I am of the opinion that every human should feel comfortable making a pizza. I don’t think that pizza-making ability is necessarily an evolutionary advantage (except, perhaps, as an indirect means of mate attraction), but I just think it’s a good skill to have…like the ability to tie one’s shoes by oneself.
A lot of classier blogs recommend going to your local pizzeria to ask them if you can buy a bag of their pizza dough. These blogs are usually the same ones that recommend getting your meat from your local butcher and your cheese from your local fromager. For us laypeople who don’t have a local meatman and would feel rather idiotic asking Papa John for some of his dough, I am happy to report that you can make a solid pizza, from scratch, all by yourself — no fromager required.
The pizza dough recipe below is one that I read in a New York Times article a few years ago and have since adapted and varied to meet my needs. It’s incredibly simple and requires no kneading, rolling, or voodoo. It basically makes itself and you just supervise. It has a high moisture content, but is very forgiving. You will be doubtful until the moment you taste it, I promise.
As with any pizza, the dough itself is a blank slate to be topped and cooked as desired. If you’re a meat-and-potatoes, plain-old-chocolate-chip-cookie kind of person, you are welcome to stay traditional, with a slathering of red sauce and a sprinkling of mozzarella and fresh basil. If you’re more of a kale-and-quinoa, banana-nicecream kind of person, brush your crust with olive oil and garlic, bake, and top with greens dressed lightly in a fresh lemon vinaigrette. If you’re somewhere in the middle, try this tropical Hawaiian version!
If you already have a favorite pizza-making method, stop reading here — I won’t be offended. If not, read on…
This cast iron skillet method is a great one for people who don’t want to go through the trouble and burn-risk of using a pizza stone or face the dreaded in-oven-spill-over inherent with porous pizza pans. All you need to do is assemble your pizza directly in the skillet as your oven preheats, then throw it in, cook it, and take it out. That’s all! The cast iron gets really hot really quickly, so you still get that nice crisp crust, without any of the pizza stone gyrations. To keep your crust crisp, just be sure to let the pizza cool on a wire rack (or a holey pizza pan), to permit air circulation. No soggy bottoms here!
Thin Crust Hawaiian Skillet Pizza
Easy-as-Pie Pizza Dough – Makes one 12″ thin-crust pizza
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (or a blend of AP, whole-wheat, and rye flours, for a heartier crust)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 a packet of instant dry yeast (~3/4 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoons water (either straight from the cold tap or tepid kettle water leftover from your last cup of tea)
In a mixing bowl, combine flour(s), salt, sugar, and yeast. Add water and oil, and use a rubber spatula to thoroughly fold ingredients together into a uniformly wet mass. Scrape all of the dough to one side of the bowl, spray the opposite side with non-stick oil, then scrape the dough to the oiled side, and spray the remaining half of the bowl (or, if you aren’t as phobic about creating additional dishes as I am, you can just oil a second mixing bowl, then transfer your dough to that bowl). Cover bowl tightly and securely with plastic wrap. Let sit on kitchen counter for 24-48 hours. You will notice the dough gets more bubbly with time, but don’t expect it to rise up like a traditional yeast dough. Just do like The Beatles said, and let it be.
When ready to assemble your pizza, start preheating your oven to 450 degrees farenheit. Meanwhile, in a 12″ cast iron skillet, pour about 3 tablespoons olive oil into the skillet, and swirl the skillet to evenly coat the bottom and at least a 1/2″ up the sides. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the dough into the prepared skillet, and use your fingers to press the dough out to evenly cover the bottom of the pan – lightly oil your fingertips if dough is sticky. Leave stretched dough alone for 20-30 minutes.
After 20-30 minutes have elapsed, use you fingers to gently press out any large bubbles, and ensure that your dough reaches the edges of the skillet. Top as desired (see below), and carefully transfer skillet to oven, bumping oven temp down to 400 degrees immediately upon closing oven door. Bake 20-25 minutes, until crust is crisp and toppings are done. Use the largest spatula you own to transfer the pizza to a wire cooling rack or holed pizza pan to rest for 15 minutes prior to slicing.
NOTE: If your toppings cook faster than your crust, you can always remove the skillet from the oven and crisp up the bottom over medium heat on the stove…that’s the beauty of a cast iron skillet baby!
1 recipe Easy-as-Pie Pizza Dough
4 oz. tomato sauce (half the can) — even better if you can find the Mexican kind!
10 thin slices of deli Black Forest ham, cut into thin strips
5 slices provolone cheese or shredded mild cheddar cheese
Caramelized onions (optional)
4-5 pineapple rings, drained and sliced in half
5 fresh basil leaves, rolled and julienned (optional)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread a thin layer of pizza sauce over the entire surface of the stretched, rested pizza dough (prepared as directed above), making sure to coat the dough all the way to the edges. Top with ham strips, then cheese, then pineapple slices and onions, if using. Sprinkle with fresh basil, if using.
Transfer skillet to oven, and decrease oven temp to 400 degrees. Bake 20-25 minutes, until crust is crisp and toppings are done. Use the largest spatula you have to transfer the pizza to a wire cooling rack or holed pizza pan to rest for 15 minutes prior to slicing.