My pizza palate has come a long way from the pizza I ate as a teenager, growing up in Eastern Canada in the early 1970’s. Pizza usually arrived at our house in a box, with the instructions on how to make it printed on the back. Inside there was a package of floury stuff that when mixed with water became the crust. There was also a tin of tomato paste mixed with herbs, and a package of very dry, grated Parmesan cheese. The pizza crust was like cardboard, the tomato sauce overwhelming with the wrong herbs, and the cheese definitely needed to be more.
When I moved to the big city and could order-in pizza, it became a whole new experience. The crust became thick and bouncy, the sauce stayed pretty much the same, and there was definitely lots more cheese. Mozzarella, melted over hamburger, pepperoni, mushrooms – whatever – arrived as a stiff, intricate web, gluing together the topping ingredients. Indeed, you could pull the cheese, toppings ‘n all, off the crust, and eat one or the other alone. Or even use the crust as a Frisbee. Still, it was better than the DIY boxed pizza we’d had at home.
Itwasn’t until I moved to Europe that I ate a real pizza. The first time I ordered a pizza in Budapest, when it arrived I thought they’d ripped me off. Then I bit into the sparsely dressed pizza, and was in heaven. The crust was thin and stretchy, the tomato sauce actually tasted like fresh tomatoes; the cheese, used sparingly, was fresh mozzarella, dropped in small blobs around the equally sparse anchovies, olives and pepperocini. This pizza had a multitude of flavors, and textures, rather than being a stiff blob of grease. And, it satisfied my appetite.
In Italy, and Spain, pizza was more of the same as my Hungarian experience – only better. I was hooked and knew I would never again eat a North American style pizza.
I’ve tried to recreate that amazingly, soft stretchy crust – and this recipe is a step in that direction. Aficionados insist on cooking in a wood burning oven, or at the very least, on a pizza stone in a conventional oven. Jo Marcangelo, author of Italian Vegetarian Cooking, (click the link to read online one of my favorite cookbooks, filled with never-fail secrets) says the trick is to cook it as close to the top of the oven as possible, and to experiment on temperature with your oven. 450F is a good temperature to start at.
Every pizza chef I’ve spoken to, tells me 00 flour is what gives the crust that wonderful soft, stretchy texture. Using sour dough as a raising agent, rather than yeast, and letting it rise for 36-48 hours, will also improve your crust. The local Napolese pizza house here in Victoria, where they make the best pizzas in town, tells me resting the dough more than 48 hours makes it difficult to work with – holes easily appear.
This recipe is a bread machine recipe, that uses yeast – not quite the same thing. Nonetheless, I’ve served it at potluck pizza parties where I make up a few batches of dough, and everyone brings their favorite ingredients, then stretches the crust and dresses the pizza how they like it. No one has yet complained that the crust tastes like cardboard, but nor does it quite meet the high standards of an Italian pizza house. This is enough dough to make 3 or 4 X 12 inch pizza crusts. How many crusts you get depends on how much extra raising time you give it, and how thin you like the crust.
Add to your bread maker:
- 6 T extra virgin olive oil
- 600 ml water
- 7 cups all-purpose flour (or you can use a mix of whole wheat and all purpose white, the finer the grind, the softer the crust)
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
Then make a small well in the center of the flour, careful not to mix it with water, and into that dry well place:
- 2 1/2 tsp yeast
Set your bread maker on the dough setting and let it do the job. When it’s finished, tip it out of the pan onto a lightly floured surface, form into a ball and let it rest for another 30 minutes or so. If you are preparing the dough ahead of time, form it into 4 balls, wrap each ball in plastic wrap, or put in a container and store it in the fridge or freezer. When you want to use the dough, bring it to room temperature and let it rest for 30 minutes or so before stretching it.
|Amount Per Serving|
|% Daily Value *|
|Total Fat 20 g||31 %|
|Saturated Fat 3 g||17 %|
|Monounsaturated Fat 15 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat 2 g|
|Trans Fat 0 g|
|Cholesterol 0 mg||0 %|
|Sodium 2658 mg||111 %|
|Potassium 46 mg||1 %|
|Total Carbohydrate 166 g||55 %|
|Dietary Fiber 0 g||2 %|
|Sugars 4 g|
|Protein 22 g||44 %|
|Vitamin A||0 %|
|Vitamin C||0 %|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|