We have a Friday night tradition since the last couple of years - homemade thin-crust pizza. After maybe 100 times of making pizza dough, tomato sauce and toppings, I think we have it down to near perfection now. So, dear readers, as per request from several of you, here are the instructions.
Our dough was initially based on this recipe by Barbara Kingsolver, but we have modified it slightly. Look for the heading for the part of the recipe you need.
As for tools, we use a KitchenAid mixer to mix the dough (optional), a rolling pin (just regular wood), and a ceramic pizza stone (you can use a regular cookie sheet, but a stone makes a big difference if you are going to make pizza often).
Our stone is as large as possible and round, and so light that you can lift it in and out of the oven easily. I wouldn't recommend those superthick real stones. I can see a lot of crushed toes and achy backs from using those in a regular kitchen. Our stone is made of ceramics, very durable, started out as white but is now black (which is normal), and less than 1/2 inch (1 cm thick). It is very easy to lift the stone out of the oven with the pizza on it, so no need to fiddle with wooden paddles or peels and other things you don't really need. Just get a thin stone and use your regular tools to lift the pizza over to a serving plate or serve it on the stone. And of course you can bake bread on the stone of you like too.
A pizza slicer is good, but think about what is below the pizza. Soft aluminum might get scratched, and I don't really know if you can use it directly on the stone (we use heavy-duty scissors to cut our pizza mostly).
The recipe below makes 4 wonderful 16-inch pizzas (30 cm).
PIZZA DOUGH (partly whole-wheat, healthier style)
Time (active): 10 min. Time (waiting): 2-10 hours.
- 1.5 cups of hot water (not boiling, about 42 degrees C, so varm but not superhot - I just use it out of the hot water faucet)
- 1 package of dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon dried basil or other Italian herbs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tsp ground flaxseed (totally optional, just adds fiber)
- 1.5 cups whole wheat flour
- 2+ cups white flour (organic bread flour is good, but any regular all-purpose flour is OK)
Time: Most often I just make the dough in the morning, leave it out on the counter the whole day (8-10 hours), and when I come home for dinner the dough has risen and is ready. You can of course make the dough 2-3 hours before you want to make the pizza, that is fine too, but then you might have to put the dough in a slightly warmer place than we do.
Using a standing mixer or not: This is totally up to you. If you don't use a mixer, just mix by hand and knead the dough very thoroughly. No clumps here.
Making the dough:
- Put the hot water in the bowl. Add the dry yeast. Let sit a minute or two.
- Add olive oil, salt, and dried herbs. (And flaxseed if you use it). Mix thoroughly.
- Add 1.5 cups of whole-wheat flour. Mix thoroughly.
- Add white flour 0.5 cup at the time and mix in-between. How much you need to add depends on how dense your flour is. So go slowly and add enough so that the dough becomes soft and slightly sticky, not dense and not sticky at all (=too much). You should be able to lift up the dough in one ball without it falling apart, and the dough should not stick to the wall, but it should still be slightly sticky. Most often I add about 2 cups of white flour, sometimes slightly more, sometimes slightly less.
- Let the dough sit in peace in the bowl under some plastic wrap and or kitchen towel for a few hours (up to 10 hours is OK). Don't put it in the fridge. The dough will double in size, so make sure your bowl is big enough. Some people spray or coat the dough with olive oil, I put plastic wrap over the bowl instead to avoid it drying out during the day.
TOMATO SAUCE (homemade from canned tomatoes)
Time: 1 hour
We like chopped or strained, fire-roasted, San Marzano, plum or any other kind of Italian tomatoes for our sauce. Pomi is a good brand. Watch out for canned tomatoes with a lot of salt or other things added to them - you just want plain tomatoes (with none or a little salt). Fresh tomatoes in the summer are wonderful, but need to cook down a bit, since they are quite watery, so add cooking time then. Don't even try making this from flavor-less tomatoes from the store in the winter, then just use canned tomatoes. Your own sauce will be better than store-bought pizza sauce, but if you don't have time, buy a good brand of good sauce without funny things in it.
- 1 large can of tomatoes (28 oz or so, or use two small cans)
- 3-6 cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- fresh basil (chopped, as much as you like)
- black pepper
- salt (maybe)
How to make the sauce:
- Chop up the garlic into tiny pieces.
- Add the olive oil to a pot, heat it up a bit, and then add the garlic. Stir and let the garlic become yellow (not brown!), and then add the tomatoes.
- Let it all simmer on low temperature for a long time (the longer the better), but don't let the sauce become so thick it burns at the bottom, then just turn it off. You start out with a thinner sauce and the simmering will make it thicker.
- After simmering for a while, add cut up fresh basil leaves and black pepper, to taste.
- When the sauce is done, check if you need to add some salt. It all depends on how much salt was in the canned tomatoes.
All our pizzas have some kind of cheese on them, and this layer is added last, on top. Mostly it is grated mozzarella, sometimes parmesan, and sometimes ricotta or goat cheese. We never use other kind of 'regular' cheeses, like cheddar, jarlsberg, etc. They just don't act the same good way on top of a pizza and are only emergency-cheeses.
For all ingredients (except the sauce), try to make them as dry as possible. Remove wetness by draining them or blog away fat with paper towels.
- Italian sausage, hot or mild. Cook this in a frying pan before adding to the pizza (this also gets rid of a lot of fat). (Swedes: this is NOT hot dogs. This is ground up meat sold as fresh sausage, uncooked. If you want to imitate this in Sweden, buy ground meat, add lots of spices and herbs, and then fry it up so the meat is all in little chunks).
- Pepperoni sausage or chorizo (cut up, not cooked)
- Thin-sliced onion, raw, or cooked so it caramelizes
- Thin-sliced mushrooms, fresh (we NEVER use canned)
- Fresh basil
- Fresh green or red peppers, thinly sliced
- Roasted red peppers, canned, drained and dried on paper towels
- Olives, pitted and cut in half, drained. (Black olives are best)
- Artichoke hearts, canned, cut in half and drained
- Shrimp, thawed and shelled, dry on paper towels (you cook these on top of the pizza, so you add them raw to the pizza)
- Anchovy, drained on paper towels
- Very thinly sliced eggplant
- Arugula leaves, fresh (to add at the end)
- Spinach, cooked, or fresh spinach (which can be watery)
- Tomatoes, fresh from the garden in summer, great, but watery :)
- Asparagus, fresh or slightly cooked
Here are some of our favorite combinations (all have tomato sauce):
- Margarita: tomato sauce, basil, and mozzarella.
- Prosciutto special: Bake a pizza with tomato sauce, basil and mozzarella. When 2 min are left on the baking time, take out the pizza and add large thin slices of prosciutto over it, and a little parmesan. Then back into the oven for a minute, then take out and add fresh small arugula over it.
- Mushroom, sausage and onion: This is just what it is called. Yum!
- Anchovy and onion heaven: Add lots of sliced raw onion and then anchovy and parmesan plus mozzarella.
- SAR combination: Shrimp, artichoke and roasted red pepper.
- Burger pizza: Instead of sausage, cook burger meat and add to pizza with some onion. Then the pizza is cooked, add fresh, chopped lettuce on top. Eat. Good. Food.
MAKING THE PIZZA AND COOKING IT
(Start this at least an hour before you want to eat.)
- Put the pizza stone in the oven. It needs to be put into a cold oven, not hot (this is important!), and needs to heat up for at least 30 min. (Skip this step if you don't use a stone)
- Turn the oven to highest temperature (450 F for us). [This is why you should NOT use baking paper for pizza. It might ignite at these high temperatures). We have a convection oven, if you don't, just use the regular setting for overall heat.
- On a large clean surface, add some white flour and put the dough on top of it. If the dough is very loose, you can knead in some more flour now, but usually you don't have too. It depends if it sticks or not. Cut the raised dough ball into 4 pieces, and put three pieces aside. Take one of the balls and roll it out into a round area with a rolling pin, use flour underneath and flip it over now and then so it doesn't stick. When the size is right, stop. The dough is thin, this makes thin-crust pizza (so, much less carbs than thick crust pizza.)
- When the oven is hot and the stone has warmed up, take the stone out of the oven. It will be very hot. Put the rolled out dough on the stone, let it sit for 2-3 min to cook on the lower side, then flip it over with two spatulas so the other side can cook a little. Add tomato sauce and all the toppings.
- (Note for people that don't use baking stones. Add your dough to a floured cookie sheet, and cook the dough by itself in the oven for 5 min or so, than take the dough out and add the toppings, and then back in the oven.)
- Put the pizza in the oven, cook it for 8-12 min (this depends on your toppings and your oven). You want the edge to be a little brown and the cheese to have started to brown on top. If your pizza is done but still very wet and saucy, that is probably because you used very wet ingredients (shrimp, fresh mozzarella, fresh peppers, etc.). Don't worry about it, just eat it with fork and knife.
- Take the pizza out, slice and eat. Enjoy!
- If you want to make more pizzas (you have 3 doughballs left!), just remove the pizza you made from the stone, put the stone back in the oven to reheat for 5 min, and make one more. We eat and make 3-4 pizzas every Friday night and make them as we go along, since they only need to cook for such a short time.
You can freeze the dough, just put it in a plastic bag and seal. To use frozen dough, remove from freezer, thaw at room temperature or slightly above in a bowl with some flour. Remember that the frozen dough has already risen, so it will not get bigger than the piece you have. So roll it out, and make the pizza bottoms as usual. I find that fresh dough is better, because it is slightly fluffier when you bake it, but frozen is OK too.
The dough is also perfect for flatbreads, pierogies, and other small pockets of food.