I am going to go out a limb and say that there is no such thing as a bad pizza…hmm, well actually I have had plenty of bad pizza. Ok, so it might be more accurate to say that most pizza is pretty good. The pizza we made last weekend was a lot better than pretty good though. It was a thin crust pepperoni pizza I based off the Thin Crust Pizza recipe I tried before and a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. The trick to getting a crispy crust is using highest heat your oven can put out and also adding the cheese half way through. Adding the cheese at the halfway point lets the crust fully cook without the cheese burning. Using all purpose flour helps ensure that the crust does not get too tough due to the extended bake time.
The best part of this recipe is that I made the dough two hours before cooking time, and then pre-heated the oven, made the pizzas and baked them all within an hour! I used a Kitchen Aid mixer instead of a food processor and it worked great. I am sure you can also mix everything by hand too, the old fashion way. I used petite diced tomatoes, so I didn’t need to chop them finer. Not all stores carry them though.
Neapolitan Pepperoni Pizza
This recipe requires a pizza stone and a peel. You can shape the second dough round while the first pizza bakes, but don’t add toppings until just before baking. You can let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator if you like; place the dough balls on a floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray. If using mozzarella packed in brine, pat the cheese cubes dry before placing them on the pizza.
- 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 cup water (8 ounces), room temperature
- 2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 3/4 ounces), plus extra for dusting work surface and peel
- Corn meal, for dusting
- 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 small clove garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (optional)
- Table salt
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, either grated or fresh (see note above), cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 package pepperoni
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
For the crust –
- Adjust oven rack to lowest position, set pizza stone on oven rack.
- In liquid measuring cup, whisk yeast into water to dissolve. Add the olive oil. In a food processor fitted with metal blade, process flours, salt, and sugar until combined, about 5 seconds.
- With machine running, slowly add liquid through feed tube; continue to process until dough forms satiny, sticky ball that clears sides of workbowl, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. (If after 1 minute dough is sticky and clings to blade, add 1 to 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and continue processing. If dough appears dry and crumbly, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water and process until dough forms ball.) The original recipe doesn’t call for olive oil in the dough, so you will probably have to add a little extra flour back in.
- Divide dough in half and shape into smooth, tight balls. Place on floured counter or baking sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart; cover loosely with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray and let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
For the topping –
- Preheat the oven to 500 or even 550 degrees if it will go that high. In a clean bowl of food processor, process tomatoes until crushed, two or three 1-second pulses. Transfer tomatoes to fine-mesh strainer set over bowl and let drain at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to release liquids. Combine the drained tomatoes, sugar, garlic (if using), and 1/4 teaspoon salt in bowl.
Shaping and cooking the pizzas –
- When dough balls have doubled in size, dust dough liberally with flour and transfer balls to well-floured work surface. I used corn meal on the work surface instead to give the crust a little extra crunch.
- Press one ball into 8-inch disk. Using flattened palms, gently stretch disk into 12-inch circle, working along outer edge and giving disk quarter turns. I can never this technique to work well, instead I place the 8-inch disk onto a piece of parchment paper and use a rolling pin to flat it. The flattened pizza should be about 1/16″ thick.
- Lightly flour your pizza peel. Lift edges of dough round to brush off any excess flour, then transfer dough to peel. Spread thin layer of tomato topping (about 1/2 cup) over dough with rubber spatula, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge. Add lots of pepperoni.
- Slide the pizza onto the stone and bake until crust begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove pizza from oven with peel, close oven door, and top pizza with half of cheese chunks, spaced evenly apart. I also grated a bunch of Romano cheese on top for extra flavor.
- Return the pizza to the stone and continue cooking until cheese is just melted, 4 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to cutting board. Slice and serve immediately. Repeat step 2 to shape, top, and bake second pizza.