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The Eternal Quest for Perfect Pizza Dough because Pizza is a Way of Life

Perfect dough: Crispy on the bottom and chewy but never doughy

My husband, Yes!Chef!, started his cooking adventure many years ago when he began working at Pizza Hut while attending the University of Minnesota (brr.) He learned how to make their style of pizza and then he was elevated to manager and learned how to run a business.  Now, I never knew Yes!Chef! in those days.  I met him some years later in Wisconsin (which is a whole ‘nother story”), but I know he’s always had a love of pizza.  I discovered the joys of Chicago style stuffed pizza when I spent some time in Chicago for work and then when I moved to Wisconsin for a couple of years. BTW, I loved living in Wisconsin except for the bitter cold winters and the hot sticky summers. Yes, I’m a born and raised California girl, but I’m not a weather wimp because I was raised in the hills and mountains of Northern California.  We had very hot summers (but no humidity) and cold winters with snow.  But nothing like the extremes of living in Wisconsin.

When I met Yes!Chef! he really didn’t know anything about cooking except how to put a pizza together.  We did take a gourmet cooking class together when we were dating, which put him on track for where he is today.

For most Americans, pizza is a truly beloved food.  You can hear people saying the best pizza is at this restaurant or that restaurant.  In fact, when my youngest son and I were at the photo shoot at Brewsters on Sunday, we had pizza made by Brewsters, which was one of their specialties.

A quick snap shot of semi-devoured pizza from Brewsters

They had made all different kinds of pizza including all meat, all veggies, chicken with olives and artichokes, pepperoni, etc.  I think everyone (which included models, young men, photographers, parents of models and younger teens) found something they liked.

A model chooses her pizza

I had a piece of the veggie pizza, which was good. Although, I am a thin-dough afficianado because I have some issues with digesting so much bread, so I mostly ate the top off the two slices of pizza that I had.  I am not here to critique the pizza or compare it to Y!C!’s pizza because I have never had pizza from a restaurant that tastes as good as Y!C!

A couple of weeks ago, Yes!Chef! made some pizza on the grill which resulted in a very crispy, cracker-like crust.  In my opinion, this was the best pizza yet.

Fresh Pizza on the grill with crispy crust

Note how thin the crust is

But, as good as this pizza was, it was not the crust that Yes!Chef! had been searching for.  (If you are interested in the crust recipe for the above pizza, go here.)  He was longing for a pizza crust that represented original pizza crust before it became a fast food.  He thinks he found it in the pizza dough he made last weekend and took two days to “ferment” in the refrigerator. I have never seen him so happy about any pizza that he has ever made and he has made lots of pizzas. I will warn you that the recipe for the dough came from “America’s Test Kitchen” and those recipes are never simple and they often use unusual techniques.  Y!C! says it is definitely worth the time investment to produce the kind of crust that made him swoon.

Steps to making pizza

You will note that Yes!Chef! “rolled” the dough out with his hands by patting into a circle.  He said it was such a good dough that he didn’t need to use a rolling pin and it gave the crust a more rustic look.  Here’s the recipe, should you choose to try it (from Yes!Chef!’s well worn copy of “The Best of America’s Test Kitchen:  Best Recipes and Reviews 2012″)

Thin-Crust Pizza (This recipe makes enough for two pizzas.)

Dough

  • 3 cups (16 1/2 oz) bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/3 cups ice water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1.  Process flour, sugar, and yeast in food processor until combined, about 2 seconds.  With machine running, slowly add water; process until dough is just combined and no dry flour remains, about 10 seconds.  Let dough stand for 10 minutes

2.  Add oil and salt to dough and process until dough forms satiny, sticky ball that clears sides of workbowl, 30 to 60 seconds.  Remove dough from bowl and knead briefly on lightly oiled counter until smooth, about 1 minute.  Shape dough into tight ball and place in large, lightly oiled bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 3 days.

Yes!Chef! did not use the sauce recipe that came with the above recipe.  He used this one ( and it is very simple):

Ingredients

  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
 Directions
  1. Mix together the tomato paste, water, and olive oil. Mix well. Add garlic, salt and pepper to taste, oregano, basil, and rosemary. Mix well and let stand several hours to let flavors blend. No cooking necessary, just spread on dough.

After two days, Yes!Chef! removed the dough and it really hadn’t risen very much.  He said it was probably because there wasn’t much yeast in the dough and it had been placed in the refrigerator.

To make the pizzas:  One hour before baking pizza, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 4 to 5 inches below broiler), set pizza stone on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees.  Remove dough from refrigerator and divide in half.  Shape each half into smooth, tight ball.  Place on lightly oiled baking sheet, spacing balls at least 3 inches apart.  Cover loosely with plastic coated with vegetable oil spray and let stand for 1 hour.

Coat 1 ball of dough generously with flour and place on well floured counter.  Using fingertips, gently flatten into 8-inch disk, leavingt 1 inch of outer edge slightly thicker than center.  Using hands, gently stretch disk into 12-inch round, working along edges and giving disk quarter turns as you stretch.  Transfer dough to well-floured (wood pizza board), peel and stretch into 13-inch round.  Using back of spoon or ladle, spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce in thin layer over surface of dough, leaving 1/4-inch border around edge.

At this point he veered from the recipe and used various toppings of his own choosing (see above pictures.) He added spicy sausage, onions, olives and Parmesan and Mozzarella on one pizza (for Y!C! and me) and then just meat and cheese and olives for youngest son.  Feel free to add sweet peppers, red onions, artichoke hearts, chicken, or other favorite ingredient.

Slide pizza carefully onto stone and bake until crust is well browned and cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown, 10-12 minutes, rotating pizza half-way through baking.  Remove pizza and place on wire rack for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.  Repeat for second pizza.

Before and after baking

The result was delicious.  The crust was lightly browned on the bottom and chewy, but not doughy, in the center.  It was also nice and thin but not crispy.

This pizza will make you happy and proud.  It takes a little planning ahead of time and patience during the dough rising process, but you will be glad that you had the patience.  Your family and/or friends will be glad you made it.

Yes!Chef!’s pizza made him happy.

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17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sherry #

    This looks like a great dough. I have developed one (mainly from Cooks Illustrated that we just love. It’s not so thin, but it’s full of holes an crunchy and not at all bready. You may want to take a look at it. http://mybestcookbook.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/the-ultimate-pizza-crust/. I enjoy your site very much and have it in my reader so I never miss a recipe!

    July 20, 2012
    • Thank you so much. I will run over right now and take a look.

      July 20, 2012
  2. Karen, your posts are consistently beautiful and offer solid information. Thank you.

    July 20, 2012
  3. what are you doing to me! i am fasting and this is soooo mouth watering goood, you adn the yes chef make me want to be a better cook!… and also make me very hungry lol

    July 21, 2012
    • Ha! Well, I don’t know how long you are fasting, but the dough is best if you make it and then let it ferment for three days.

      July 21, 2012
  4. Looks really nice recipe!
    Looking forward to test it.

    July 21, 2012
  5. Since we’ve started making our own pizza at home we haven’t found very many places, if any that make a better pizza. Have to admit that we buy a fresh pizza dough from the local bakery but the trick is in how thin you roll the dough and how hot the oven is. We’ve often talked about going to the next level and making our own dough. I used to use a similar recipe with my grade 8 students many years ago and that dough come to think of it always had to rest in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours or longer and the results were alway good, but in those days no one made thin crust. Looking forward to using your recipe. Thanks for sharing.

    July 21, 2012
    • I hope you try it because it really is a good thin chewy crust. I even ate the ends and I never do that.

      July 21, 2012
  6. Your pizza looks great!!!! Homemade is the best, I’ve been doing pizza classes, grilled pizzed for quite some time and make the dough recipe in my sleep! I recently made a grilled Caprese Pizza for a demo in a cooking class and it was just so yummy. Adapted a bruschetta that I had in Bellagio into a pizza. Your pictures are wonderful.

    July 21, 2012
    • that sounds soooo good. Caprese. I’ll have to talk to Y!C! about that. Thank you for your kind words.

      July 21, 2012
  7. Any bread dough recipe that extends the primary fermentation to a day or two is going to be great. The dough develops depth and flavor–and you get that great chewy texture with wonderful holes. People forget that the most critical ingredient with bread is time–slowing things down. I basically follow the same technique with a sourdough starter. Great post! Ken

    July 24, 2012
    • Thank you. I will have to recommend that Y!C! makes some sour dough (love that stuff.)

      July 24, 2012
  8. Very true! Thin crust is where is at!

    August 12, 2012
    • I know, right? I just can’t eat thick crust anymore. Makes me too puffy and stuffy!

      August 12, 2012

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  1. Do you use a food processor to make your favorite dish?

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