Finally, a pizza recipe that I can make on a weeknight. And this is not just any pizza, it’s a super-thin crispy crust pizza with only the simplest of toppings: homemade tomato sauce, fresh basil, and melty cheese. While the large amount of dry instant yeast and olive oil may seem strange, I assure you that the crust comes out beautifully. In fact, this was the easiest dough I’ve ever had to deal with.
Tuscan Pizza Crust (from In Late Winter We Ate Pears)
(Makes 6-8 small pizzas)
2 tablespoons dry instant yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 to 3/4 cups olive oil
To make the pizza dough: Mix the dry instant yeast in the warm water in a small bowl and set aside. Mix the flour and salt in a larger bowl and then add the water/yeast and olive oil. Mix the dough with a spoon until it comes together. The dough should be just a tad sticky. If not, add just a bit more water. Knead the dough, either in the bowl (I use a large bowl for mixing and kneading) or on the counter, folding the dough over on itself and pressing down with the palm of your hand. When the dough is soft, supple, and uniform, form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl covered with a damp towel. Let the dough sit in a warm spot until doubled in size, 30-60 minutes. To expedite the rising process, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place the bowl of dough near the oven vents (but not too near… you don’t want the dough to get cooked).
While the dough is rising, grate the cheese and keep it cool in the fridge for easy sprinkling. I used a mild cheddar this time, but mozzarella would be better. Then make some super-easy homemade tomato sauce, like pasta sauce except thinned a bit with water to make it more spreadable on the pizza crust.
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
To make the sauce: In a small pot, cook the minced garlic in the olive oil for just a minute, then add the canned tomatoes. Since you’ll want to add some water to the sauce anyways, rinse the tomato can with a bit of water and add it to the pot (1/2 cup of water should do just fine). Add the oregano, red pepper flakes, olive oil, salt, and pepper to the sauce and bring it to a low boil. Let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes then turn off the heat. If you run out of time before the dough is done rising, you don’t have to cook the sauce at all, but I prefer a more mellow, cooked-garlic flavor, and the cooking gives the oregano time to release it’s flavor.
To make the pizza:
- Before the dough is done rising, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Ideally, you’d use a baking stone to bake the pizzas (and a wooden paddle to get the pizza into and out of the oven), but a baking sheet would work too. If using a baking stone, remember to put it in the oven when you start the preheat and remember that the stone keeps the oven from coming to temperature as quickly.
- When the dough is done rising, cut it into 6-8 pieces (they should be about the size of tennis ball or a bit smaller).
- Roll out one of the pieces of dough using a rolling pin until the dough is quite thin, 1/8 inch if possible. Be careful not to tear the dough, but I found 1/8 inch pretty doable and didn’t tear a single pizza dough round.
- Pre-bake each pizza dough round for 2-4 minutes before adding any toppings. This makes it much easier to get the pizza into the oven with toppings later on. I found 2 minutes just fine using a baking stone; baking the pizza on a baking sheet will take longer since the baking sheet has to warm up.
- Top the pre-baked pizza crust with 1/2 cup of tomato sauce (spread up to 1/2 inch of the edge), scattered fresh basil leaves, and a thin layer of grated cheese, or the toppings of your choice. Since the crust is so thin and crispy, err on the side of less toppings. The crust is so delicious that you don’t want to make the toppings too distracting anyways.
- Bake the topped pizza for 8-12 minutes, until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling and possibly starting to brown. I found that 8 minutes on a pizza stone was perfect.
- Eat the pizza as soon as possible so that the crust doesn’t get soggy. I have not tried saving the baked and topped pizza for later in the fridge; somehow the idea of it being less crispy and bubbly just seems wrong. If you won’t use up all the crusts, prebake them and keep those in the fridge instead of keeping the dough in the fridge.