Today, I realized that I have a couple of "kitchen quests" that I am not sure will ever end. Aren't we all looking for that perfect brownie, chocolate chip cookie, or pie crust? I know that I certainly have several recipes saved for each of those things, however around here you can add another one to that list - pizza dough. I have a bread machine recipe that I shared on here over a year ago. It is a great recipe, but it tends to yield more of a "hand-tossed" crust. I still use it every once and awhile, but my husband would prefer one that wasn't quite so thick, especially when I use whole wheat flour. Thus, my quest for a perfect pizza crust began.
Since the "great pizza crust quest" began, we've tried a couple of different recipes. Some of them just did not work for us. Others like this one, have great parts but do not quite meet all my requirements. Nevertheless, this crust recipe is definitely one to keep in my files. The positives include a sourdoughish flavor from the extra storage time, just enough puff on the edges to create that characteristic pizza crust, and a thin, crispy, well-baked interior of the dough beneath the toppings. The downsides - first, it takes some planning since it needs to sit in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. Secondly, I really wish it was whole wheat. I have struggled with this last requirement in making whole wheat crusts. Whole wheat flour tends to create a denser crust, and I have not found a good way around this. One thing I haven't tried is white whole wheat flour. Does anyone know if that helps?
Aside from the crust, this pizza was pretty simple in order to showcase the crust. We were a little underwhelmed with cheese as the only topping, and in making it again, I would add other toppings. Nevertheless, one thing from this recipe that I know I will use again and again is the pizza sauce! Despite trying to make my own crust, I have never made my own pizza sauce, and I will never go back. This is one of the best pizza sauces I have ever tasted, and it literally took me 2 minutes to make. If that isn't deliciously simple, I am not sure what is. Enjoy!
Thin Crust Cheese Pizza
From Cook's Illustrated January-February 2011
3 cups (16.5 oz) bread flour, plus more for work surface
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
1-1/3 cups (10.5 oz) ice water
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more for work surface (the recipe called for vegetable oil)
1-1/2 tsp. table salt
1 (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and liquid discarded
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup)
8 ounces shredded whole-milk mozzarella (about 2 cups)
For the dough, in a food processor fitted with metal blade, process flour, sugar, and yeast until combined, about 2 seconds. With machine running, slowly add water through feed tube; process until dough is just combined and no dry flour remains, about 10 seconds. Let dough stand 10 minutes. Add oil and salt to dough and process until dough forms satiny, sticky ball that clears sides of workbowl, 30 to 60 seconds. Remove dough from bowl, knead briefly on lightly oiled countertop until smooth, about 1 minute. Shape dough into tight ball and place in large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.
For the sauce, process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a medium bowl and refrigerate until ready to use. This makes more than enough sauce for the 2 pizzas. Extra sauce can be refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for up to a month.
One hour before baking the pizza, adjust the oven rack to the second highest position (rack should be about 4 to 5 inches below the broiler), set pizza stone on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Remove dough from the refrigerator and divide in half. Shape each half into a smooth, tight ball. Place on a lightly oiled sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart; cover loosely with plastic wrap coated with nonstick spray. Let stand for 1 hour.
Coat 1 ball of dough generously with flour and place on a well-floured countertop. Using fingertips, gently flatten into an 8-inch disk, leaving 1 inch of outer edge slightly thicker than the center. Using your hands, gently stretch the disk into a 12-inch round, working along the edges and giving the disk a quarter turn as you stretch. Transfer dough to a well-floured peel or to a piece of parchment paper and stretch into a 13-inch round. Using the back of a spoon or ladle, spread 1/2 cup of pizza sauce in a thin layer over the surface of the dough, leaving an 1/4-inch boarder around the edge. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, followed by 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Carefully slide the pizza off the peel onto the hot baking stone or transfer the pizza plus parchment paper to the hot stone. Bake until pizza is bubbly and beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove pizza and place on a wire rack for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
Yield: 2 13-inch pizzas
Notes: I only used one portion of the crust and froze the 2nd portion for another day. Just place the dough in the refrigerator from the freezer the morning you intend to use it, and proceed with the directions for setting the dough out at room temperature 1 hour before baking.
Also, the authors say not to "overload" a thin crust with toppings. They suggest using only 6 ounces of vegetables, or no more than 4 ounces of pre-cooked meats.