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Recipes: How to make perfect homemade pizza

The secret is pairing the perfect crust with the right toppings.

White Pizza With Arugula.
Connie Miller of CB Creatives
White pizza with arugula.

These recipes are part of a new partnership between Christopher Kimball and the cooks at Milk Street and the Globe Magazine’s Cooking column.

Homemade pizza can be finicky. Nailing that perfect crust with a crispy exterior but chewy interior is a challenge for most of us. That’s why it was nothing short of a revelation when we discovered the secret ingredient for reliably great homemade pizza. The trick, it turns out, isn’t an ingredient at all, but temperature — and not the oven temperature. It’s about the dough, which must reach 75 degrees before baking. That’s because the yeast is sufficiently active at this temperature, and the dough has less gluten formation, making it easier to shape and prep for that perfectly chewy crust. This works as well for purchased dough as it does for homemade (which needs to be started the day before). We love a good white pizza, so here we top a fontina-Parmesan cream sauce with arugula, and offer a second version with mushrooms. And for red-sauce lovers, we do a classic three-cheese version that combines Parmesan, fontina, and mozzarella.

WHITE PIZZA WITH ARUGULA

Makes 2 10-inch pizzas

A whipped cream and cheese mixture makes the “sauce” for these pies. During baking, it melts to a creamy consistency, so be sure to crimp the edge of the dough to create a slight retaining wall for the sauce. Lightly dressed arugula is the perfect finishing touch. If your oven only goes to 500 degrees, the pizza will need to bake for an extra 2 minutes.

¾      cup cold heavy cream

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¾      cup (2¼  ounces) shredded fontina cheese

¾      cup (1½ ounces) grated Parmesan cheese

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1         tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1         teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice

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Semolina flour, for dusting the pizza peel

2        pizza dough rounds (see recipe below)

4        cups lightly packed baby arugula

At least an hour before baking, heat oven to 550 degrees (or 500 degrees if that’s your oven’s maximum temperature), with a baking steel or stone on the upper-middle rack.

Using an electric mixer, whip the cream until it holds stiff peaks. Fold in the fontina, Parmesan, ½ teaspoon pepper, and ¼ teaspoon salt. In a large bowl, whisk the oil, lemon zest and juice, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

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Dust a baking peel, inverted baking sheet, or rimless cookie sheet with semolina. Transfer the first dough round to the peel and, if needed, reshape into a 10-inch circle. Using the back of a spoon, spread half the cream mixture on the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Using your fingers, crimp the outer ½ inch of the dough to form a raised edge to contain the sauce and cheese. Slide the pizza onto the baking steel and bake until it is well browned and cream mixture is bubbling, 7 to 10 minutes (9 to 12 minutes in a 500-degree oven).

Using the peel, transfer the pizza to a wire rack. Repeat with the second dough round. After the second pizza has cooled for a few minutes, toss the arugula with the oil mixture. Top the pizzas with the arugula, dividing it evenly.

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THREE-CHEESE PIZZA

Makes 2 10-inch pizzas

We use a quick, no-cook tomato sauce and mixture of three cheeses for full flavor. Straining the sauce after pureeing removes excess moisture that otherwise would prevent the crust from crisping. If your oven only goes to 500 degrees, the pizza will need to bake for an extra 2 minutes.

1         14½-ounce can diced tomatoes

½      teaspoon dried oregano

1         small garlic clove, grated

¼      teaspoon red pepper flakes

1         tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½      teaspoon kosher salt

1         cup (3 ounces) shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese

½      cup (1½ ounces) shredded fontina cheese

½      cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese

Semolina flour, for dusting pizza peel

2        pizza dough rounds  (see recipe below)

At least an hour before baking, heat oven to 550 degrees (or 500 degrees if that’s your oven’s maximum temperature), with a baking steel or stone on the upper-middle rack.

In a food processor, process the tomatoes, oregano, garlic, and pepper flakes until smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl. Let stand without stirring until the liquid no longer drains off, about 15 minutes. Discard the liquid. Add the strained tomatoes to the now-empty bowl and stir in the oil and salt. In a medium bowl, toss all three cheeses until combined.

Dust a baking peel, inverted baking sheet, or rimless cookie sheet with semolina. Transfer the first dough round to the peel and, if needed, reshape into a 10-inch circle. Using the back of a spoon, spread half of the tomato mixture over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border at the edge. Sprinkle with half the cheese mixture. Slide the pizza onto the baking steel and bake until it is well browned and the cheese is bubbling and spotted brown, 7 to 10 minutes (9 to 12 minutes in a 500-degree oven).

Using the peel, transfer the pizza to a wire rack. Let cool for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, repeat with the second dough round.

 Three-Cheese Pizza.
Connie Miller of CB Creatives
Three-cheese pizza.

ROASTED MUSHROOM PIZZA WITH FONTINA AND SCALLIONS

Makes a 10-inch pizza

Heating the oven and pizza steel or stone to 550 degrees takes about an hour. We use this time to roast portobello mushrooms, which we combine with our fontina-Parmesan cream white sauce. The mushrooms also can be prepped up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated. When shaping the pizza dough, make sure that the edges are thicker than the center so they contain the cream sauce, which becomes runny during baking. If your oven only goes to 500 degrees, the pizza will need to bake for an extra 2 minutes.

Don’t undercook the mushrooms. Roasting them until well browned removes moisture that would otherwise make the pizza crust soggy.

1 pound portobello mushroom caps, cup extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 pizza dough round warmed to 75 degrees (see recipe below)

Bread flour, for dusting countertop

1 tablespoon semolina flour, for dusting pizza peel

¾ cup Fontina-Parmesan Cream (see recipe below)

2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

At least an hour before baking, heat the oven to 550 degrees with a baking steel or stone on the upper-middle rack and a second rack in the lower-middle part of the oven.

Using a spoon, scrape off and discard the gills on the undersides of the mushroom caps. Halve any caps that are 5 inches or larger in diameter, then cut the caps into ¼ -inch slices. In a large bowl, toss the mushrooms with the olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt.

Spread the mushrooms in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast on the lower oven rack, stirring once, until they have released their moisture, the moisture evaporates, and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in the thyme and garlic, then roast until the mushrooms have browned and the garlic is no longer raw, another 3 to 4 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

Turn the dough out onto a counter dusted generously with bread flour. Flour your hands and, using your fingers, press the dough, starting at the center and working out to the edges, into a 10-inch round, turning the dough over once. The round should be thin in the center, with slightly thicker edges. Lightly dust a baking peel, inverted baking sheet, or rimless cookie sheet with the semolina. Transfer the dough to the peel and, if needed, reshape into a 10-inch round.

Using the back of a spoon, spread the Fontina-Parmesan Cream evenly on the dough, leaving ½-inch border at the edge. Scatter the mushrooms over it and season with pepper. Slide the pizza onto the baking steel or stone and bake until the crust is well browned, 7 to 9 minutes.

Using the peel, transfer the pizza to a wire rack. Let cool for a couple of minutes, then sprinkle with scallions and red pepper flakes.

ROASTED MUSHROOM PIZZA WITH FONTINA AND SCALLIONS
Connie Miller of CB Creatives
Roasted mushroom pizza with fontina and scallions.

FONTINA-PARMESAN CREAM

Makes 2 cups

This cream-based white pizza sauce — inspired by Nancy Silverton — pairs well with roasted portobello mushrooms. We also liked it with sausage and hot pepper (but make sure the peppers are cooked first so they don’t leak moisture into the sauce).

¾ cup cold heavy cream

1 cup shredded fontina cheese

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream on medium until stiff peaks form, about 2½ minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the fontina, Parmesan, rosemary, and pepper. The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

PIZZA DOUGH

 Makes 4 pizza dough rounds

Though any variety of bread flour will work, we liked King Arthur Flour best. It has a higher protein content, producing crusts with good flavor, nicely crisped surfaces, and a satisfying chew. Making the dough with cool or cold water helps prolong the fermentation process, which provides better flavor. When dividing and fermenting the dough, quart-size plastic bags (coated with cooking spray) are easiest, but well-oiled 1-pint deli containers or bowls work well, too.

4         cups (548 grams) bread flour, plus more for dusting

1           tablespoon white sugar

¾       teaspoon instant yeast

2          teaspoons kosher salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, and yeast. Mix on low to combine, about 15 seconds.

With the mixer running, slowly add 1½ cups cool (65-degree) water, then mix on low until a slightly bumpy dough forms and the dough clears the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.

Uncover the bowl, sprinkle the salt over the dough, and mix on low until smooth and elastic, 5 to 7 minutes. If the dough climbs up the hook, stop the mixer, push it down, and continue kneading.

Scrape the dough onto a well-floured counter and divide it into 4 pieces. With floured hands, form each into a taut ball and dust with flour.

Mist 4 quart-size plastic bags with cooking spray, then add 1 ball to each. Seal and refrigerate for 24 to 72 hours.

About an hour before making pizza, lightly oil 4 small bowls. Remove the dough from the bags and set each ball in a bowl.

Cover with plastic wrap, then set each bowl into a larger bowl of 100 degree water for 30 minutes, or until the dough reaches 75 degrees, changing the water as needed.

Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.