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The Quest for the Perfect Thin Crust Pizza

Posted on February 23, 2012 by Venia Coffee Roasters | Keith There have been 0 comments

While doing a little file purging on my computer I found this post I wrote several years ago about one of my favorite foods...pizza.   Pizza, like coffee, is really a culinary art.  When done well,  both can clear up a grey day and evoke angels to sing in chorus above.    May angels sing upon your next pizza!  Enjoy.

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Circa 2010

If you know me, you know that one of my passions in life is to make the perfect thin crust pizza.  My journey has taken me down the roads of many mediocre pies with floppy, dense, bland crusts.  My goal has been a thin crust that is crispy and cracker-y on the bottom and stretchy and chewy in the middle.  It sounded easier than it proved to be at first.

Perfect Thin Crust Pizza Dough

I scoured the internet and many different bread books for the perfect recipe, and found all were seriously lacking.  Most were aimed at the quick and easy crowd of cooks who want to mix and toss the dough in couple of hours.  Well, I am here to say that I couldn't replicate a crust that was promised in the advertising.  I am also here to say that if you want a quick and easy thin crust pizza, you are better off rolling down to the Rock (I recommend the "My Generation"), but if you are okay with slow (but easy) thin crust pizza, well my friend, continue reading!

So the problem with most recipes is they neglect to let the yeast properly ferment the dough, which develops the nice complex flavors that leave most home fired pies on the bland scale.  Good crust starts with good dough, and while it isn't hard in any way, shape, or form to make good dough, it does take time for the yeast to do its important little job of multiplying.  That said, you need to plan a day or two in advance.

So the dough has a few steps (these steps are for the most part unattended, so the prep time is minimal):

Day 1 - Make a Sponge

2 cups bread flour

2 T of raw sugar

1 T of yeast,

2 cups warm water

  • mix together with a wood spoon in a glass bowl with plenty of room to grow and bubble.
  • Let it work in at room temperature for 12-24 hours, stirring down as needed.  I like to place a plate (lid) over the top during the process.  Turns out cats really like yeast. Who knew?

Day 2 - Make the Dough:

1/2 Cup Water

3 Cups bread flour

2 t salt

8 T extra-virgin olive oil

  • Sift dry ingredients into mixer
  • Add oil and water and sponge
  • Using a dough hood, mix on low until ball forms (2 minutes)
  • then on a medium low, kneed for another 5-10 minutes.
  • (Note: dough is wet and can be a little hard to handle at this stage)
  • Allow dough to rise in a warm place until doubled (about 2 hours)
  • Knock down and Roll out onto a floured surface

At this point, I divide the dough into four equal balls, place on small plates covered with plastic wrap (un-tucked),and again allow to double in size.  After this step I prep ingredients and make the sauce.

Cooking the Pie:

So this is probably the most overlooked step in making a good crust, yet will probably have the the greatest impact on the final product.  First, you will need a ceramic stone.  These are widely available and can spend anywhere from 8 bucks to well over $100.  The reality is, there is no functional difference between the 8 dollar stone and the 100 dollar stone, so I would say not to waste your money on an expensive one.  The more it is used, the darker it will get and the less anything will stick to it.   Second you will want a really-really hot oven.  Most residential electric ovens I have seen will top out at 500-550 degrees F (260-290 C), like mine, so set it as hot as it gets.  Put the stone on the lowest rack in the oven and pre-heat for a good half-hour (hot-hot-hot).

On a floured surface, roll off one of the dough balls and pound it flat using your finger tips.  Flip over and dust with additional flour as needed.  If you are brave, give it a toss (it takes practice, but in my opinion should be a skill on everyone's bucket list).  You want the dough to be relatively pizza shaped and about 1/4 inch thick.  Toss some corn meal on a pizza peel (or pizza pan) and plop the shaped dough on top.   Spear repeatedly with a fork and place on the hot stone in the oven for 4 minutes.  The dough will start to puff up in places.  Don't worry, just wait the 4 minutes, it will deflate when removed.  After 4 minutes remove.

At this point, add your sauce and toppings (one of my favorites is a simple tomato sauce {with garlic, olive oil and oregano} fresh mozzarella, pepperoni, red onion, blue cheese, and mango), and place back on stone for 10-15 minutes.  The edges should be browning in places, perhaps even a little burnt looking in spots, and the top should be bubbling.  Remove, cut and enjoy a little slice of heaven.

Take any remaining dough balls and stuff into ziplock bags.  They will last well over a week in the refrigerator.  In fact, they even improve over time.

Another Cooking Method (Preferred) - Pizza on the Barbie!

As I said earlier, most home ovens just don't get near hot enough to get a good crust.  Commercial wood-fired ovens are between 900-1100 degrees so I have heard.  The home alternative is to use the BBQ grill.

Pizza on BBQ

Place the stone directly on the grate and fire her up.  I pre-heat on high for a good 20 minutes.  The only big difference when using the grill is that on my BBQ the stone can heat unevenly.  About 6 minutes into the cook, I give the pie a half turn.

The grill results in an amazingly awesome cracker on the outside, stretchy-chewy on the inside crust.

My favorite cheese toppings tend to smell a bit like old shoes.  I still haven't figured out why stinky cheese is so good, perhaps one of life's mysteries.


This post was posted in Uncategorized, Random Thought and was tagged with Pizza, Food

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