by Kemp Minifie
Thin Crust PizzaOnce a month seems too infrequent to answer questions, so starting with this post, I'm going to reply twice a month to cut down on the wait time for a response. That said, don't hesitate to pepper me with more questions!
@MeeganLora and I have been tweeting back and forth since her initial question about pizza.
Q: How long to let pizza dough rise?
Kemp: I asked how long she'd been letting it rise ("...covered in the oven, off, for 1 hour. Sometimes it rises, sometimes, not") and what kind of yeast she used ("active dry").
Kemps-kitchen215When it comes to yeast doughs, some bakers believe in proofing, or testing the efficacy of the yeast, and others don't. If your liquid is too hot--you might not have a thermometer to test the water--you can kill the yeast. And sometimes, believe it or not, you can do everything right, and the yeast just doesn't work. It's a rare occurrence, but I know of cases when it's happened.
So I asked @MeeganLora for a photocopy of the recipe to see if it specified proofing the yeast. She obliged and nope, no proofing mentioned. That could be why her dough rises sometimes and not others.
But the recipe was far more intriguing than the proofing question; that's minor. It's titled Thin Crust Pizza Recipe and it's by Chris Cavender, the pseudonym for an Agatha Award-nominated writer who's written several pizza mysteries. After the dough is assembled from the usual cast of characters--bread flour, yeast, water, sugar, salt, and olive oil, although to be fair, there are purists who wouldn't use sugar or olive oil--and kneaded, it only rests for 10 minutes!
During that time, you're supposed to add a pizza stone to a preheated 425°F. oven and heat it. Pizza stones suck up the oven's heat, so it often takes significantly longer to get an oven with a pizza stone up to temperature, sometimes as long as 45 minutes to an hour. Beyond that, 425°F is surprisingly low for baking pizza; most recipes specify 500°F. There was no question I had to give this pizza dough a try!
First I preheated my oven to 425°F with the pizza stone in the lower third, which took about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, the dough came together beautifully. I left it on the counter, under a bowl, for 10 minutes as specified. It didn't really rise; it relaxed. Next came the direction to roll it out with a rolling pin. The pizza doughs I've worked with have always been stretched and never rolled, but hey, why not give it a go?
When shaping a pizza I like to work with the dough on top of a piece of parchment, an ingenious trick I learned from my former colleague and food stylist, Maggie Ruggiero. The pizza stays on the parchment, making the pizza slide easily off the pizza peel or baking sheet onto the stone, and the parchment doesn't interfere with the super-hot action of the stone. I grabbed my rolling pin, and to my amazement, the dough rolled out as easily as biscuit dough! No pulling or stretching was required to get it to a thin round that was about 14-inches in diameter.
I made a simple pizza margherita with a thin layer of tomato sauce (about 3/4 cup) and 6 ounces of fresh mozzarella, sliced and torn into pieces, and slid it into the oven. After about 17 minutes, the crust was golden and the cheese was bubbling and browning lightly in spots. Topped with some fresh basil and flaky sea salt, it was delicious, but not like the chewy pizzas I'm used to. The crust was tender with a texture vaguely reminiscent of biscuits. That's because of the olive oil--it tenderizes the pizza dough. I'll admit the dough itself doesn't have much flavor because at only 10 minutes of resting, it hasn't had a chance to develop any, but for a fast, easy pizza, you can't beat it.
If you want to try this pizza, here's the recipe with my adaptations. If you love a really thin crust, see my notes at the end of the recipe
Thin Crust Pizza (adapted from Chris Cavender)
Makes 1 (14-inch) pizza
1 cup warm water (105° to 115°F)
1/2 package active dry yeast (1/8 ounce; 1 teaspoon)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups bread flour
3/4 cup favorite tomato sauce
6 ounces fresh salted mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch slices
small fresh basil leaves
flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Equipment: a large pizza stone
Preheat oven to 425°F. with pizza stone in lower third of oven (allow about 1/2 hour for it to reach temperature).
Stir together water, yeast, sugar, salt, and olive oil in a large bowl until yeast dissolves. (If you wait 5 minutes and see a little foaming action, continue with the recipe. If not, start over.)
Add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon (not all the flour will get absorbed at first). Dump the shaggy dough and excess flour on a work surface and knead the dough, dusting it lightly with additional flour when it gets sticky, until elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Form it into a ball and let it rest under an inverted bowl for a minimum of 10 minutes (it can sit longer).
Dust the dough lightly with flour, then flatten it slightly on a large piece of parchment paper with a floured rolling pin. Roll it into a thin round (about 14-inches in diameter). Spread it evenly with the sauce, leaving a border, and top with the mozzarella.
Use a pizza peel or rimless baking sheet to slide the pizza, still on the parchment, onto the pizza stone and bake until the crust is deep golden and the cheese is bubbling, about 11 to 17 minutes.
Remove from oven and top with basil leaves and flaky sea salt to taste.
Cook's Note: If you love super-thin crusts, halve the dough and roll out one half on parchment paper to a 12- to 13-inch round, then top with the full amount of topping. Bake about 11 to 12 minutes. The remaining dough can be turned into a pizza, or chilled in a bowl, tightly covered with plastic wrap, for several days, until your pizza craving hits again!
See more from Epicurious:
Our Best Pizza Recipes
Our Favorite Pizzas
Frozen Pizza Taste Test
Around the World in 80 Dishes: Pizza Margherita