Okay, this is off the top of my head, but here are the tricks to good thin-crust pizza:
Here's how I make the crust, enough for three 10" pizzas:
- let the dough rest
- work the dough by hand into a thin crust
- bake quickly with high, direct-contact heat
In a mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients and then add the wet ingredients. Stir and then knead until a smooth dough results, adding flour or water as necessary to compensate for humidity, etc. Do not under-knead; you want to develop the proteins in the flour. It will take about five minutes with a mixer, ten to fifteen by hand. When a silky dough develops, it's ready to rest.
- 3 cups fresh all-purpose flour
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- ~1 cup very warm (but not hot) water
With a paper towel, rub olive oil on the inside of a large bowl. Place the dough inside the bowl, and roll it around to coat it lightly with oil, which will prevent it from drying out. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm, draft-free location until the dough has doubled in size, about one to two hours.
Remove the plastic wrap and gently "punch down" the dough to remove built-up gases. Knead it by hand for about five minutes more and then divide the dough into three pieces and roll each into a ball. Place each ball into a zip-lock sandwich bag, suck the air out of the bag, and seal. If you do it right, you'll have three "vacuum-packed" dough balls.
If you want the best crust, you must give the dough time to rest and develop its proteins: Place the dough packages in the refrigerator for at least four hours. You can skip the resting -- and the dough will be great -- but it won't be quite as good as rested dough. (For a fun experiment, use one of the packages right away and compare the resulting crust with a crust made the next day from rested dough.) The packages will keep for a few days and can be used at any time by taking one out of the refrigerator and giving it thirty minutes to come up to room temperature. I've even had luck with freezing the dough; just move it back into the refrigerator a few days before you expect to use it.
To use a package, remove the dough and give it a few minutes of kneading to wake it up and to absorb any exterior crust that may have developed. Roll it back into a ball and let it rest for ten minutes as you get your pizza ingredients.
Put a pizza stone in the oven and pre-heat it to 500 degF at least thirty minutes in advance. You want the stone to be at 500 degF when the pizza hits it. It's generally a good idea to keep an oven thermometer in your oven because oven temperature regulators are notoriously inaccurate -- your oven may easily be off by 50 degF.
Now you're ready to make the crust. Gently flatten the ball into a fat disc with a press of the hand. Then with the tips of your fingers, repeatedly press down in the center of the disc working your way outward in an ever-increasing spiral. Gradually the disc will flatten and an outer edge will build up. Once the disc is about as wide as the length of your hand, start using the flats of your fingers with an outwardly rolling motion. After you have added another inch or so to the disc's diameter, let it rest for five minutes while you sprinkle corn meal on your pizza peel.
For the final stage of shaping the crust, continue rolling one hand outward from the center of the disc, working your way around the disc to maintain a uniform circular appearance, but additionally stretch the dough gently with your other hand as you roll. If the dough tears, pinch it back together and let if rest for a few minutes (tearing is a sign of dough fatigue). Repeat until the dough is about 10 inches across. Again, let the dough rest, this time while you prepare the toppings
When your toppings are ready, brush the top of the crust with olive oil and gently transfer it to the peel. (You may find it handy to fold the crust into quarters before transferring it and then unfold it on the peel.) Place the cheese on the crust first, then meat toppings, and finally place any watery toppings like sliced tomatoes on top. Don't over-do it; the best pizzas have a balanced ratio of topping to crust. (One amazing pizza is simply topped with thinly sliced Roma tomatoes, razor-thin garlic slices, torn basil, salt, and pepper. That's right, no cheese.) Don't forget to salt it.
Now it's time to put it in the oven. Give the peel a small jerk to loosen the crust, which may have become stuck to the peel. Open the oven, and place the peel on the back of the pizza stone such that the pizza is directly over the stone. With a few quick pulls, remove the peel, letting the pizza hit the stone. Close the oven and look at the time. Seven minutes later, take a look at the pizza. If the crust is just golden, let it cook a minute or two more. (The best crust is brown.)
Finally, use the peel to remove the pizza from the oven and place it on a cutting board. Drizzle with fresh extra-virgin olive oil, cut into four pieces, and eat.
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