29 August 2009

For Robin: The Pizza Post (UPDATED) (AGAIN)

this week's pizza: fresh mozzarella, summer squash and red pepper

Robin is my boss. She's the queen of the food-obsessed at my work. She loves all things chocolate-y and bacon-y and just plain tasty. Something like two years ago, I promised her my Mister's thin-crust pizza dough recipe, as homemade pizza has long been a weekly staple (usually Saturday nights) at Chez Salt Teak & Fog. Tempting a foodie's wrath, I slacked off on providing the recipe all that time... until now. Robin, this one's for you! (Am I a brown-noser or what?!)

This recipe is actually adapted from Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home. Toby tweaked it over and over, adjusting the salt, oil, sugar and semolina content until we had a crust that was delicious enough to eat on its own. This recipe makes 8 portions of the kind of pizza we like: thin, rustic and flavorful. It works for any toppings you like. Toby always creates a meat-lovers special, while I've been on a seasonal all-veggie kick for ages. Kind of like our Monday Taco Nite, which features Friday night's flank steak leftovers, our pizzas are sometimes part of our "hooray leftovers" strategy. To keep us always in dough, Toby regularly whips up a batch, we eat two and freeze the rest in plastic-wrapped portions. They defrost very quickly and make an easy dinner.

(Expecting moms take note: shortly before Jacky's arrival, Toby stocked our freezer with little dough nuggets. Perfect.)

A couple of equipment notes: Many pizza recipes call for corn meal on the underside of the crust, to enable you to slide the uncooked pizza into the oven with a peel. We don't really like corn meal messing with the crust texture, so we instead use circular pizza baking screens, which also make moving the pizzas in and out of the oven a snap. We bought ours at a local foodie equipment store. They work great: you roll out the dough, place it on the screen, add toppings and slide everything in the oven. No more praying to the food gods while you try to shimmy your uncooked, delicate masterpiece into a hot oven.

Also, I think you really do need a pizza stone to get good thin-crust pizza from a kitchen oven (as opposed to an outdoor brick oven--I wish). We have one stone and have developed a method for cooking two pizzas at once. We used to do them one at a time, but waiting around for someone else's food to cook is a bummer. So, with both pizzas on the screens mentioned above, we start one on the pizza stone, and one on an upside-down cookie sheet on a middle oven rack. To get both pizzas crispy and evenly-cooked, we do three adjustments during the cooking process: 1) after 1/4 of the cooking time, rotate both pizzas 180 degrees so they cook evenly (the back of the oven is always hotter); 2) half-way through cooking, switch the pizza positions: bring the bottom pizza up to the rack and the top one down to the stone; 3) in the final quarter of your cooking time, rotate both pizzas 180 degrees again, to keep the cooking even. This might sound fussy, but it makes for beautiful, evenly-blistered pizzas. A final note: I like my pizza really crackery and crispy, so we start mine on the stone. Toby doesn't care as much (or he's just nice to me), so his starts up on the rack. There is a little difference in the two resulting pizzas, but not too much.

Anyway, the recipe!

Toby's Awesome Pizza Dough

We use a kitchen scale to measure the flour, so you'll see it's noted in grams. Sorry if that's wanky.

700g bread flour (Not AP flour; you need the higher gluten content. We use King Arthur brand.)

300g semolina flour (gives more flavor)
 1 kg Italian "Tipo 00" flour
750g Italian "Tipo 00" flour (We found it in the bulk aisle at Rainbow. Score.)
250g whole wheat pastry flour
2 T sea salt
2 packets of dried yeast
2 T light brown sugar
8 T extra virgin olive oil
650ml lukewarm water

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large, clean bowl and make a well in the middle. Combine the yeast, sugar, oil and water and let rest for a few minutes. Then, pour the liquid mixture into the well in the middle of the flours.
  2. Gradually, stir the liquid into the flour with a fork, bringing a little flour in from the sides at a time. When it's all incorporated, dump everything out on a clean, floured work surface, dust your hands with flour and lightly knead the dough. It should be light and elastic.
  3. Work the dough into a ball and place it in a clean bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for about an hour or until the dough has risen and doubled in size.
  4. If you're making pizzas right away, preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  5. Return the dough to your flour-dusted work surface, and knead it again to knock the air out a bit. At this point you can divide the dough into 8 portions for making crusts or for freezing. To store, oil the balls lightly with olive oil, wrap them in plastic wrap and place them all in a large freezer bag. They will keep in your freezer for months.
  6. To make crusts, flatten and then pat each dough ball with your fingertips, working it outward and as little as possible, until it's about 1/2 inch thick. Then, pick up the disc by its edge and turn it around and around (like a steering wheel, Toby says) letting the weight of the dough pull itself gently larger. Keep going until the dough is the size and thickness you'd like. Our pizza racks are about 12" in diameter, so we aim to get the dough about that size. The trick is to not work the dough much at all. Non-perfect shapes are OK -- looks homemade!
  7. Let the rolled-out dough rest for a few minutes.
  8. Then, all that remains is to top them (less is more, in my opinion), lightly oil and salt the crust (a great touch) and bake them in a very hot oven. We crank the oven up to 500 degrees and they usually take about 10-15 minutes total. Your cooking time may vary, so just rotate them every few minutes, as noted above, and pull them out when they look good. Practice makes perfect.

ready for freezing

gently patting out the dough

summer squash, ricotta and homemade pesto, before...

... and after


  1. Once again...another delicious-looking combo! AND, I'm so excited to have the recipe, thanks so much sharing!

  2. ooooh that squash pizza looks so beautiful. yum!

  3. I can't wait to try this. I've been on a quest to find the perfect dough for a couple of years now. I've got to find one of the screens you speak of. Every time I make pizza I manage to spill cornmeal in the oven and ugh! I hate that smell. One day I'll get my wood-burning pizza oven. ;)

  4. Very well done. Keep sharing such excellent articles. Very yummmmmmmmmmm pizza..

    Pizza Equipment

  5. Superlative style of composing that each new blogger tries to have.


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