A huge welcome back to guest poster and master pizza cooker Stephen Ewashkiw. This is not a simple recipe, but it’s well worth the effort.
Can you make perfect Italian Thin Pizza Crust at home? Yes, you can.
I have been working on perfecting my pizza for more than a decade.
As research, I’ve eaten pizza in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Vancouver. I’ve eaten Greek pizza in Greece, and pizza in a piazza in Napoli. I have eaten Northern Italian pizza in Torino and I’ve been spoiled at Maletti’s in London a million times. I’ve even munched a Turkish pide while enjoying an amazing view of the Bosphorus.
My trip to Italy in 1998 was like pizza bootcamp. My Italian friends took me to their favorite pizza spots and taught me how to cook pizza at home. I’ve been experimenting ever since.
Today I share all my hard-earned pizza secrets with you. Enjoy!
1 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar (raw organic agave or maple syrup work great)
2 1/2 tsp yeast (I use Fleischmann’s ActiveDry. Do not use their Pizza Yeast)
1 tbsp dried herbs OR 1 tsp chili flakes, salt, or cumin seeds (optional)
3 tbsp olive oil
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour (mix white and whole wheat together for a heartier crust, or use all white for a light, bubbly crust)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup semolina flour
Make The Dough
You want to the water to be warm, not hot. You want it to be warm, not cool. Getting the right temperature will take a little practice.
Put water in a mixing bowl. Stir in sugar until sugar dissolves. Sprinkle yeast into bowl. Try to get it all in the water, not on the sides of the bowl. If you must stir it, do it gently to just moisten the yeast. Leave it for ten minutes, somewhere that is not drafty, preferably a warm place.
While the dough sits, clean a large flat surface (I use the counter) for kneading. Measure 1 1/2 cups of flour. Dust the dry counter with a little flour and keep the rest handy.
After ten minutes the yeast will be bubbled up and looking very different. Add 3 tbsp olive oil and the dried herbs/spices. I like using one of: rosemary, basil, oregano, salt crystals, chilli flakes, or cumin seeds.
Stir in two cups of flour, mix well, but with as little stirring as possible. Add enough flour so the dough comes away from the edges of the bowl (you can add some of the flour you previously set aside if you need to).
Dump the dough onto the floured surface and start to knead it. As you knead, keep applying flour to the dough’s surface, adding much of the remaining flour over the next few minutes. Knead the dough for 9 minutes, adding a little flour at a time until it is all added, or until the consistency feels right, and the dough is not sticking to your hands.
Pour a little olive oil into a large mixing bowl. Form the dough into a ball and roll it around until the oil covers the dough completely. Take a tea towel and run it under hot water. Squeeze out the excess water and then put the tea towel over the bowl with the dough. Leave in a warm, non-drafty place for 40 minutes, until dough has doubled in size (or more).
If the dough does not double in size, you have one of three problems: your yeast was old; your water was too hot (and killed the yeast); or your water was too cold (and didn’t activate the yeast). Sad face.
Get The Oven Ready
Place one oven rack in the highest slot and the other rack one slot above the bottom. Place one metal cookie sheet on the top rack, and one on the bottom rack. Turn the oven up as hot as it will go (I usually put mine at 525 F). Let it pre-heat.
In a medium bowl add 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup semolina flour and stir together. After the dough has risen, cut it in half and roll one half in the flour/semolina mix.
On a large cutting board, sprinkle some flour/semolina mix. Stretch out, toss in the air, or use a rolling pin to roll out your dough on the cutting board. Take your time and massage the dough out a little at a time. Be patient. If you pull the dough it will tear. Once the dough is pizza size (about the size of a medium cookie sheet), sprinkle some flour/semolina mix on top and flip the dough over.
Now add sauce and toppings. Don’t pile them on people. This is thin crust pizza. A delicate layer of thinly sliced toppings works best.
Getting your pizza from the cutting board onto the hot cookie sheet is a little complicated and works best with two people.
Two person method
Once the oven is pre-heated and the pizza is all dressed up and ready, take the bottom cookie sheet out of the oven. Be careful because it will be bloody hot. Place it on top of the stove.
While one person holds the cutting board that the pizza is on, the other person slides 2 spatulas (the flipping kind, not the rubber scraper kind) under the pizza. Hold the pizza above the hot cookie sheet and (like you were yanking a tablecloth out from under a fully set table) yank the cutting board out from under the pizza.
If things go well, your pizza will settle smoothly onto the hot cookie sheet. If not, hilarity ensues (and please send pictures).
One person method
If you don’t have a buddy who wants to eat freaking delicious pizza, you can still do the tablecloth maneuver, it’s just twice as hard. It gets easier with practice though. You could just build the pizza on a cool cookie sheet and bake that, but then it won’t be nearly as crisp and yummy.
Bake your crazy delicious pizza for 9-10 minutes. The crust will (hopefully) bubble up a lot, get crispy, and look amazing. Slide it back onto the cutting board it was made on (using the tablecloth maneuver in reverse).
You will want to eat it now. But in the interest of not burning the crap out of your entire mouth, let it cool a few minutes. Then, and only then, should you slice and devour.
Once you’ve perfected your crust, you’ll need lots of suggestions for fun things to top it with. Keep your eyes peeled as I’ll be posting Stephen’s sauce and toppings ideas in a few weeks.
Until then, love and tasty pizza to you all.
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