The Fresh Loaf

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Pizza crust experimental extravaganza

Shajen's picture

Pizza crust experimental extravaganza

Not long ago, I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and was inspired to make homemade pizza. I had a packet of pizza crust mix from Jungle Jim's, so we used that and some terrible sauce and cheese, and were horribly disappointed. "We can do better," we said, and so I tried a sourdough crust (1 cup starter, 1 cup water, 3 cups flour or something like that) and it was better (plus we used better sauce), but I wanted to develop a good quick recipe. Since he's a chemistry teacher and I was a biology major, it made sense to have several different conditions, changing variables between them, and do direct comparisons.

The test subjects, scaled down to mini-pizza dimensions:

#1. Based on Susan's (control):

53 g bread flour

40 g warm water

1/8 tsp yeast

1/4 tsp salt


#2. Based on Barbara Kingsolver's (wheat flour, oil):

5/16 c AP flour

1/4 c wheat flour

3/16 c warm water, plus 1 tsp added while kneading

3/8 tsp yeast

1/8 tsp salt

1 tsp olive oil


#3. Based on Floyd's (honey, oil):

1/2 c AP flour, plus 1 T added while kneading

1/4 c warm water

1/8 tsp yeast 1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp oil

1/2 tsp honey


#4. Honey-wheat crust (wheat flour, honey):

3/8 c AP flour, plus 1 T added while kneading

1/8 c wheat flour

1/4 c warm water

1/4 tsp yeast

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 tsp honey


#5. Herb crust (herbs):

1/2 c AP flour 1

/4 c warm water

1/4 tsp yeast

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp dried basil

1/8 tsp garlic powder


#6. Herb crust 2 (herbs, oil):

1/2 c bread flour

1/4 c warm water

1/4 tsp yeast

1/8 tsp salt

1 tsp oil

1 small clove garlic, crushed and minced

1/2 tsp dried oregano

Procedure: Mix flour, yeast, and herbs if applicable together. Add water and oil/honey/garlic if using. Mix well. Add salt. Knead until salt is incorporated or dough is too sticky to knead. Place in an oiled bowl, turn to cover dough with oil, and cover bowl.

Each dough took about 5 minutes to make. I started at 5:57 with #1 and ended at 6:32 with #6. I preheated the oven to 475 degrees. At 7, I took each dough in turn and spread it into an approximately 7" round, around 3/16" thick, working from #1 to #6. #2 was significantly harder to flatten than the others, #4 slightly softer. I then spread tomato sauce (Trader Joe's basil marinara) and grated mozzarella (the nice stuff from Kroger) on each one. I baked 1 and 2 on a sheet together, then 3 and 5, then 4 and 6, due to my pans and my oven and trying to remember which was which. Each pan baked for 8 minutes. I know this means that 1 and 2 got the most pre-shaping rising time and 4 and 6 got the most post-shaping resting time; I could have controlled the timing better if I'd thought about it, but I didn't, and I was looking for a fairly flexible recipe anyway.

Tasting results (all were preceded by "tastes good," so there were no real losers):

#1 - Slightly bland. Quite chewy (in a good way). Good color on bottom (this was true for all of them). The crispy bits were nice. Good salt level.

#2 - Significantly softer than #1. Not nearly as chewy; more of a biscuit texture. Definite wheat taste, undesirably so. Too "health food" like. Less salty and drier than #1.

#3 - Biscuit texture. Slightly bland. Not enough salt. Crispier than #2. Disagreement between judges as to whether it was better or worse than #1 flavor-wise.

#4 - Fluffier than the others. Nicely light. Not enough salt. Texture good. Slight sweetness and wheat flavor good.

#5 - Good salt level. Herbs about the right flavor concentration. Can't taste garlic. Texture similar to #1. Herb taste is better than #6.

#6 - Good herb flavor concentration, like #5. Not enough salt. Slight wheaty flavor. Chewy texture similar to #1 and #4. Can't taste garlic.

Pairwise comparisons:

1 > 2

5 > 1, 2, 3, 6

4 > 1, 2, 3, 6, possibly 5

Note: texture results may well have resulted from differences in kneading, and I asked that this be taken into consideration when rating crusts as a whole.

Conclusions: my family likes (a) a fluffy crust and (b) a crust with lots of flavor. Our next step is to combine #4's basic recipe with #5's herbs and a little more garlic and salt.

GrapevineTXoldaccount's picture

I appreciate all of your effort...and especially that you would come and share the results after what I'm pretty sure was an exhausting experiment.

 I'm baking a pie tomorrow and will be experimenting with 'your' results.   lol

 Sincerely....thanks for sharing!

KipperCat's picture

What a tasty experiment! 

Shajen's picture

Thanks! I had fun with it, and hoped someone else would get a kick out of it too. :)