Thin Crust Pizza
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Thin-Crust Pizza


 

For many years I have been trying to learn the secrets of making a good thin-crust pizza. I've had this type of pie at various pizza parlors such as Shakey's Pizza Restaurant, Pizza Inn, Pizza Hut, and the Village Inn Pizza Parlor. I have been told that this type of pizza is officially known as an "Original California-Style" pizza and is also found at such restaurants as Straw Hat and Round Table. To quote the folks at Straw Hat, "California crust is special, it's a layered, flaky crust. It's airy and crispy on the bottom, yet bubbling on top. It has a cracker-like crunch, and is never soggy or limp." Click here to see what I mean.

Here are some of the secrets that I have learned so far:

  • The whole concept of the thin crust is more than just the flour or dough recipe, it is the method of sheeting the dough into the pizza pan. Most restaurants employ the use of a special machine known as a dough sheeter (or roller) which rolls out the dough quickly and evenly. They typically run the dough through the sheeter about 5 or 6 times, dusting the dough with flour each time, to get it down to the paper-thin thickness. The function of the dusting flour is to actually incorporate more flour into the dough during the sheeting process. The dough is typically short a little flour in the mixing process so that it will sheet easier, so the dough reaches its final flour content during the dusting and sheeting process.


Acme Dough Roller

  • Thin-crust pizza dough is somewhat dry and dense after sheeting. You will need to dust the dough with flour several times as you roll it out in order to incorporate more flour into the recipe. This also helps ensure that the dough will not stick to the countertop and your rolling pin.
     

  • It is important that you use flour with a high gluten content (12% protein or higher) in order to make the crust crispy. The King Arthur Flour Company manufactures a high-gluten flour that contains 14% protein which is excellent for this recipe (see their "Sir Lancelot" brand). If you don't have Sir Lancelot handy then use a quality bread flour that contains at least 12% protein. Do not use all-purpose flour.
     

  • Retard dough a full day (24-hours) in the refrigerator (38 F to 40 F). This allows the yeast to work long and hard which develops the dough's characteristic texture and, more importantly, its unique flavor. Allow dough to warm to room temperature for about an hour or two before rolling out and docking.


Dough docker

  • The dough must be docked after being sheeted and placed in pan. Docking prevents large air bubbles from forming in the crust. If you do not own a dough docker, you can use a fork to prick the dough thoroughly.

  • Optional: Pre-cook the crust for 4 minutes before adding the sauce and toppings. This allows the crust to become more crisp before weighing it down with toppings.

I have worked long and hard developing this recipe and it is by no means perfect. I have eaten more test-pizzas than I care to admit. I hope you enjoy the fruits of my labor and I hope that you share your pizza making experiences with me. Good luck!


Dough Recipe

1 pound (or about 3 1/2 cups) high gluten flour
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt


In a heavy-duty stand mixer (e.g., KitchenAid) fitted with dough hook, add the water, oil, yeast, salt, and sugar. Mix thoroughly until yeast has fully dissolved. Add flour and mix on low speed until all of the flour and water have mixed and a stiff dough ball forms, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stop mixing as soon as the dough ball forms as this type of dough should not be kneaded.

Place the dough ball into a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 24 hours in the refrigerator before using. Please note that I cannot over-emphasize the importance of a 24-hour rising time since it is absolutely essential for the dough to develop its signature texture and, more importantly, its unique flavor! Do not skip this step!


Thin-Crust Pizza Sauce

28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes in heavy puree (RedPack brand preferred)
1 tablespoon fresh green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)


Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes (do not allow the sauce to boil). Allow to cool to room temperature before using.

Preheat your oven to 500 F about one hour before you plan to bake the pizza.

Turn the dough out onto a large surface and dust with flour. Using a heavy rolling pin (or dough sheeter), roll the dough out very thin to form a 24-inch or larger circle. If you're using a cutter pizza pan (recommended), dust the pan lightly with flour, place the dough in the pan and dock. Use the rolling pin to trim off the excess dough drooping over the sides of the pan. If you wish to cook the pizza directly on a pizza stone (not using a pan), then place the dough on a dusted pizza-peel, dock, and fold the edge over 1-inch all the way around and pinch it up to form a raised lip or rim.


Photo courtesy of pizzatools.com

Optionally, pre-cook the crust for 4 minutes before adding any sauce or toppings. Remove the crust from the oven and pop any large air pockets that may have formed. Add the sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and your favorite toppings. Continue baking, on the lowest oven rack, rotating the pan half way through so that it cooks evenly, until crust is sufficiently browned and crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and slide pizza out of cooking pan onto a large wire cooling rack or cutting board. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a serving pan. This step allows the crust to stay crisp while it cools, otherwise the trapped steam will soften the crust.

Once cool, use a pizza cutter to slice the pie into pieces and enjoy! Please share your results with me!

Also see the following posts on the forum which contain more photos and details.
Best ever thin "cracker" crust pizza!
DKM's Thin Crust w/Pictures

 

Honorable mention: I owe a great deal of my thin-crust pizza making success to Scott Erb, Tod Livingston, and Deven Mercer, all who have worked at pizza parlors in the past and have pointed me in the right direction in developing a thin-crust pizza. I have also received some useful information from Fisher Mills who manufactures a thin-crust pizza dough mix for use in restaurants.

 


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