I have had great success with my Bread Illustrated inspired pizza nights in the past (see my thick-crust Sicilian-style pizza and spinach ricotta calzones). So I had high expectations with my latest pizza attempt from the book: thin-crust pizza.
The result: an easy dough that requires a little patience, a slightly finicky cooking process, and two pizzas that were to die for delicious.
Making the dough is easy, as long as you remember to make it in advance (we had a minor crisis when I forgot that one step required 1 to 3 days of chilling in the fridge – pizza night was delayed by a night). It’s simply a matter of mixing bread flour, sugar, yeast, ice water, vegetable oil, and salt in the food processor, popping it in the fridge, and waiting a day (or three).
Before baking, the dough is split into two, rolled into balls and left to rise for an hour, then stretched to fit onto a 13 inch baking stone. I actually don’t have a baking stone, but I have two somewhat flimsy 13 inch round pans that did the trick just fine.
Stretching pizza dough can be a little tricky, but I found this dough pretty easy to work with. I had a few thin spots, but I didn’t have any tears – and hey, it’s supposed to be thin crust pizza. The outer crust was thicker and had the perfect chewiness to it, when all was said and done.
The recipe also includes a simple tomato sauce made of canned tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, red wine vinegar, oregano, salt, and pepper. I found the sauce to be a little thin, so I didn’t add the reserved juice from the can of tomatoes as recommended. The recipe also makes more than you need for the pizzas, but it keeps for a week in the fridge (hello, pasta night).
The recipes makes a cheese pizza, calling for only fresh mozzarella and parmesan as toppings. I wanted to jazz it up but still keep it simple to give the crust a chance to wow. The recipe also warned against piling too much up on the pizzas, which can’t handle as much as something with a sturdier crust. I layered on thinly sliced tomatoes and basil beneath my mozza and parm.
Up until this point, things were pretty standard for pizza making. It’s the baking that was a little tricky. The directions say to heat the over to 500 degrees an hour pre-baking, then to turn the broiler up to high and place the pizza 3 inches below the broiler. It instructs to keep the pizza under the broiler for 8 to 10 minutes, which seemed like a lot.
When I did exactly as instructed, bits of dough were charring after about 6 minutes, but the middle of the pizza felt soggy. Afraid of smoking out my house, I moved the pizza a little lower for the last few minutes. The result was a properly cooked pizza, though it was a little unappetizing with the burn marks on top. The taste was excellent, though.
With the other pizza, I kept it on the middle rack of the oven the entire time. The middle was flimsy after 9 or so minutes, so we turned off the broiler and turned on the regular oven to crisp things up. It worked perfectly.
In the future, I will probably bake this in the oven at a high-ish temperature (maybe 400 – 450) then finish it under the broiler for a power minute or two. It will likely take a few tries to truly perfect.
However, no matter how you bake it, as long as its not burnt to a crisp or left raw, it’s probably going to taste fantastic. I like to test my recipes by considering whether or not I’d enjoy them if I was served them at a restaurant. This was definitely restaurant caliber pizza – the kind you’d pay, like, $18 for per pie even though the flavours are pretty simple. In other words, it passed my test with flying colours.
So we’re 3/3 on the pizza recipes. I’ve almost baked my way through “The Perfect Crust” chapter – all I have left are the deep-dish pizza, pissaladiere, and lahmacun. To be continued!