Really Easy Thin Crust Pizza My Way
I love real Italian style pizza with a thin crust. The bread should be the star of the show rather than the toppings. It should be crispy but not so crispy as a cracker. The character of the bread should shine through with a nice balance between crispy and chewy.
My pet peeve is pizza that droops. It happens even at upscale pizza restaurants. They put too much topping on the pizza which insulates the dough. The top of the dough doesn't fully cook. When you hold the typical triangular piece in your hand the point droops. A good pizza doesn't ever droop. If it droops, send it back and ask for a refund.
In Italy they have very hot ovens (700 degrees F) which can penetrate the toppings and cook the dough quickly before the toppings dry out. The ovens in our kitchens generally top out around 500 degrees F. This two-step baking solves that problem.
I like to keep bread dough in the refrigerator at all times so I can make something on a whim. 'Something' often means a pizza, ciabatta, pita bread, or fougasse. My favorite is a wetter version of the boule dough recipe in the book, Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a day. My recipe is 2 pounds flour (I use General Mills Harvest King), 28 fluid ounces water, 1.5 tablespoons instant yeast, and 1.5 tablespoons kosher salt. Mix together but don't bother kneading. Let rise two hours. Punch down and refrigerate overnight or for up to two weeks. I keep it in a plastic shoe box. Once you have this dough you can tear off a piece and make a variety of delicious eats. (note: See my recipe for Fougasse using this same dough http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/18140/fougasse-refrigerated-dough
Today I made the pizza pictured below.
For this pizza, I tore off a 1.5 pound portion from my refrigerated dough. Stretch and fold four or five times on a well floured surface. The dough will be sticky so use plenty of flour. Form a log nearly the length of the cookie sheet and press down so it is about 3 to 4 inches wide. I form the loaf on a Silpat Silicone non-stick liner on a cookie sheet but parchment paper works just as well. Roll the dough until it covers most of the Silicone liner or parchment. If the dough is so elastic that it pulls back take a ten minute break and roll again. You want it to pretty much fill up the cookie sheet. Cover with a clean damp dish towel and let it rise for an hour or more.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Put the dough in the oven and bake for 6 to 8 minutes until it is just barely starting to brown on the bottom and you are able to pick it up using a pot holder. Remove from the oven and flip it over. You will put the toppings on what was the bottom of the dough during the first baking. This is the key to success with this pizza. This is how you prevent droop.
There are many possible toppings that you can use. The pizza in the photo has a tomato sauce brushed onto the dough (8 ounce can of tomato sauce with a tablespoon of butter and one crushed garlic clove cooked for about 15 minutes on the stove to thicken). There is a sprinkling of coarsely grated melting cheese such as Fontina or Quesadilla. I also added rings cut from a mild Anaheim pepper and pieces of artichoke hearts. Use your imagination but remember the maxim, that less is more when it comes to Pizza toppings. You don't want a pile of goop on your excellent pizza crust.
After the toppings have been applied, return to the oven for ten to fifteen minutes until the dough is nicely browned on the edges and bottom. The cheese should show some brown spots.