Atlanta’s Best Pizza All Starts With Dedication to the Dough

A pizza is only as good as the crust it’s built on. Making a solid pizza crust that is tasty and sturdy enough to hold up to an array of toppings isn’t as easy as it seems. It’s science (literally). You can’t cut corners and it requires exacting measures.

Of course, all of our dough at MTH Pizza is made-from-scratch. But it took us a lot of time and practice to perfect our recipe. Dough has a relatively short list of ingredients. But each ingredient’s relationship with one another is critical. If you change or tweak just one factor (water, oil, salt, etc.) you get a completely different crust. 

That’s why MTH chef and co-owner Todd “Muss” Mussman was nicknamed “mad scientist” by fellow restaurant partners after he spent more than seven months experimenting in his home kitchen to create the perfect dough formula prior to our restaurant opening.


“MTH Pizza opened our doors in October 2019, but my research and planning started all the way back in March 2019 because I knew we had to nail the crust to make this place a success. Fellow chef and MTH co-founder Chris Hall knew the exact type of crust he wanted for our pies and expected me to bring that vision to life.

Hall told me, ‘I’m envisioning a crust that is somewhere between Neapolitan and New York style pizza. Neapolitan pizza crust is too thin, the toppings all slide off. New York pizza crust is too cracker-like and crispy. I want a crust that is crispy where the dough has touched the oven, yet soft on the inside.’ So, I got to work.


I already knew I wanted King Arthur flour, but I wasn’t sure on the type. King Arthur Flour is American-made and has been around for a long time. It’s the flour I grew up using and they have a large professional selection. So, that was an easier choice.  

I was ripping through 50lb bags of raw flour and testing several different types. Some lower protein, and some with bolted wheat flour, some special purpose flours, etc. I eventually landed on King Arthur’s Sir Lancelot high gluten bread flour and that’s what we are using in our pies today.


From there, I began to play with different hydrations (water levels), fermentation times and conditions. There are so many options, literally, thousands of combinations you can create that all would yield different products.

For example, tweaking the percentage of salt slightly. A higher salt count will slow your fermentation down. Salt ratios for pizza doughs typically range anywhere from 1 to 3.5-percent. After testing a few variations, I landed on a 3-percent salt ratio. 

Our guests often comment on how tasty the MTH Pizza crust is. Well, that’s because of the salt level and the fermentation time — the two inevitably directly correlate to each other. Fermentation time and temperature play a major role in our crust too, but I’ll get to that in a minute…


Fermentation is a process that allows us to develop gluten and flavor in our dough. We accomplished the best of those metrics by utilizing a longer fermentation period. While most pizzerias generally allow their dough to ferment at room temp for 6-12 hours, we landed on a 72-hour cold fermentation process. A few factors led us to that decision:

R&D PIESDuring a trip to Chicago to accept the James Beard Award on behalf of Giving Kitchen, the MTH partners and I checked out a place called Bar Cargo. They had some delicious pies and I was intrigued by their longer 96-hour fermentation time. They served a different style pizza than we do, but I remember the dough being really delicious.

CHATS WITH EXPERTSI talked with some baking experts around town to gain some insight. I spoke with the gentleman who sold me my industrial mixer. He is the one who helped me to land on the mixing of the dough, the treatment and the fermentation. Then, I caught up with another well-known baking pro online called the ‘Dough Doctor’. He is an oldschool baker that teaches about pizza. He suggested that I keep the fermentation of the dough at a lower temperature and a longer fermentation because I was using low yeast. Yeast propagates and grows on its own, so using low yeast and a longer cooler fermentation allows the yeast more time to grow independently.

I always say that time is an ingredient in bread. Our dough is more digestible than other doughs.That’s because the fermentation process not only develops the gluten, but it also begins the breakdown process to make it easier on your stomach.


Interestingly enough, I learned to use a little ice in the dough to help keep it cool while mixing. You really want your dough to measure around 80 to 85-degrees when it comes out of the mixer, not warmer. 

With our 20 minute mix cycle, without ice, our dough was coming out at 95ish-degrees. It began puffing up and proofing and by 48 hours into fermentation, it would be overproofed. So, we began to incorporate the ice and got it back to around 82-degrees consistently. 

We mix in 80-lb batches and then scale the dough into 1-lb balls. Directly after it comes off the mixer it’s scaled, put into boxes and then walked directly to the cooler while still warm. We crosshatch the boxes so that there are gaps to allow the excess heat to blow off and condensation doesn’t form so they don’t get wet and soggy.

Then, after a little time allowing them to cool, we go back in the cooler to seal the boxes and kiss them goodnight for their 72-hour chilled fermentation. When time is up, we break them out of the cooler around 2-3 hours before service and let them come to room temperature and the dough is like silk – I’m telling you!


Flour has two proteins in it when dry, but when you mix water in, those combine to make gluten. You get this really good gluten formation from the active fermentation. The better the gluten formation, the better stretch you’re gonna get. That’s how we can throw the dough 3-ft above our heads without causing rips. 

There is still living yeast when we stretch the dough and launch it into the oven. Once in the oven, it’s like the yeast makes a mad dash to produce as fast as they can until they just die off in the heat. That’s where you get those well-known crust bubbles and puffy edges. That’s the yeast making a last ditch effort to produce the gas.

When you cut through the edge, you can see those bubbles open in the crust. The dough was able to trap and hold that gas and hold it like a balloon. Without gluten, you get no structure in your bread. So if you have flat bread or crust, that’s because it’s lacking gluten.


When we took over our restaurant space, we inherited a Renato brick oven. These are typically used for making Neapolitan-style pizza, but it works well for our style of pizza as well. The oven has gas on one side over the dome and electric in the floor — both are controlled separately. You can set the dome and the floor at different temps, so it was fun to play with this to populate the perfect setting. 

We set them both at 620-degrees, but they yield different temps in different areas of the oven when fired up. We can bake about 50 pizzas an hour in the oven. It’s important not to overcrowd the oven and we have to be careful about how many pies we cook at a time. We really have to be pros in oven management. 


Throughout the research and development process, we hosted more pop-up pizza parties than we can count. We wanted to gather opinions from fellow chefs, friends, family and neighbors to help us just make the most delicious and most favorable type of crust around. 

At the end of the day, you can’t pin our crust into a standard style box — Neapolitan-style pizza, New York style pizza or even Roman style pizza. It really morphed into a hybrid of all three, or “pizza a la Smyrna” as I like to call it. We are so grateful to be recognized so quickly by Eater, Atlanta Magazine, Thrillist and more for serving up some of Atlanta’s best pizza. And we are looking forward to serving up much more of it in the years ahead.”

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