Back in 2014, for the third time, I attempted to make pan pizza for guest. For the third time, everything seemed to be going perfectly and yet the crust came out far too hard. You can read about that here.
After that, I literally hung up my pizza peel (though I took it off the kitchen wall for free-form boules and loaves).
Recently, however, my neighbors insisted on me attempting again. So, I did, and was actually successful. I did change some things, but I'm not sure which ones made the difference, with the exception of the first two I'll list, which are pretty obvious.
1.) We bought our first -- and hopefully forever -- home two years ago and it came with a not-awesome (but actually calibrated) oven. My apartment oven needed some serious bread-pan Jenga'ing to make loaves come out evenly. It ran so hot I had to put an inverted cookie sheet over the heating coil to keep the heat in check.
2.) I give all baker demi-gods on this site permission to laugh and poke fun at me for this: I used to think you had to use a pizza stone no matter what. So I'd put the stone under the pan pizza pan, which I think (correct me if I'm wrong) multiplied the heat. This time, the pizza stone was used only for serving.
3.) Instead of the sprinkle method, I did not sift the flour at all and just straight scooped it. Obviously, this means I used more flour.
4.) At the same time, this time I didn't blind bake. When the crust felt far too dry, I remembered the author of the cookbook lived in Chicago, where there is humidity, and I live in Arizona, where there is none. I've actually cut out as much as a full cup of flour on some loaves with good results. So this time, I dipped my hands in ice water and "wet kneaded" until it felt right.
5.) I parbaked for only 3 minutes, not four, on the bottom rack and pricked way more holes in the dough.
6.) I left it to the bread gods. I didn't oven peek, I didn't even let myself turn on the light and look through the window. I focused on making appetizer veggies and the salad with the stoic determination of a Spartan heading into battle. Nothing, but nothing, was going to make me check this pizza.
7.) I pre-sauteed the toppings (turkey Italian sausage, green peppers, onions and mushrooms). This is not a step I would do again, as I did end up with excess liquid. The previous fails were not topping-related, so I don't think mushroom moisture is an issue for me.
Whatever the difference was, I do believe I have, at last, made peace with pizza. I shall attempt this art in other forms. Stuffed, thin crust, the possibilities are endless!