Ahh Pizza, one of the world’s most favorite foods
Whether you enjoy a pizza with the crust of a thick Chicago-style deep dish, a crispy style California flatbread, or a giant slice of New York style, you are gluten intolerant, or have even taken the pledge for a Keto diet, there is a pizza base recipe out there to suit your culinary desires.
Now we can break down pizza crusts into different styles; thin crust, thick crust, flatbread crust, and custom crusts.
Thin crusts can be separated into two basic groups, the Neapolitan style crispy crust, and the New York style crust. Both incorporate a thin style pizza crust, however the texture of the two is completely different.
We are going to discuss all pizza crusts over time, but let’s just concentrate on mastering the Neapolitan style crispy thin crust first, for many the original style of Pizza, originating in Naples Italy, and considered the perfect Italian style pizza.
The Neapolitan style pizza crust is very thin and crispy (3mm) at the base. The cooked interior of the pizza is soft, fluffy, chewy, and has an airy moist texture, with large air bubbles formed from the gasses from the yeast filling the outer crust. The color of the dough when cooked, should show uneven charring or browning, dark spots of color surrounded by paler dough, caused by the speed at which this pizza style is cooked. (90 seconds in a wood fire pizza oven).
To achieve a traditional Neapolitan Pizza crust, one that is light and crispy you must follow a strict regime, recipe and technique. Firstly, you must hand knead the dough. (no use of mixers and dough hooks). Secondly, follow the recipe to the letter (that means no adding or subtracting and always use a scale to measure all your ingredients). Thirdly is size, no bigger then 30-35cm in diameter (So no super-sized XXL Family pizzas)Fourthly, don’t go mad with the toppings (Less is more for a crispy style pizza base) And lastly, baked in wood fired pizza oven for optimal results. (But we will get around this if you don’t have one)
So how do I achieve this at home you ask? Well you could start by going out and building your own wood fired oven at home. But for many people this is just not feasible or sensible. But don’t let the lack of owning a wood fired oven hold you back from achieving a world winning pizza at home. This article is going to teach you all the tips, tricks and hacks for you to create a truly Authentic thin and crispy Neapolitan pizza crust, without the use of a pizza oven, cooked right in your own home.
Ingredients for the dough
- 1055g Italian “00” flour (Plus extra for dusting work top)
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 550ml water
- 100g Very fine Semolina flour (to use on your pizza peel)
Flour is one of the most important dough components , You can use any high protein flour you want. However for the best most authentic results use a finely milled Italian-style “00” flour.
Yeast – Use a rapid rise activated yeast for best results.
Mixing – Use your hands only to mix the dough.
Stretching out the dough – Stretch out your hands, have your fingers resemble claws, use your fingertips, gently stretch, shape and turn the dough until it is a 30cm diameter thin, even disk
Use A Pizza Stone Or Cast Iron Baking Tray when cooking the pizza, they get really hot and produce a thin crispy base. A good substitute can be a 40 cm x 40cm really thick, unglazed, untreated terracotta tile.
Use a Pizza Peel – Any good quality kitchen supply store will sell an inexpensive wooden or stainless steel pizza peel. But if you can’t lay your hands on one, you can use an inverted thin metal baking tray as a fine substitute, or a light wooden cutting board lined with baking paper.
Making Dough Instructions
To make the dough, add the flour to a large mixing bowl and make a crater in the center.
Dissolve the yeast in the water and pour it into the middle of the crater. Using your hands begin to mix and combine the flour into the water.
When it reaches the consistency of thick glue, add the salt, continue mixing the flour, scaping the sides and bottom of the bowl for any loose flour until it comes together as a dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured kitchen bench. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
Roll the dough into a ball shape, make sure you tuck the dough underneath itself. Allow the dough to rest for 2-3 minutes.
Using a pastry cutter or sharp knife, and a set of electric scales, cut and weigh out individual 250g of dough, and lightly roll into balls.
Place each 250g ball in a one liter zip lock bag.
Place the Ziplock bags of dough into the refrigerator and allow the dough to rise for 2 – 4 days, before using. This will create a light and airy dough, that will also have an deep yeasty flavor.
When you are ready to make pizza, remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator,
Remove the dough from the bags onto a lightly floured bench top, and shape into balls.
Cover the dough balls with a lightly wettened kitchen cloth and allow the dough to rest for at least 2-3 hours before using at room temperature (This will allow the dough to warm and make it easier to stretch).
Making sure the work surface is lightly floured, begin to stretch dough into a pizza with a motion from the center outwards. To create the perfect pizza shape for a crispy base, Stretch out your hands, have your fingers resemble claws, use your fingertips, gently stretch, shape and turn the dough until it is a 30cm diameter thin, even disk.
Gently slide your stretched pizza dough onto your pizza peel, making sure it was been well floured with a mixture of 50/50 semolina flour and flour. Your now ready to top your pizza.
Now you can choose to create your own pizza sauce, or choose from the many amazing commercial pizza sauces available in your store. Authentic pizza sauce is simple, easy and cheap to make, however if you are short of time you can always have a great back up sauce ready to use in your kitchen cupboard.
There are many brands to choose from. When selecting one, choose one which is thick, and not too watery. The best ones are made with vine ripened tomatoes, are free from flavor enhances, added sugar, low in salt, low in cholesterol, organic, contain no preservatives, and have a rich tomato flavor.
Some notable mentions include, Rao’s, Don Pepino Pizza Sauce, Muir Glen Organic Pizza Sauce, Pastorelli Pizza Sauce and Classico Traditional Pizza Sauce. All are made with vine ripened tomatoes, all have a deep red color, some contain extra flavor from herbs such as basil and oregano. But all have a zesty tangy tomato taste, that a great pizza sauce needs.
Ingredients for Toppings
(Traditional Napoletana: Margherita, with crushed tomatoes, olive oil, basil and mozzarella)
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- 120g of fresh fior di latte mozzarella cheese, roughly torn into small pieces the size of a walnut.
- ( Make sure you squeeze all the water out of the cheese, wrap it in paper towel and squeeze all the water out and leave to drain before using in a colander)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 12 fresh basil leaves
- 50g Parmigiano-Reggiano freshly grated
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Topping your Pizza
Once your pizza dough has been carefully placed upon the pizza peel, you’re ready to add your toppings.
The key to remember for a thin crispy crust is “Less is more “ so don’t over top your pizza with toppings.
Now we have supplied a recipe above for you to make a traditional Italian Neapolitan margarita pizza, however you can add almost anything to this base. But remember the key to adding ingredients is to keep your toppings to a minimum, make sure there is little moisture in your ingredients, and the ingredients are evenly distributed. But remember, don’t place ingredients all the way to the edge. Leaving a border will allow the crust to puff up, create a nice light crispy base and a raised edge (the famous “cornicione”).
Using a dessert spoon, top the base of the pizza with ½ cup of tomato sauce, in a circular motion from the center spread gently across the pizza and stopping before the edge(1 1/2cm from the edge).
Carefully dot the pizza evenly with mozzarella, and you are ready to cook! (We will add the Parmigiano-Reggiano, whole basil leaves, and drizzle with olive oil after removing the cooked pizza from the oven to garnish)
Making perfect pizza at home can be greatly improved with the use of a Pizza stone.
Preheating a pizza stone in your oven, creates a very hot cooking surface. This super-hot surface, helps create a pizza crust which is crispy, and golden brown.
Pizza stones can be made from a number of materials, including ceramic, clay, cordierite, or a composite of different materials.
A thick, ceramic pizza stone (15-20mm) holds the heat produced by the oven more evenly. A ceramic pizza stone has a porous surface, this surface will draw the moisture out of a pizza dough when it cooks, creating a crispy and puffy pizza crust.
Instructions for Cooking your Pizza In Home Oven
For cooking in your home oven. Position your oven rack in the top third of your, place your pizza stone on the positioned oven rack.
Turn your oven onto the highest setting temperature you can set your oven to. Preheat the oven at the hottest setting for at least one hour before cooking your pizza. Thin crispy pizza bases need the hottest oven possible. A wood fired oven can reach temperatures of up to 480.C. To create a crispy base, the dough needs to be cooked very hot very fast.
When your ready to cook, carefully slide your pizza from the pizza peel and onto your pizza stone. Immediately close the door and wait by the oven. Neapolitan style crispy base pizzas can cook in under 2 minutes in a wood pizza oven, so don’t under estimate the speed it will cook in your home oven. Wait patiently and watch your pizza cook. Now there is no correct time to cook your pizza, only can you tell it is ready is by watching. You know when your pizza is cooked when, when the crust is crispy on the bottom and when the bubbles which form on the outer edges of the pizza dough are deep brown in color. (Depending on how hot your oven gets 5-8 minutes).
Once your pizza has cooked, Use the pizza peel to remove the pizza from the oven. Place the cooked pizza onto a wooden serving board (easier to slice) then garnish with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, whole basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.
Allow the pizza cool slightly before serving.
Serve, and slice at the table. (Make sure you use a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife)
Instructions for Cooking Pizza in a Pan
Don’t have an oven, or you just find that your oven does not get hot enough. No problem, using some simple kitchen equipment, that every kitchen has, you can recreate the extreme heat of a pizza oven, and produce a pizza which can be compared as good as any restaurant quality pizza.
As the technique mentioned before, take one 250g ball of pizza dough, making sure the work surface is lightly floured, begin to stretch dough into a pizza with a motion from the center outwards. To create the perfect pizza shape for a crispy base, Stretch out your hands, have your fingers resemble claws, use your fingertips, gently stretch, shape and turn the dough until it is a 30cm diameter thin, even disk.
Heat a non-stick frying pan until it is screaming hot, it will start smoking when it reaches that temperature.
Meanwhile, preheat the grill function of you oven to maximum heat.
Carefully place the stretched dough into the hot dry (no oil) pan.
Top the base of the pizza with ½ cup of tomato sauce, in a circular motion from the center spread gently across the pizza and stopping before the edge(1 1/2cm from the edge).
Carefully dot the pizza evenly with mozzarella.
The base of the pizza should color to a nice golden brown within 2 minutes.
Remove the pan from the stove and place under the oven grill. Cook for 4 minutes or until the cheese has turned golden and melted.
Remove the pizza from beneath the oven grill. Carefully slide the cooked pizza from the pan and onto a wooden serving board (easier to slice) then garnish with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, whole basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.
Allow the pizza cool slightly before serving.
Serve, and slice at the table. (Make sure you use a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife)
Common mistakes when making a crispy thin crust Neapolitan style pizza
A dry dough is caused by not covering dough properly, either in the fridge or on the bench, you need to cover your dough. In the fridge placing the rising dough in a air locked bag is the perfect option to seal your dough from the air. When on your bench top, place a moist kitchen towel over the dough. When your dough dries out it becomes so much more difficult to knead. Once cooked a pizza with dry dough will have toppings that have moved to the center of the pizza, leaving a large crust with no topping.
Dough has not risen:
Old yeast or not enough yeast, will create a dough that is difficult to stretch. Once cooked, the pizza will not have risen, and will be flat and biscuity in texture.
Dough was kneaded, topped and cooked straight out of the refrigerator:
Cold dough straight from the refrigerator, that hasn’t been brought up to room temperature will be very difficult to stretch into a pizza. The pizza will not rise, and will often burn on the bottom before fully cooked.
Oven temperature to low:
Pizza that is cooked in a oven that is not hot enough will not rise quickly, and base will burn or be too crisp once it has cooked.
Oven temperature to high:
Pizza cooked in an oven too hot, will have a crisp base, not risen properly and will have signs of being burnt, and can be still raw.
Thin Tomato Sauce
If the sauce you use on the base of your pizza is too thin, it will affect the way your pizza rises. A thin sauce will cause the dough being to wet and soggy. This will prevent your dough being crispy.
Make sure you squeeze all the water out of the mozzarella cheese. True mozzarella comes in a water brine, make sure it is drained properly, then wrap it in paper towel and squeeze all the water out and leave to drain before using in a colander. Wet cheese or any other toppings can cause your dough becoming soggy, preventing the pizza from cooking properly, resulting in a crust that is not crispy.
Too Many Toppings
One of the most important things to remember to ensure a crispy base, is to keep the pizza toppings to a minimum.
Always remember when adding any toppings to your pizza, less is more!
Good luck with your adventure into the art of creating the perfect pizza. Just remember to consume wisely, once you have become a master and creating your perfect pizza you are going to want to eat loads of tasty homemade pizza!