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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

David’s Pizza owner Mark Starr offers tips for making pizza at home

Ever wanted to start making your own pizza at home? David’s Pizza owner Mark Starr had a few tips and tricks to share.

When Starr co-founded David’s Pizza, he never intended to get into pizza-making. He thought his primary role would be on the business side. But now, he spends just as much time in the kitchen as out of it.

Starr has spent the past three decades honing his approach to pizza-making, and, lucky for us, he’s willing to spill some secrets.

First, a pizza is only as good as its ingredients. So make sure to start with fresh toppings and quality dough. You can try making the dough yourself, of course. But if you’re already going to the grocery store for toppings, save yourself a headache and see if they sell any pre-made dough. David’s Pizza sells dough balls for 12-inch pizzas at $3.50.

Next, heat the oven as high as it can safely go, but 500-600 degrees should do the trick. The idea is to get the pie in and out of the oven as quickly as possible. Place a rack you want to use about 4-5 inches from the top. Note: If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven while it heats. You don’t want your pizza going in on a cold stone.

While the oven heats, take your dough ball out of the fridge; room temperature dough is easier to work with.

Once your oven reaches the desired temperature, let it sit for at least another 10-20 minutes before the pizza goes in. The longer you can let the oven stay at the desired temperature, the more evenly the pizza will cook.

Roll your dough ball in flour and lightly flour the surface you will roll it out on.

If you see a cut in the dough, find the center and start flattening the ball outward with your hands (thumbs and forefingers) in a circular motion so that the edges end up being the thickest part. Next, use the largest rolling pin at your disposal to roll the dough into a circle, taking care not to roll the pin over the edges. Tossing the pizza isn’t necessary. But if you’re experienced, it does speed up the process.

Once the dough is thoroughly rounded, you’re ready to start adding ingredients.

Start with a ladle of tomato sauce near the center, using the rounded surface to distribute in a spiral. Then add diced (not shredded) mozzarella so that the sauce “peeks through.” Dicing the mozzarella, Starr said, makes it easier to spread.

At this stage, Starr recommends “pre-baking.” This serves to avoid overcooking the rest of your toppings later.

“The longer you leave meats and vegetables in the oven, the more juices they’re gonna release,” Starr said.

Starr pre-bakes the “shell” for 5-7 minutes, checking intermittently. You can also buy these from David’s for $12-$15, depending on the size. You’ll just want to refrigerate them until about 30 minutes before they go back into the oven at home.

“We’ve done a bunch of that over the years and people really enjoy it,” Starr said. I chose this method, and I was not disappointed.

Once the shell is done, remove the pizza and place it on a cookie drying rack (or something similar) and start adding your other toppings.

The bulk of your toppings should be distributed toward the edges. This avoids difficulty when cutting the pizza and helps keep the toppings from falling off.

Once you’ve added all your toppings, the pizza should go back into the oven for 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it, and remove it when it suits you.

Use a rotary cutter or large knife to cut the pizza. And if you hear a crackle, you know you’ve done your job.

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