Sometimes a meal is so good, I have to share it with you right away. This is one of those times. When given the choice, I’ve never been one to choose thin crust pizza over regular, but hey, it’s still pizza and I’ll eat it if it is available. As soon as I saw a recipe for thin crust pizza in the latest issue of Cook’s Illustrated, I was intrigued. After all, these are the same people who created the recipe for the best traditional pizza dough ever.
The process for this dough is interesting. The dough is mixed up using ice water, and then refrigerated for 24 hours-3 days. The cool temperatures prevent over-rising and keep the crust, well, thin. Although it does require a bit of planning ahead, it is actually quite flexible since there is a two day window of when you can use the dough. I went ahead and made a full batch of dough, and froze half of it at the same time that I baked this pizza. Now we have an extra dough ball all ready to go. Guess what’s on the menu again this week?
The recipe also includes a basic pizza sauce that is delicious and extremely easy to make. Really, it takes less than 5 minutes. The yield is enough sauce for 3-4 pizzas, so that is saved in my freezer as well. You can certainly use whatever toppings you like, though it is important to use a light hand so that you don’t overwhelm the thin crust. I used the basic cheese topping suggested in the magazine (my favorite anyway) and loved it so much, I doubt I’ll try many variations.
Thin Crust Cheese Pizza
Yield: 2 13-inch pizzas
For the crust:
3 cups (16½ oz.) bread flour
2 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. instant yeast
1 1/3 cups ice water
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1½ tsp. salt
For the sauce:
1 (28 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. oregano
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
Olive oil, for brushing
½ cup (1 oz.) finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded whole-milk mozzarella
To make the dough, combine the flour, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a food processor* fitted with the metal blade. Pulse just to combine. With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube and process just until the dough is combined and all dry ingredients are incorporated, about 10 seconds. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
Add the oil and salt to the dough. Process until the dough forms a smooth, tacky ball that clears the sides of the bowl, about 30-60 seconds. Remove the dough from the bowl, knead briefly on a lightly oiled work surface, about 1 minute. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days. (After the period of refrigeration, the dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for later use.)
To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl or container and refrigerate until ready to use.
One hour before baking the pizza, adjust an oven rack to the second highest position and place a baking stone on the rack to preheat. Preheat the oven to 500˚ F. Remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator and divide in half. (If you plan to freeze a portion of the dough, this is the time to wrap in plastic, place in a freezer bag and freeze for later use.) Form each half into a ball and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Spray the dough balls lightly with cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
To assemble the pizza, transfer a dough ball to a well floured work surface. Flatten into an 8-inch disk, leaving a slightly thicker edge around the rim. Using your hands, gently stretch the dough to a 12-inch circle. (I needed to use the rolling pin a bit to get my crust thin enough.) Transfer the dough to a well floured pizza peel and stretch to a 13-inch circle. Lightly brush the thicker edge of the disk with olive oil. Spread ½ cup of the pizza sauce over the dough. Sprinkle evenly with the grated Parmesan and the shredded mozzarella. Carefully transfer the pizza to the preheated baking stone. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and slightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Let cool about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
*This dough can also be made in a stand mixer or by hand. Keep in mind, the idea is to avoid warming the dough, so a food processor or mixer is optimal.
Source: Cook’s Illustrated, January & February, 2011