People can be seriously particular about their pizza crust. There is the thin crust camp who defend their position with the claim that real pizza, like the kind you get in Italy, is made with light, thin, crackly crust. Adding just the right amount of yeasty flavor, it really allows the toppings to shine. Then there is the more-crust-the-better pizza eater who says “Diets be damned, give me some more of that fluffy, doughy, bready yumminess and top it off with as much cheese as you can.” And to take it one step further, stop on by Domino’s for some stuffed crust. Can we say extravagant?
I enjoy crust. If I’m feeling like the gym hasn’t seen enough of me recently, neatly nibbled crust edges will be left on my plate. If it’s one of those times when I want to indulge, hey, I’m going to have my crust and eat it too. Pizza snobbery has never really been my thing, though. Back in the days of dance class, soccer practice, homework and early morning carpools, my family ate our share of pizza. We’d swing by the little pizza place, nestled quietly in its shopping center, to watch a high schooler’s hands assemble our pizza behind a slightly smudged plastic partition. Sometimes, if it was a really good night, we’d treat ourselves to a container of their chocolate chip cookie dough, and I’d get to steal nibbles on the ride home. I’d hold the prepared pizza in my lap, the uncooked dough gluey and malleable through the plastic wrap covering. Through the front door I would scamper, eager to preheat the oven. A mere twenty minutes later we’d sit down to a bubbling circle of fragrant vegetables, stringy cheese, and a miraculously addicting white sauce laced with garlic. I thought it was the best pizza I’d ever had. Pre-made, chain-store pizza worked for me. And honestly, it probably still would. But, pre-made food and a love of cooking make a pretty unhappy couple. So, I’ve been converted. And now I make my own pizza.
I’ve tried a number of pizza dough recipes. Some have worked better than others. This recipe, from a fantastic little book called the The Big Book of Appetizers, is my favorite to date. Simple, quick, light but a little bit fluffy. The crust is partially cooked before adding the toppings which helps it maintain its’ shape and prevents it from getting soggy. I cooked it using both a pizza stone and a baking sheet with equally satisfactory results. I topped one of my pizzas with olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic, parmesan, caramelized onions and roasted asparagus. My other pizza had a traditional tomato-herb sauce, caramelized onions, mushrooms and parmesan sprinkled on top. Next, I’m going to try making pizza on the grill!
1 T sugar
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 1/3 c. warm water
1 T olive oil
3 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 T salt
cornmeal (for dusting)
Place a pizza stone or rimless cookie sheet in the oven. Pre-heat oven to 450 F.
Add sugar and yeast to the warm water and allow to sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the olive oil and stir to mix.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour and salt until blended. Turn the food processor on and pour the yeast mixture through the top. Process until the dough forms a ball, about 30 seconds. Let the dough sit in the processor for 10 minutes.
Divide the dough and roll the dough out on a floured surface (toss/stretch/pull if you prefer) to the achieve the desired shape and thickness.
Sprinkle a light dusting of cornmeal on your heated pizza stone or cookie sheet. Place the dough on top of the cornmeal and pierce a few times with a fork. Bake for about 5-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and top your pizza with desired ingredients. Place your pizza back in the oven until your crust is golden and your cheese is melted, about 6-10 minutes depending on your toppings.