It's also important to use only a small amount of yeast. The trick is to add just enough to get the dough started, then set the dough aside for several hours or even overnight, to give the yeast time to do its work slowly. This gives the crust depth of flavor.
The sauce is also key to a great pizza. The trick is to not overdo it. You want a nice, thin layer of basic sauce (and your sauce can be any color; it doesn't have to be red). Too much and you run the risk of a soggy crust.
Your sauce can be simple. For a quick red sauce, purée a can of chopped tomatoes with a little fresh oregano, basil and garlic. Give the sauce a little depth with some chopped Kalamata olives and season with just a little salt. And don't worry about cooking it -- your sauce will cook as the pizza bakes.
Red sauce not your thing? Try a white sauce -- it's easy to make and is a great start for a number of flavorings. Add caramelized onions, deglazed with a little white wine, or try mushrooms or even spinach. You can also use pesto as a sauce, or purée some vegetables (try an eggplant or butternut squash sauce). Or leave the sauce out completely and let the toppings speak for themselves.
Then think cheese. Good fresh mozzarella is not hard to find, but the classic pizza cheese, the one that oozes slightly and gives you that glorious string, is simple, low-moisture mozzarella, available at any grocery store. Or be creative with other cheeses; try Fontina, blue or fresh goat cheese.
Lastly, top your pizza, but keep it simple. With all the work you've put into creating your pizza (and your oven), you don't want to ruin things by overdoing the toppings. Remember, the more toppings you add, the more time it will take for your pizza to bake, and this is bad for the crust. Go with quality ingredients -- less is more -- and keep the toppings simple.
The first test
Fingers crossed, I baked that first pizza. In less than two minutes, the crust had puffed and set, and in only 6 1/2 , the pie was done. The crust was crisp and a rich golden-brown, and when I opened the oven, the smell of tomatoes and herbs was amazing. I waited a minute, then sliced -- the crust was light and airy around the rim, and it snapped as I cut the pie.
Now, for the real test, I bit into a slice. The red sauce had thickened slightly and had a gentle tang, complementing the richness of the melted cheese. The crust was crisp on the outside, yet airy and still a bit chewy. The flavor was gentle but complex and perfectly seasoned. This was one of the best pies I'd ever had.