Friday, May 31, 2013

The Quest for Super Thin and Truly Delicious Pizza Crust

The Quest for Super Thin and Truly Delicious Pizza Crust taught me as much as it taught Henry. I can't claim any amount of expertise in crust-making, so we have been figuring it out together, trying different recipes, and soliciting advice from friends.

We wanted thin, crisp, and flavorful. We also wanted whole grain, but our 100 percent whole-wheat flour attempt was too dense and heavy. A friend suggested using whole wheat pastry flour instead of regular whole wheat, and using it in combination with unbleached white flour. Bingo. I wanted a slightly sweet note, and a friend's recipe that called for honey inspired me to add a little maple syrup, just a little, and wow. Olive oil and a generous dose of salt rounded out the flavor.

When you start researching pizza crust, you quickly discover the millions of pizza stone advocates out there. They are convincing. They will make you believe that it is not possible to make a good pizza without a stone. I was sold, but when I priced pizza stones I changed my mind - I want to get one someday, but it's out of my budget right now. Instead, I bought this very cheap 16-inch pizza pan:

It works great! Don't let the pizza stone people deter you. But if you have one already, this recipe should translate well.

Pizza Crust
Enough for a 16-inch pizza.

2 cups flour (we like a blend of unbleached white and whole wheat pastry)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt (or a little less if that scares you)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup warm water

You can do this by hand with a wooden spoon, or in a stand mixer.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, yeast, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together water, maple syrup, and olive oil.

Add water mixture to flour mixture and stir until everything is well combined. This will just take a few seconds in a mixer, a little longer if you're working by hand. Dust your hands and a clean surface lightly with flour, turn dough onto the surface, and knead briefly (1 minute or less) until it comes together into a smooth ball.

Oil a clean bowl, place the dough in it, cover with a towel, and set aside to rise for about an hour while you prepare your sauce and toppings. (sauce recipe and topping suggestions coming next week!)

Preheat oven to 500.

Lightly oil your pizza pan or do whatever you do with your fancy pizza stone.

When you're ready to bake:
Put the dough in the middle of the pan and press and stretch it, starting from the center and moving to the edges, until it covers the whole pan. Pinch around the edges to make a rim.

We got good results with pre-baking the crust before adding any sauce or toppings. I recommend that you bake the crust for 5 minutes, remove from the oven, add toppings quickly, and then return to the oven for 9 or 10 more minutes, for a total baking time of 14-15 minutes.

Mission accomplished!