So much has been said about how to make the best pizza at home. I’m guilty of more than one post about it myself. Much like poetry, though, I don’t think any one recipe can capture what everyone expects. What I do know is that if a crisp crust is what you’re after, it can most definitely be achieved without a ceramic pizza stone, though I do own a few, and you don’t need to start out in a cast-iron skillet and finish it under the broiler.
Really pizza should not, and does, not have to be this complicated.
Let me take a few steps back first. The cooking method which you choose will undoubtedly affect the taste and add nuances, sometimes subtle, sometimes mind-blowing to your pizza. A pie cooked on a blazing preheated stone yields a crust with heavenly pockets—a result of the dough being cast onto a source hot as the surface of the sun, that causes it to rise and bubble on contact (okay, maybe the stone isn’t hot as the sun, but you get my drift).
I can’t adequately comment on the skillet & broiler method because I’ve never done it. And frankly, until an editor asks me to do so, I can’t see any good reason to fuss this much with such an easy-to-make recipe.
In my 20 years of making pizza at home, there have been a fair share of tweaks to my pizza-making habits. These days, this is the recipe I’ve settled into for our weekly pizza and movie night. You’ll notice there are no weighted measurements. Much as I believe and respect the importance of weighing, I’ve found this dough comes together fine every time just using the good ‘ol scoop & sweep method.
Oh, and after all my lamenting here about no need for a pizza stone or dual stovetop-oven methods, I suppose you’d like to know how I achieved that crisp-looking crust and golden bubbles of cheese.
No secret really, just a 425ºF preheated oven. The crust is gently pressed onto the pan and pre-baked before adding the sauce and cheese. This allows it to get sturdy and sets the stage for baking it directly on the oven rack. Of course, this means be careful when shaping your crust. Even a tiny pinhole will result in cheese oozing out on the oven bottom, but honestly that sounds scarier in print than in theory. The dough is more forgiving than typical ones, allowing you to patch holes more easily before sliding the pan in for the pre-bake.
As for the types of flours, there’s always debate on that too. I’m not declaring this to be the best ever in the history of the world. In my world, though, it reigns supreme these days. The Mr. noticed I started doing something different a few weeks ago and said it was my best crust ever. In my book, that’s all the accolades I need to rest easy
Crisp Thin Crust Pizza
makes one 16-inch round pie
Just a touch of rye flour adds a hearty characteristic to this crust, and the semolina gives it a gentle elasticity—bread bakers will understand what I mean, and after you make it a few times you’ll understand what I’m talking about too. If you prefer a 100% white flour crust, then simply add the measurements together and use all bread flour—that’s what I used to do for years, and you’ll be equally satisfied with the results.
I’ve left the exact type of mozzarella cheese open, as I flutter between using packaged Sorrento and the freshly made stuff from my local Italian market. It all depends on my mood, and sometimes on my budget. Fresh mozzarella doesn’t spread out and ooze. Packaged mozzarella will yield results more familiar to take-out style pizza. Use what you like best—your tastes are what matter most in your kitchen.
For the dough:
2 cups bread flour, plus 3/4 cup more for kneading
1/2 cup semolina flour
1/4 cup rye flour
1 1/4 teaspoon active-dry yeast (I buy Red Star in bulk from Costco)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup warm water (see note below)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
For the pizza:
1 cup marinara sauce
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano cheese
8 ounces fresh or packaged mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced or shredded
Grease a large bowl with oil and set aside.
In a separate large bowl, add 2 cups of bread flour, the rye and semolina flours, yeast and salt; whisk to combine. Pour the water and olive oil over the flour and stir using a wooden spoon until it forms a shaggy-looking dough. It should be tacky, but not wet.
Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup bread flour on a clean counter or extra-large cutting board. Turn the dough on to the counter and knead until it forms a smooth dough and is no longer tacky (you may not need all the dough, or may alternately need a few tablespoons more if your kitchen is hot or humid).
Transfer the dough to the greased bowl, cover with a dish or tightly seal it with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume.
When dough is ready, adjust the oven rack to the center and preheat the oven to 425ºF.
Lightly coat a 16-inch round pizza pan with cooking spray or rub it with a few drops of olive oil. Place dough in the center of the tray, and starting from the middle of the dough, gently press it out until it reaches the outer edge of the pizza pan. Bake for 5 minutes, or until it is firm enough to slide off the pan directly onto the oven rack. Bake for 2 to 3 more minutes until the crust starts to turn lightly golden.
Slide the pizza back onto the pan and transfer it to a wire rack on the counter (see note below). Spread the sauce on top, leaving a 1/2-inch border for the crust. Sprinkle the cheeses on top, and slide back directly onto the oven rack and bake until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly and nicely browned, about 15 minutes.
What’s in the water?
Truth be told I don’t test the temperature of my water anymore. I used to be all crazy about popping in the instant-read and making sure it was 110ºF or close by, but these days I can just use the “wrist test” and adjust the tap water to a level that doesn’t scald the inside of my wrist. No science involved, and when I’m officially testing recipes for work I follow things by the book. When cooking for my family, though, I prefer to keep it pretty simple. We’re also very lucky to have some of the best tap water in the country right here in NYC. If the tap water in your area is questionable, then I do suggest heating it in a kettle or pot on the stovetop.
Why prep the pizza on a wire rack?
If you leave the pre-baked crust on the hot tray for even a minute or two it will become too soggy to properly slide back into the oven. Using a pizza peel avoids this step, but if you don’t have one and don’t make pizza weekly like I do, then it may not make sense for you to clutter kitchen and make the extra purchase. If you do decide to invest in a pizza peel, then simply slide the pre-baked crust out on that, top it with the sauce and cheese, and slide it back into the oven—thereby skipping the wire rack all together.
New at In Jennie’s Kitchen: lemon poppy muffins.