Pizza – It’s All About the Crust

For all intents and purposes, I am a native Chicagoan.  I grew up on frozen pizzas and have since graduated to Neapolitan style thin crust and Chicago style deep dish pizza.  From iconic the chains like Uno’s, Lou Malnati’s, Barnaby’s and Giordano’s to the craft pizza joints like Piece, Pequod’s, Coalfire & Grateful Bites, the Chicago pizza landscape has evolved into a craft business over the years.  I am not claiming to be a pizza expert by any means, but I do have particular tastes when it comes to the pizza I like, particularly the crust.  IMO, the crust is what makes or breaks any pizza.

There are so many different components that give a crust its character.  From components like natural leavening, butter, cornmeal and a never-ending variety of flours, the possibilities are infinite.  I’ve tried all kinds of recipes with countless toppings using various cooking method.  I’ve tried charcoal grill at nearly 700 degrees and all I got was a burnt bottom crust.  I’ve tried different heights in my oven, to mixed results.

Bottom line, I have narrowed my efforts down to this recipe and method, which admittedly is still not exactly perfect….yet…..  I’ll share what I have and will come back as I continue to experiment and update appropriately.  One thing to keep in mind, like all baking efforts, measurement is extremely important.  If you don’t have one already, be sure to get yourself a good kitchen scale, something like this scale

Ingredients

77 grams #00 flour (what is #00 flour?)

77 grams all-purpose unbleached flour

4 grams finely found sea salt (don’t use kosher nor iodized)

1 gram active dry yeast

100 grams lukewarm water

2 grams extra virgin olive oil

Special Equipment

Pizza peel

Pizza steel (or stone) – I have the pizza steel by Nerd Chef, it requires a bit more care, but will last forever

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Instructions

  1. Combine flours and salt in a mixing bowl
  2. In a measuring cup, mix water, yeast & olive oil.  Water should be warm to the touch, not hot
  3. Dust your hands with 00 flour and knead for about 2-3 minutes
  4. Let dough rest for 20-30 minutes
  5. Knead again for 3 more minutes
  6. Place dough on floured surface and cover with damp cloth.  You can let it rise at room temperature for 4 hours, however, I prefer to let rise in the fridge for 8+ hours up to a day.  The reason I prefer the fridge method is the dough is easier to form when a bit cold.
  7. 1 hour prior to putting your pie in the oven, move your pizza steel and rack to the highest position in your oven and preheat to 550F degrees
  8. 30 minutes prior to shaping your dough, remove from the fridge.  It won’t be completely at room temperature and will still be cool enough to allow for easy shaping
  9. Flour a hard surface and use your hands to stretch the dough to about a 12″ pizza.
  10. Fold the dough in half across the bias and then again so what you have left looks like a triangle with a rounded bottom.
  11. Lightly dust your pizza peel and open your dough on the peel.  Prior to topping, slide your peel back and forth to ensure the dough won’t stick
  12.  Top your dough with whatever toppings you would like, keeping in mind you don’t need much, you want to taste every ingredient and the crust. img_2033
  13. Slide your pie in the oven and bake for 6-10 minutes until desired doneness (I usually lean towards 10 minutes)

So, next time you run to the grocery store and pick up a frozen pizza for $10, think again.  A great homemade pie is within your reach, as healthy as you wish to make it and something you can be proud of.  Enjoy!

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