In a large bowl, add 1 and 1/2 cups warm water and 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast. (Instant yeast can also be used.) The water should be warm but not hot, about 105-110 degrees F. Stir in the yeast and let it sit for 5 minutes until it is dissolved. It will not be bubbly, but make sure to stir any lumps of yeast so that the mixture is uniform before moving on.
Use a scale
to add 14 ounces of bread flour* to the bowl. If you don't have a scale, carefully measure out 3 cups plus 1 tablespoon bread flour by spooning the flour into the measuring cup and leveling off the top. It is important to measure the flour precisely for this recipe. Don't be tempted to add more.
Add in 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and stir the mixture together with a spoon. Do not knead it. Mix until it is all combined and no further.
Use oil or nonstick spray to grease a large bowl or tupperware. Scrape the dough in and spread it out as much as possible. Cover loosely with a lid or with plastic wrap. Make sure the lid is not too tight, you need some of the gases to be able to escape.
Turn your oven on to 350 degrees F for about 1 minute, then turn the oven off. Open the door and feel the rack. If it is too hot to touch with your fingers, then leave the door open and let the oven cool a bit. You want the oven nice and warm but not so hot that you can't touch the inside with bare hands.
Place the rising dough in the oven and shut the door. Let rise for 4 hours. After 2 hours, remove the dough from the oven, turn the oven on again for a minute, and then return the dough to the oven when it has warmed up again. Make sure it is not too hot. After 4 hours, your dough should have at least doubled in size and should be airy and bubbly.
Divide the 4 tablespoons oil** between two cast iron skillets
and swirl to coat. You can use 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillets for this recipe.*** You need two skillets because the dough rises in the pan. If you only have one skillet, you can half the recipe, or see the recipe note about using round cake pans.
Dip your hands and the end of a rubber spatula into the oiled pans to coat well. Use the oiled spatula to divide the risen dough into two. Scrape half the dough into each oiled pan.
Use your oiled fingers to lift up an edge of the dough and bring it toward the center. Repeat this process a few times until the dough has formed a loose ball. (see photos) Flip the ball over so the smooth side is on top and everything is completely coated in oil. Press your hand down on top of the dough and gently spread it out as much as you can toward the edges of the pan. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
Cover each pan loosely with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic does not touch the dough.
Repeat the oven-warming process for the second rise. Turn the oven on for about a minute, turn it off, and put the cast iron into the oven when it is warm but not hot.
Let the dough rise in the warm oven for about an hour and a half. It should have spread to the edges of the pan completely and look bubbly.
Remove the pans from the oven and keep in a warm place. Preheat your oven as hot as it will go, 550 degrees F if possible. Let the oven preheat for at least 20 minutes to make sure it is seriously hot. Arrange the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. If you have a pizza stone
, place it on the rack.
Meanwhile, top the pizzas. Add about 3/4 cup pizza sauce (half of a 14 ounce jar) to the top of each pizza and spread on top, all the way to the edges.
Add a few thin slices of mozzarella to the top of each pizza, only about 4 ounces all together. (Or use string cheese if you are weird like me). You don't want to weigh down the dough too much.
Sprinkle about 1 and 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella on top of each pizza.
Divide the pepperoni between the pizzas. Remember not to add too many so you don't weigh down the dough.
Sprinkle each pizza with a tablespoon of shredded parmesan cheese.
When the oven is super duper hot, put the pizzas into the hot oven, on the pizza stone if you have one. Bake the pizzas for about 9-12 minutes. The pizza is done when the edges are starting to look brown and the cheese on top is becoming golden. The surest way to test for doneness is by lifting the edge of the pizza with a metal spatula to make sure that the bottom of the crust is a deep golden brown.****
Remove the pizzas from the oven and let set for 2 minutes. Then use a spatula to slide under the pizza and edge them out onto cooling racks. This helps ensure that the crust stays crispy. Let the pizzas cool on the racks for a few minutes, then slide onto cutting boards, slice and serve.