October 15, 2010

Thin Crust Pizza... Done Right This Time!

After last weekend's rather lackluster attempt at a thin crust pizza, I felt a need to try again, with a different recipe, in hopes of getting it right this time. I am happy to report that I succeeded in this endeavor, and the results were more than good enough to make up for last weekend's fiasco!

This time it worked!  Yay!!

For the crust, I used the recipe for Thin Crust Pizza published in the January 2001 issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine. This calls for the dough to be refrigerated for at least overnight, so I made up a batch yesterday evening and a second batch this morning before going to work. I have to admit, I was more than a bit dubious when I woke up in the morning and saw how little the first batch of dough had risen, and even moreso when we got home and I saw that the dough looked essentially identical to when I looked in the morning. Nonetheless, I continued, figuring that if it didn't work, I'd probably at least learn something in the process.

Well, I needn't have worried. The crust turned out great... wafer-thin, delightfully crispy and flavorful, tasting like like an honest pizza crust, not bread-like or yeasty. The perfect thin crust, as far as I'm concerned, and better than any homemade version I've ever had.

I did not follow the published recipe in making the sauce. I liked the basic sauce idea presented in the article - start with crushed tomatoes, pureed smooth, cook some garlic, stir and season - but their sauce recipe struck me as extremely bland. I started with Dei Fratelli's crushed tomatoes.  That's our go-to brand when it comes to tomato products for anything remotely Italian. I used a lot more garlic than the original called for, but the real difference was in the seasoning. The original recipe called for nothing but a bit of salt and pepper to taste, which just doesn't cut it as pizza sauce as far as I'm concerned. If we hadn't have gotten home so late, I would have picked some fresh basil and supplemented that with some dried spice, but I was pretty hungry and decided to cut a couple corners. I ended up using Penzeys Tuscan Sunset Italian spice blend (http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/p-penzeystuscan.html). The result was a smooth, flavorful and very Italian-tasting pizza sauce.

I topped the pizzas with some excellent pepperoni and mozzarella from Graziano Bros. grocery, a Des Moines institution (http://www.insiderpages.com/b/3713780045/graziano-bros-des-moines). As Juli's previously mentioned, they're our go-to place for most things Italian. We didn't use any of their excellent hand-made sausage this time around, but I plan to do so in the future.

I should note that I did something a bit atypical with the pepperoni. Namely, I cooked it in the microwave for a bit before putting it on the pizza. First I covered a plate with a layer of paper towel. Next I covered that paper towel with a layer of pepperoni, then I put another layer of paper towel on top. Microwaving it 30 seconds removed a lot of the grease. For the first pizza I made, Juli thought that trick also removed some of the flavor, but I think the issue was that I just didn't use a lot of pepperoni on the first pizza. I was being careful, as I didn't want to overburden the pizza with toppings until I saw how well the crust turned out. For the second pizza, I used almost twice as much pepperoni. She agreed then that the first pizza had simply needed a bit more pepperoni, and that the second one was not harmed a bit by losing some grease.

Double pepperoni goodness

My quest for a great thin crust pizza has ended, as this recipe is definitely a keeper. I expect I'll be using my pizza stone and peel a lot more often from now on. In fact, I plan to use them more this weekend, as I still have another batch of dough (the recipe makes enough for two pizzas), plenty more cheese and everything I need for sauce. Maybe I'll try some other ingredients and experiment a bit more with the sauce.

Here's the sauce I used this time around.

Jeffrey's Quick Pizza Sauce

yield = enough sauce for two 14" pizzas

14 1/2 ounces crushed tomatoes
1         tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2   teaspoon minced garlic
1         heaping teaspoon Italian seasoning

Puree the tomatoes in food processor until smooth.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat until steaming. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, 45 seconds. Add the tomato puree and Italian seasoning. Cook 15 minutes, stirring constantly.


  1. And the dough recipe is?? It looks great.

  2. Unfortunately, I can't publish the recipe here, as it is copyrighted to the folks at Cooks Illustrated and I don't have permission to copy it here.

    What I can do is provide a link to where the recipe is on their site, but to actually view the recipe itself, one has to be a member of the site. They do offer a 14-day free trial membership, though.

    Personally, I consider my membership to their site to be a pretty wonderful tool, as you can access their archives of articles, recipes, taste tests, equipment reviews, instructional videos and so forth, but as in all things, your mileage may vary.

    For those interested, here's the site link: