First, let us gaze upon this Pizza Margherita.
Let us gaze upon it because I finally found a crust recipe that is thin and crispy!
Next, let’s pause and marvel that I made it through last week without going completely nuts.
You may have noticed a slight pause in postings here at Idiot’s Kitchen last week. I had this pizza post all ready to go and then life happened. And by life I mean a trip to Minnesota, 2 concerts, 4 Swedish Almond Cakes, 4 pans of Ginger Cardamom Bars, 100 mini cheese cakes with lingonberry sauce, and 2 fruit & cheese platters – one of which was shattered when the shelf of the refrigerator collapsed.
And then there were these cute babies….
My friend Karl’s new kittens. Nearly impossible to get anything done with them around meeping at you all day.
So, it’s a new week and we need to talk about this pizza.
I am a thin crust kinda girl and it has taken me ages to find a good, EASY, homemade crust that will stretch thin and bake up super crispy.
Hooray for this No Knead Pizza Crust recipe. It’s originally from Jim Lahey in Bon Appetit Magazine but thankfully put into manageable proportions by Tracy at Shutterbean. The key ingredient for the thin, crispyness is using bread flour rather than regular, all purpose flour.
Here’s what you need:
Bread Flour, Yeast, Salt, Sugar, Water, and Olive Oil.
Before you get all worked up about making yeast dough let me try to convince you how easy this is. There is no need to worry about the yeast working as long as it has not expired. Check the date and you’re good to go. In this recipe, the yeast goes right in with the flour so no need to do the “proofing” or that step that always seems like a science experiment.
You do, however, need about 2 hours for the dough to rise, so plan ahead.
In a large bowl, stir together 3¾ cups bread flour, 2½ teaspoons instant or active dry yeast, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¾ teaspoon sugar. WHISK these ingredients together to be sure that the yeast does not clump together.
Add 1 1/3 cups water. I used slightly warm water to help the yeast get a good start but just as long as your water isn’t ice cold, you should be okay.
Use a spatula or spoon to start mixing the ingredients together…
then get in there with your hands and mix it together just until it is a shaggy mess.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix the dough together for a couple of minutes until it holds into a ball. It does not need to be smooth like yeasted bread dough…thus the No Knead part of this recipe.
If you’re having trouble forming a ball, you can turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead it a couple of times.
Take the dough out of the bowl and add a little olive oil to grease the bottom and sides of the bowl. As you can see, I didn’t even bother to clean out my bowl completely. Put the dough ball back in the center, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature about 2 hours.
TA DA! Risen dough. Dump the dough out on a lightly floured surface and divide it in half.
This recipe makes enough dough for 2 pizzas. You can make them both at once OR put half of the dough in a ziplock bag in the freezer. When you are ready to use it, defrost it completely in the refrigerator and then let it rest for 30-60 minutes at room temperature before you make your pizza.
Take the half of the dough that you are going to use right away and fold it up in a slightly damp kitchen towel and let it rest again for about 30 minutes. You CAN get away without doing this step if you’re in a hurry, but if you want really thin crust, the dough is much easier to work with if it rests for the additional 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Yes, 500. You need a hot, hot, hot oven for crispy crust.
Oil a pizza pan or large baking sheet with olive oil. Use your hands to get a good thin layer of oil on the whole sheet but try not to have any puddles of oil or it will burn.
Stretch the ball of pizza dough out on the baking sheet as thinly as you can. You can stretch the dough and also press it outward toward the edges of the pan with your fingers. If you get a tear or hole, don’t worry as you can squish it back together before baking.
If your dough is springing back rather than spreading out, wait 5 minutes and try again.
One other good trick I’ve found is to hold the dough up by one end and let gravity stretch it downward. You can shuffle the edge of the dough around in your hands to get an approximate shape for your pan then use your fingers and press it the remainder of the way.
Now for toppings: for Pizza Margherita I have some good Italian San Marzano tomatoes although I really, really wished I had fresh tomatoes. I also have fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, some red pepper flakes, and lots of fresh basil.
Spread thin slices of the mozzarella on top of the crust. Drain your tomatoes. Then drain them again. Drain them like crazy. I had to do a little mopping up with a paper towel because I didn’t drain mine quite enough. Top the cheese with the tomatoes and then sprinkle some red pepper flakes on top.
Bake the pizza at 500 degrees in the lowest rack of the oven for 18-20 minutes. KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR PIZZA as you might need to move it up to the middle oven rack if the bottom starts to get too brown or if you get a bit of smoke from the oily pan.
When the pizza comes out of the oven all crispy, golden and delicious top it generously with shredded basil. You never want to cook the basil or it will burn and turn black.
Just before cutting, I plopped some nice healthy dollops of goat cheese on top too.
But wait, there’s more!
I wanted to be sure that the crust from the freezer was just as good. So a few days later I made a second pizza.
For toppings: Newman’s Marinara Sauce, Canadian Bacon, Red Bell Pepper, Onion, Black Olives, and Mozzarella.
Put the sauce on the crust and top with the slices of Canadian Bacon.
Add the thinly sliced onions, chopped bell peppers, and sliced black olives. I would probably have added mushrooms too if I’d had any. Top with shredded mozzarella.
Bake at 500 degrees for 18-20 minutes remembering to check it half way through to make sure the crust is not getting too brown.
This is my favorite pizza. Next up, Italian Sausage and Mushroom.
I can’t tell you how happy I am to finally have THIN crust!
I also can’t tell you how tempted I was to steal Karl’s little orange and white kitten…she would have fit so nicely in my carry-on bag.
Too tempting for the crazy cat lady. Go make pizza!
Here’s the recipe: