I made this recipie twice this past weekend. Once it was pretty poor, but the second time it was perfect. Here's what I did.
***how I altered the recipe***
The first time (not very good):
I followed the directions as closely as I could. I used a 16 inch pan rather than a 14, but my crust was still 1.5 inches high. The pizza baked and when it was done it had 1.5 inches of thick biscuity dough for crust (biscuity pizza crust = very bad, and 1.5 inches of crust = way too much).
The second time (very good):
I used the dough to make 2 pizzas this time because I figured I had at least twice as much crust as I needed in my first attempt. I let the dough rise and refrigerate in dough balls rather than in the oiled pan. This pizza turned out a lot like the Pizza Hut Pan Pizza. If I had to taste both with my eyes closed, I probably could have told a difference, but honestly, they were very very close.
Both times, it didn't take near the 1/2 cup of oil the recipie states to cover the bottom of my 16 inch pan. In fact I'd bet 1/4 cup would be more than enough. I still got a consistently golden and crispy fried crust bottom.
***stupid mistakes I made/fixed***
On the first pizza, I poured my flour into a big measuring cup an tapped the cup on the counter to level out the dough. This was probably a huge novice mistake as I bet I ended up getting way more flour than I needed, which probably resulted in the biscuity dough. On the second pizza, I shook the flour out of the bag lightly and leveled it off by pushing it around with a spoon, rather than tapping it and packing it all down. The second dough ball, while not wet or sticky at all, was definately not as dry as the first was.
***Things I noticed***
I still don't see how you could possibly want all that dough on one pizza. I love Pizza Hut Pan Pizza and I've had plenty of them, but I've never seen one with 1.5 inch thick crust. I don't mean puffy crust around the edge, I mean 1.5 inches under every square inch of sauce and cheese.
In the second effort, I halved the dough and made 2 pizzas. The first one in a pan with oil, and the second on a screen. The oiled one had a brown crispy bottom to its crust, while the other had a more uniform crust. Both were good thick crusts, so the oil is only neccessary if you want that fried brown bottom crustiness.
The first pizza sat in the oiled pan overnight, the second pizza was formed and put into an oiled pan just before baking, and both came out with a good bottom crust. Thus.. the time the dough is in the oil doesn't seem to have any significant effect on the final outcome.
By not having the dough rise in the pan, you have an opportunity to allow for a ridge of crust when you flatten out your dough ball. When it rises in the pan, it rised uniformly across its area and you have a flat, boring crust. Imagine something like a 16inch pancake where the center is even a little bit higher than the edges (due to rising). Then you top that and call it a pizza? It looks very funny without any hint of edge crust. I guess you do the "in-pan" rise to not compress the dough when shaping the ball into the pan, but I didn't notice any detrimental compression in my second doughs. If I were to do a pan rise, and forfeit a well defined crust rim, I'd certainly still split the recipie to make 2 crusts instead of just one.
I'll definately make this recipe again. I'll be gentle with my flour, I should probably even sift it I guess. And I'll surely make 2 dough balls for 2 crusts rather than just one. I may or may not do the oiled pan thing, depending on my mood.