Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Best Home-Baked, Thin-Crusted Pizza Yet

This is completely and totally not an original recipe, and I'm so glad I stumbled across it. Many thanks to Deb of Smitten Kitchen!

John grew up eating really, really good thin-crust pizza from local Italian places on Long Island. The puffy, thick-pepperoni-ed upstate NY pizzas were a new experience for him, and, honestly, having now tasted those really, really good downstate pizzas myself, I can say there's no comparison. Upstate pizzerias aren't necessarily bad, and some are downright wonderful (Mama Guiseppa's, we laud you for your upstate presence!), but the yummy dough and tomato sauce that most serve doesn't compare to thin-crust pizza with from-scratch sauce.

This isn't really like that pizza, either, but it's the best homemade pizza I've ever made, and I'll keep making it until (if) something better comes along.

We double/triple the following. If you have more than two people living in your household, you'll have to do the same.
*My notes in italics

[Deb's] Pizza, Updated

Yield: One small, thin-crust pizza

6 tablespoons warm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more water)
2 tablespoons white wine (I use white cooking wine)
¾ teaspoon active dry yeast
½ teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1½ cups flour

Cornmeal for sprinkling
Flour for dusting counter
½ pound torn-up buffalo mozzarella (as much as I'd like to do the same, we use the cheapest, regular mozzarella available in bulk. For shame!)
Few leaves of torn-up basil

Of course, top this as you would any other pizza, with your choice of favorites.

Whisk wine, water and yeast in a medium bowl until yeast has dissolved. Add honey, salt and olive oil and stir. Add flour and no matter how dry it looks, work it with a spoon and your fingers until it comes together as a dough. Add more water one tablespoon at a time if you need, but in my experience, this is almost never necessary.

Sprinkle some flour on the counter and knead the dough for a minute or two.

If you’re like me and always trying to reduce the number of dirty dishes left at the end of the night, wash the bowl you made the dough in, dry it and coat the inside with olive oil. Put the dough in, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise for an hour or up to two, until it is doubled.

[Easiest way to tell if a dough has risen enough? Dip two fingers in flour, press them into the dough, and if the impression stays, it’s good to go. If it pops back, let it go until it doesn’t.]

Meanwhile, make some sauce [recipe below].

Preheat your oven to its highest temperature. If you have a pizza stone, sprinkle it with cornmeal and put it in the oven. Otherwise, sprinkle a baking pan with the same.

Once the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a floured counter and gently deflate the dough with the palm of your hands. Form it into a ball and let it rest on a floured spot with either plastic wrap over it (sprinkle the top of the dough with flour so it doesn’t stick) or an upended bowl. In 15 minutes, it is ready to roll out.

Do so on the floured counter until pretty darn thin, then lift it onto a cornmeal-sprinkled baking sheet or pizza paddle. Add the sauce, torn-up mozzarella and slivers of fresh basil.

Slide the pizza from the paddle to your preheated pizza stone, or just put the baking sheet in the oven as is.

Bake for about 10 minutes, checking at 7. Slice and serve immediately.

[Deb's] Moderately Easy Tomato Sauce

4 roma tomatoes
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced (I use more garlic than this)
Pinch of red pepper flakes (Ground cayenne, to taste, will also work)
Splash of white wine (again, I just use cooking wine)
½ teaspoon sugar
¾ teaspoon salt

Bring medium pot of water to a boil. Poach the tomatoes for one minute only, and then drain them. As soon as they are cooled off enough that you can touch them, peel them. The peels should come right off. If they don’t, make a slit in the skins. This always does the trick.

Drain and dry the pot. Put it back on the burner over medium heat. Pour in olive oil and let it heat completely before adding the garlic and stirring it for a minute with a wooden spoon. Add the red pepper flakes and stir it for anther minute. You do not want the garlic to brown. Put the peeled tomatoes in the pot, along with the wine, sugar and salt. Break the tomatoes up with your spoon.

Let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down. Carefully taste without burning your tongue and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Makes enough for one small/medium pizza.

Abby again with the italics:
* I love having extra sauce for dipping, and I hate not having quite enough for the dough, so I usually make one and a half or twice the amount of sauce.
* During the summer, I used fresh garden tomatoes, but this winter, I've used the equivalent of home-canned tomatoes, and it's just as yummy.

*** THE LAST TIME I MADE THIS, inspired by Mama Guiseppa's, I topped the sauce and cheese with very thinly sliced, fresh garlic cloves. John said it was the best pizza I'd ever made, and as I like garlic, I agreed.


alltheposts said...

Thanks for this one! My husband never likes homemade pizza as well as delivery, and it due to the crust. I will not give up, however!!

abigail said...

It's hard to duplicate pizzeria crust, particularly if one is ordering from a brick-oven pizzeria. They're impossible to match!

I've looked up recipes for homemade crust before that were very involved but which seemed like they would duplicate take-out crust more effectively. Most involved high-gluten flour, baking stones (and/or a pan of simmering water at the bottom of the oven), and pizza peels. Some included special rollers similar to some restaurant grade rollers used to roll dough flat after it's "aged" a bit.

I thought I'd given up on making the perfect crust, but this one really is better than any other home version I've tried so far. I used my sole pizza screen for baking the first pizza, and that worked well (but so did the cornmeal dusted baking sheet.)

Hope this is a step up from your other recipes. If not, you can blame it all on Deb! :)

Rebecca said...

One good pizza tip I have discovered is to ignore the oven temperature and time on recipes. Crank your oven up to 500 about 5 or 10 minutes before you put the pizza in. Put the pizza on the lowest rack, closest to heat. I check on the pizza in eight minutes and determine whether or not they are done. I think the high heat is the key.

I also bake the dough for a few minutes (until dry looking and a bit bubbly but NOT even close to being brown) before I add the sauce and toppings.

This seems to help immensely with the pizza crust being firm enough to eat from your hand. Occasionally, we end up eating pizza with a fork, though so maybe advice shouldn't be taken from me...

abigail said...

Yep, highest temperature is recommended in this recipe, as well; however, it shouldn't need prebaking because the crust is so crazy thin. For thicker crust pizzas, I do recommend a bit of prebaking, most especially if one is using a boatload of toppings that would otherwise make the crust soggy.

My main problem with pizza crusts is found in their inherent consistency. I want that crispy, chewy, yet uncracker-like dough that comes out of Mama Giuseppa's brick oven. Sigh. Someday.

alltheposts said...

I finally tried this recipe. We agree that it makes the best homemade pizza yet!! My family LOVED the sauce, I doubled it and could have used more (dipping). Thanks!!


abigail said...

Glad to hear it! I'm always paranoid that the recipes I post won't taste as good in other people's kitchens, but I tell myself that readers will gravitate toward those recipes they'd naturally like, anyway.