Update: The pizza crust below is perfectly serviceable, however, I have discovered a pizza crust that’s even better. Check it out here.
Although pizza-making is technically easy and not as time-consuming as you might think, it creates an unholy mess. The dough sticks to your hands; everything you touch acquires a sticky veneer that hardens into a dried glue. Every kitchen surface ends up covered in flour. And your clothes? Wear an apron, or even better, the clothes you wore when last painting your bedroom.
But the reward of kneading, waiting, rolling, and the inevitable clean-up is a light, crispy dough that’s the perfect vehicle for tomato sauce, arugula, buffalo mozzarella, or anything else you dream up. So invite your friends over, don’t tell them that they’re expected to clean the kitchen, and divide the labor. Pizza is meant to be shared.
There are many different schools of thought on pizza crust. I am of the thin, crisp school, a disciple of Todd English and his Figs pizza. The secret to a light, crispy crust is wet, sticky dough. Yes, it’s a pain, but resist the temptation to add more and more flour to the dough, making it easier to work with. A drier dough will yield a thicker, breadier pizza crust. Keep a butter knife nearby to scrape the webs of dough from your fingers. Swear if you need to.
I named this pizza after a friend from graduate school, who invited me over and served me this pizza on a cool fall evening. We had both just started our Master’s programs, and bonded over food,wine and bluegrass music. The combination of flavors is genius. Susanna and I were both vegetarians at the time (actually, I was quasi-vegetarian), and the combination was at once startlingly delicious and oddly familiar. Then I realized that the combination of sweet caramelized onions, salty olives, and sour sun-dried tomatoes evokes the salty tang of pepperoni. I’ve lost touch with my friend Susanna, but whenever I eat this pizza, I think of her and wonder what she’s cooking now.
Todd English’s Pizza Crust
This crust recipe makes 4 generous individual sized pizzas. While I don’t have a pizza stone, keeping a stone in the oven and preheating your oven an hour before hand will make the crust even crispier.
2 tsp yeast
1 2/3 c. warm water
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp olive oil
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the water, and let sit ten minutes. (Don’t stress about the yeast being alive–if the yeast is within date and the water is bath temperature, you won’t go wrong.)
Add olive oil to water, beat in whole wheat flour. Add 2 1/4 cup of the all-purpose flour. Sprinkle salt over. Keep beating until mixture is uniform and dough gets stickier and stickier.
Here’s where things get even more sticky: Sprinkle 1/4 c. flour over the dough. Begin to knead, folding the dough over itself, push, then turn a quarter and repeat. (If you use a large enough mixing bowl, you won’t need to put the dough on the counter.) Soon, the flour will be absorbed, and the dough will become sticky again. Add another 1/4 c. flour and repeat. Repeat with the remaining 1/4 c. flour. Dough is ready when it springs back when poked with a (flour-covered) finger. If your dough isn’t ready, but you have used up all the flour, you may sprinkle tiny bits of flour onto the surface of the dough so you can keep kneading.
Divide dough into four equal parts. Place on a flour-covered cooking sheet, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.
Take a round of dough. Sprinkle flour on the top of the dough. Flour a rolling pin, and roll dough as thin as possible–this is key.
I usually make 2 different types of toppings per crust recipe. This recipe makes enough topping for two pizzas.
2 large yellow onions
1/4 c. white wine (opt.)
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 c. black, brine-cured olives, pitted and chopped (Kalamatas wouldn’t go amiss here)
1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (if not oil-packed, soak in warm water)
1/2 c. chevre
Preheat oven as high as it will go (usually 500 or 550 degrees Fahrenheit). If you are using a pizza stone, it should preheat for an hour. Thickly slice onions. Heat olive oil, add onions, then reduce heat to very low. Let onions cook over low heat until completely reduced and soft, almost like a jam, at least 20 minutes, possibly longer. If onions are sticking to the bottom of the pan, deglaze with white wine and continue cooking.
Place the rounds of dough either on a well-floured cookie sheet or a pizza peel (if using a pizza stone). With the back of a spoon, spread onions on the pizza dough. Top with olives and sun-dried tomatoes. Crumble chevre over the pizzas.
Either slide pizza directly onto pizza stone and bake for 7-8 minutes, or place cookie sheet in oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Sources: Susanna Drake, Todd English’s The Figs Table