I can’t pretend to be everything to everyone. Especially when it comes to pizza crusts.
It seems everyone has a strong opinion about pizza crusts. Crispy, chewy, thin, deep dish, buttery, bready – we all seem to like it a different way. I long for the Pizza Hut crust of my childhood – crispy and deliciously buttery. I slurp the heart-attack inducing garlic butter that Papa John’s serves with its pizza in all its processed glory. Matt, on the other hand, looks down his nose at those two options, much preferring the “fold your slice” pizzas of New York Pizzeria, which are so greasy they make the box soggy.
These strong opinions, combined with my terror of bread products, let me to never attempt pizza dough. But Matt was thoroughly dissatisfied with store bought dough, and after mastering basic bread, I decided to tackle pizzas.
I’ve never been one to go out to buy much kitchenware, so I decided against the splurge on pizza stones that most people insist are paramount to a good pizza. My first forays were – as could be expected – somewhat squishy. But a dinner at my friend Rachael’s proved to be my homemade pizza salvation. She showed me the technique of cooking pizza in a cast iron skillet (cast iron! again! how I love my cast iron), producing a crust which was deliciously crispy not only at the edges but throughout the bottom of the pizza.
My pizza dough recipe comes from the always wonderful Pioneer Woman. Mix together 1 tsp yeast, 1 1/2 cups warm water, 4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup olive oil and a pinch of salt. Knead until just combined, then form into a ball and cover all over with olive oil. Put in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and store until needed (the day before is fine, in fact I’ve made this several days in advance with no ill effects!) This produced a wonderfully, ridiculously thin crust pizza.
Another great recipe is Alton Brown’s, though I at first made the mistake of a straight active yeast/instant yeast substitution. Do yourself a favor and read your McGee, Joy of Cooking, or do a little online research before trying that out! This pizza crust is a bit thicker but easier to work with, and using the technique below it still comes out crispy.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Put your cast iron skillet on a hot flame on the stove. Pull the dough into the best approximation of a circle the size of your skillet as you can – you won’t really be able to shape it once it’s on there! You can make it as thin or as thick as you like. This is the tricky part, since the dough will be pretty soft. Flop your dough circle into the skillet. Keep an eye on the heat so it doesn’t burn!
Top your pizza with whatever toppings you desire as quickly as you can. Slide the whole thing into the oven and bake for 10 minutes or so – until the crust is browned on top, your sauce is bubbly and your cheese is melty. The crust should be firm enough that you can remove the pizza to a cutting board with a flat spatula or two. Slice and enjoy!