Thin Crust Pizzas

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We make pizza at least every two weeks, sometimes more often. I know I have posted about homemade pizza probably way more than I should, but I really like it. I loved pizza nights when I was growing up. We lived out in the country and there were no pizza places close. Unless we really made a production of it and drove forty-five minutes to a pizza restaurant, our choices were homemade or frozen. Homemade always won.

I felt like thin crust pizza the other night. I knew that the no-knead crust I have been making lately wasn’t going to work this time. It is an easy to dough to make, but it is kind of wet and sticky and wouldn’t press out as thin as I wanted. I used the recipe we always used when I was growing up instead. I have changed it over the years, as I tend to do, adding an extra tablespoon of oil and replacing most of the white flour with white whole wheat.

The ingredients are the same as the no-knead dough I have posted before, but the method is different. You knead the dough (only for 5 minutes – don’t let this discourage you from making it). And it only rises for an hour.

The kneading and relatively short rise result in a dough that is easy to handle. This is essential if you are trying to make thin crust pizza. I was going for the same thickness (thinness?) as Domino’s thin crust, or Imo’s, if you live in the St. Louis area – but with mozzarella, not provel. Sorry St. Louis-style pizza fans, this native is not a fan of provel cheese (or Imo’s pizza), no matter how you slice it. Don’t come after me with flaming torches and pitchforks, please.

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Give yourself some time to get the crust thin enough. If the dough bounces back, give that piece a rest and move on to another one. Or step back for a few minutes so both you and the dough can relax.

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Use your choice of toppings for this, but don’t pile them on, since the crust is thin and can’t bear the weight of loaded toppings (make two medium thick crusts if you really want to pile on the toppings, and bake them a little longer). We used red sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan and pepperoni for our pizzas. Calvin had a small one with garlic, olive oil, ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan. Unfortunately we forgot to take pictures of the finished pepperoni pizzas – we only have pictures of Calvin’s white pizza. But you can get an idea of how the crust looks before and after it bakes.

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Download or print the recipe here.

All-Purpose Pizza Dough
From the Cook’s Life
Makes 3 14-inch thin or 2 14-inch medium crusts

This is the recipe we used for pizza dough when I was growing up, with a few tweaks. I have made it so many times that I don’t need to look at the recipe anymore.

1 cup warm water
1 package yeast (2¼ teaspoons)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-3½ cups flour, approximately *
all-purpose flour for kneading
Your choice of toppings

*I use about 3 cups white whole wheat flour and ½ cup all-purpose flour. You can use entirely all-purpose flour if you prefer. Note that the dough will be whiter than the pictures if you use only all-purpose flour.

Measure water, yeast, sugar, salt, olive oil and 2 cups flour into a large mixing bowl. Stir until well mixed. Continue to add flour, about ½ cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. Sprinkle kneading surface with flour and turn dough out of bowl. Sprinkle dough with flour and knead until soft and elastic (about 5 minutes), adding flour if it sticks to your hands or the counter.

Lightly grease a large bowl. Place kneaded dough into bowl, cover bowl loosely with a wet towel or tightly with plastic wrap and set aside to rise. Dough should double in size in 45-60 minutes.

Grease pizza pans. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

For thin pizza crusts, divide dough into three pieces. For medium thick crusts, divide into two pieces. Place dough on pans and use your hands to press it out to the edges. If dough springs back, let it rest for a few minutes for the gluten to relax. Be patient, especially if you are making thin crusts. If you end up with holes, gently press the edges back together.

Top with your favorite pizza toppings. Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Lower heat to 350 and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes, or until bottom and edges of crust are browned and cheese is melted and browned.

Let pizzas cool for about 5 minutes before cutting. Serve hot. Leftovers reheat well in a skillet, on a griddle or in the microwave. Or eat them cold.

Homemade Rolls in One Hour

What can I say about these rolls so that you will try them? You need to try them. They easily go together, rise and are ready to eat in an hour. Nothing about the process is hard, and they are certainly worth an hour. They turn out buttery, though they aren’t high in fat, with a nuttiness from the white whole wheat flour that gives them much more depth of flavor than your average dinner roll. I love white whole wheat flour and use it in almost all of my baked goods. Check out my post on whole grains to get the full story on my favorite flour.

The rolls contain both yeast and baking soda, a combination that allows them to rise and be ready to bake in no time. You truly can start mixing these up an hour before you want to eat dinner and have them come to the table hot and ready when you are. They don’t have the exact texture of a roll that has two rising times and a longer mixing time, but they come pretty darn close. Did I mention they are ready in an hour?

The original recipe called for a lot of shortening and butter, both in the dough and poured on top during baking. I made them as written once, and they were good, but actually kind of greasy. I switched the shortening for butter, and reduced the amount in the dough by half. I greased the pan with cooking spray instead of pouring in melted butter, and used just one tablespoon of butter on top of the dough. You can still taste the butter, but they are much easier on the waistline and cholesterol levels.

Even if you have never baked with yeast, you can make these. Try them and let me know what you think.

Download or print recipe here.

One Hour Rolls
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 24 rolls

These rolls require only a few minutes of actual work – the rest of the hour is rising or baking time. These are perfect to mix up before dinner – they can rise and bake while you are cooking the rest of the meal.

2 packages active dry yeast
¼ cup sugar (or less, to taste)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
3½ cups white whole wheat flour, divided (you call use all-purpose flour, if you prefer)
1 cup all-purpose flour, approximately
1½ cups buttermilk (or 1 cup milk and ½ cup plain yogurt)
¼ cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon butter, melted

In a large bowl, stir together yeast, sugar, salt, baking soda and 2 cups white whole wheat flour. In another bowl, heat buttermilk and ¼ cup butter in the microwave until warm, but not hot. It might curdle, which is fine. If you get it too hot, wait for it to cool down a bit so you don’t kill the yeast with the hot liquid.

Add buttermilk mixture to yeast mixture and mix, either by hand or mixer, until well combined. Add 1½ cups white whole wheat flour and mix well. You should have a soft dough. Cover bowl and set aside for 5-10 minutes. This allows the whole grain flour to absorb more of the liquid and helps ensure you won’t add too much all-purpose flour, which will make the rolls dry.

If dough is too soft to handle after the rest period, sprinkle with about ½ cup of all-purpose flour and mix well. Spread ¼-½ cup all-purpose flour on the counter and scrape dough onto the flour. Knead until dough is smooth and no longer sticky, about 1 minute. You might need to add a bit more flour if dough is still sticky.

Lightly grease a 9 by 13 inch pan. Pat dough evenly into pan. If dough springs back, allow it to rest for a minute or two and try again. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 24 pieces, cutting almost through to bottom of dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees about halfway through the rising time.

Brush tops of risen rolls with 1 tablespoon melted butter, taking care not to deflate them. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Immediately remove from pan and serve hot. Cool any leftovers on a wire rack before storing. Once completely cool, store in tightly closed container. Freeze if keeping for more than a day or two. Reheat rolls in a 300 degree oven, covered loosely with foil.