Feb 28 2011
When my brother and I were around junior high age (well, I was in junior high, he’s younger and was still in grade school), once a month we would get Wednesday afternoons off. I don’t recall what our teachers were doing during that time, but frankly, the half day of school was my focus.
Every month, we’d pool our money so we could order a cheese pizza for lunch. At the time, our pizza of choice was Domino’s, back in the day when they promised delivery in 30 minutes or less. We loved that pizza, but we also loved the delivery time-frame. You see, our dad didn’t want us spending our money on restaurant food, delivery, etc, so when we were finished we had to get rid of the evidence.
So every fourth Wednesday, after we finished our small pizza, we would walk to the elementary school down the road, to throw away the pizza box before Dad arrived home from work mid-afternoon.
You didn’t think we’d just put it in our trash, did you?
In those days, I loved a thicker, chewier crust, mostly because I associated it with a restaurant, and therefore it was special. This was two decades ago, when going out for dinner or lunch was not something that happened once or twice a week (or more), like it now does for many of us.
When I was in my 20’s, I discovered that a good thin crust pizza was special in its own right. I switched my allegiance from the thicker hand-tossed variety to the thin and crispy crust. I also started playing around with making my own crust, and frankly, for a long time, I was no good at making a thinner crust. So I’d cheat, and buy a premade thin crust when I wanted to choose my own sauce, and cheese, and toppings.
But as I continued to play in the kitchen, I started to learn the tricks of the dough, and I finally settled on this recipe, which works well for me; it will work even better when I get another pizza stone, but that’s a story for a different day.
Thin Crust Pizza
makes 1 large or 2 medium crusts
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups minus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons grated or shredded parmesan (optional)
1/2 tsp dried Italian herbs (optional)
pinch garlic powder (optional)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Combine yeast, water, and sugar in a liquid measuring cup. Let sit for 10-15 minutes until foamy.
Meanwhile, combine the flour and salt (and optional ingredients, if using) in a medium-sized bowl. With a spoon, make a well in the middle of the bowl and add the olive oil. Pour the yeast mixture into the well. With a spoon, stir the flour and water. When it gets difficult to combine the flour and water (usually after five or six strokes), use your hand to mix. If the dough seems a bit dry, add water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time. When the dough comes together in a ball (the texture will still be rough), knead the dough on a floured board until smooth, about 10 times.
Coat the same bowl with olive oil. Toss the dough in the bowl so it’s evenly coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 45 minutes. Punch down dough. Recover and let rest for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450*F. If using a pizza stone, preheat it in the oven.
If making 2 pizzas, divide the dough in half at this point and recover the dough not being worked.
Transfer dough to floured parchment, for easy transfer to a pan. With fingertips, spread dough out into desired shape. Don’t be shy about using the tips of your fingers all over the dough, as this will help release bubbles in the dough. If desired, leave a bit of a raised edge around the crust to help contain the toppings. (Use a rolling pin to help get an even thinner crust.) Dock the dough all over with a fork; again, you want lots of holes to prevent the dough from puffing up.
If baking the pizza on a pan, transfer the crust to a pan sprinkled with cornmeal. Bake the crust for 3 minutes on baking sheet. Remove from oven and top with desired sauce, cheese, and toppings.
Return pizza to oven and bake until cheese is melted and beginning to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Let rest for 3-5 minutes, then cut and enjoy.