If there is one meal our entire little family can agree upon, it would be pizza. Not too unique considering 99% of the population would probably list pizza in their top five favorite foods. But if I ever feel like enjoying a relaxing dinner where my children will sing my praises while simultaneously licking their plates clean, pizza is my meal of choice.
The only major drawback of pizza is how messy my girls are when they eat it. Matthew, surprisingly, manages to keep things fairly contained while stuffing his face, but Emma and Lucy practically paint themselves with their food. Lucy has an excuse, she's a little baby, but Emma - my fancy little girl who loves dresses, jewelry, and frills - has worse table manners than a gorilla. Paul summed it up pretty good the other day during breakfast while we were drinking coffee as Emma slurped down the remainder of her oatmeal. I had just been telling him about how one of my close friends was raving about how beautiful our Emma is. Paul's response was to take a long gaze at Emma sitting in her high chair with oatmeal spread all over her face, hanging in sticky clumps from her hair, and pasted onto the sides of her arms while noisily licking the remainder of the milk from her bowl, and then remark: "Well, she she didn't say that after watching Emma eat breakfast, that's for damn sure."
And so it is that pizza night always coincides with bath night.
This pizza recipe is my absolute favorite and I cannot believe that I have never shared it before! Since the crust of this pizza is on the thinner side, it is best not to weigh it down with heavy toppings in order to ensure that the bottom cooks properly. Thus, a simple tomato sauce and a generous smothering of cheese is all that is needed. The true star of this recipe is the crust itself - it is chewy, yeasty, and delightfully airy. The flavor is reminiscent of a well-developed slice of artisan bread and nothing more than a well-balanced tomato sauce and a generous portion of melty, gooey cheese is required to make this pizza the Greatest Thin Crust Pizza on the Planet. High praise, but I totally mean it. I've had a lot of pizza and this is, hands down, really incredibly awesome.
The dough requires a bit of advance planning since it needs at least 24 hours to rest in the fridge in order to properly develop both flavor and structure. Thankfully, other than all the waiting, this recipe is a breeze to put together. The dough is a dream to work with - it pulls and stretches so smoothly and without tearing! This is a great dough to test out your dough throwing skills and make you feel like you are a skilled Italian baker working in an actual pizzeria. Matthew has a lot of fun cheering me on as we throw our rounds of dough into the air in an attempt to expand the size of our circle into a full-size 13-inch pizza. More than once we have ended up mangling our dough or flinging it accidentally into the other room. Ooops.
Have a family pizza night and give this recipe a go! I hope you enjoy it every bit as much as we do!
Thin Crust Pizza with Cheese
from a recipe found in Cook's Illustrated
For the Dough:
3 cups bread flour, plus more for work surface
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon instant (rapid-rise) yeast
1⅓ cups ice water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for work surface
1½ teaspoons salt
For the Sauce:
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
For the Toppings:
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 2 cups shredded)
Make the Dough: In a food processor, process the flour, sugar and yeast for 2 seconds to combine. With the machine running, slowly add the water through the feed tube and process until dough is just combined and no dry flour remains, about 10 seconds. Let dough rest in the food processor for 10 minutes.
Add the oil and salt to the dough and process until the dough forms a satiny, sticky ball that clears the side of the workbowl, 30 to 60 seconds. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead briefly on a lightly oiled surface until smooth, about 1 minute. Shape the dough into a tight ball and place in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours (the dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days).
To make the sauce, process all of the sauce ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add to a medium stockpot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.Reduce the heat and continue to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool, and then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.
One hour before baking the pizza, adjust the oven rack to the second-highest position (the rack should be 4 to 5 inches below the broiler). Set a pizza stone on the rack and heat the oven to 500 degrees.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it in half. Shape each half into a smooth, tight ball. Place them on a lightly oiled baking sheet, making sure they are at least three inches apart. Cover them loosely with a piece of plastic wrap that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside for 1 hour.
Coat one ball of dough with flour and place on a well-floured surface. Using your fingertips, gently flatten the dough into an 8-inch disk, leaving an inch or so of outer edge thicker than the center. Using your hands, gently stretch into a 12-inch round, working along the edges and giving the dough quarter turns as you stretch it. Transfer the dough to a well-floured pizza peel and stretch into a 13-inch round.
Spread ½ cup of the tomato sauce in a thin layer over the dough, then sprinkle with half of the Parmesan cheese and half of the mozzarella cheese. Top with pepperoni slices, if desired.
Slide the pizza carefully onto the stone and bake until the crust is well browned and the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the pizza halfway through the baking time. Remove the pizza from the stone and place on a wire rack for 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Repeat steps to shape and bake second pizza.