 800 or 900 degrees, that without that blast of heat you’ll never get a truly great crust with “blackened blisters” on it. Well, it’s correct that without 800 or 900 degrees of heat, you will not get the charred effect on the bottom of the crust — though you can finish the pizza on a charcoal grill — but at the 500 degrees that domestic ovens provide you will get a lovely, brown crusty crust, as the images further along in this post will prove.

So, turn your oven on to 500 degrees an hour before you’re going to slide the pizza onto the stone. Oh, yes, you absolutely must have a pizza stone in the oven, or at least some flat, unglazed tiles. I have been using the same stone for at least 15 years; the surface is completely black now, but it does its job of conducting heat exactly as it should; I like knowing that when the pizza touches the heated stone, it starts cooking instantly.

For our pizza tonight (well, Saturday night) I am avoiding tomatoes, not that there’s anything wrong with tomatoes, but I’m a little weary of pizzas dominated by their influence. So the principal toppings of this pizza will only be items that LL bought at the Farmer’s Market Saturday morning: arugula, spring onions, shiitake mushrooms and Italian sausage. In addition, there will be rosemary and thyme, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. I do not, by the way, make pizza with a sauce; tried it once, years ago, didn’t like it. In the case of this pizza, of course, the first thing I did was cook the sausage.
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Now, generously sprinkle cornmeal on the paddle, or, as these devices are called in professional circles, when they’re more likely to be metal instead of wood, the “peel.” In addition to cornmeal, I use a little flour, just to ensure slippy-slidy action when the time comes. We’re going to be using a rolling pin to flatten and spread the dough — none of these tossing the dough into the air theatrics — so put a little flour on the rolling pin and on your hands too.

Whoa, there’s the risen dough, all light and soft and puffy. With both hands, plunge into the dough, pick it up, knead it a few times, and plunk it down on the paddle. Flatten it with your hands for a minute, spreading it out a little. Then start to work with the rolling pin, going at the dough from different angles. If it gets a little sticky, sprinkle on some flour. When the dough seems as if it has gone as far as it wants to, or if it wants to contract, let it rest for five or six minutes. Remember that the gluten in flour makes dough elastic, so if you go back to it after letting it alone — you can be slicing and dicing while it rests — you can roll it the rest of the way and it will be fine. The amount of dough you have should produce a 16-inch pizza, or something in that range.
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Pour a small amount of olive oil on the flattened dough and spread it around with your hand.
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Now we start to build the pizza itself with the toppings. First the arugula and the sliced shiitake mushrooms.
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Next, the sausage and the spring onions.
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Mozzarella and grated Parmesan.
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Once the toppings have been assembled — including fresh or dried herbs, salt and pepper — dribble a little olive oil across the top of the pizza. Remember that when you’re putting the toppings on the dough to leave an inch around the rim free, so it will rise and make a crusty edge.
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Now, carefully, run a spatula all the way around the edge of the pizza, checking for places where it might stick to the paddle. If necessary, shove a little cornmeal back under the pizza at the appropriate places.
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When the pizza is ready to go into the oven, open the over door, pull out the shelf with the stone, and carefully, using the spatula and all the finesse and “English” of which you are capable, slide the pizza onto the stone. It never gets easier; it never gets less nerve-wracking.Just get it over with. In a 500-degree oven, the pizza should take about eight minutes to cook. Visual checks every two minutes are important; when you see the risen areas begin to turn brown, take the pizza out and tap on the bottom; if it sounds solid and hollow at the same time, it’s done. If not, give it another minute.
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In the meantime, while the pizza is cooking, you might clean up the kitchen a bit. Lord have mercy, this place is a wreck!
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Whoa, here it is, the pizza!
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And a close-up.
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And look here: The inside of one of the puffy, crusty places. That’s yeast and gluten and heat at work!
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Any questions? You know where to find me.