At Robin’s request, here’s a recipe for wheat pizza crust.
This recipe makes enough for one thin-crust medium pizza, and was originally derived from a recipe for pita bread.
Many bread recipes call for multiple rising periods, usually to double the original volume. My normal bread recipe, for example, calls for three such rises. Pizza is a flatbread, though, so while you may let the dough rest for a time, it isn’t really necessary to let it rise so much.
One very happy thing about making bread, though — yeast bread is very, very forgiving. As long as you adequately develop the gluten and don’t kill the yeast, (and don’t burn things when you cook them — there’s a reason I make the dough and shape the bread, and my wife actually bakes it) you should end up with some decent product.
- 2/3 cup warm water
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 heaping tablespoon yeast
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
Set the yeast in a steep-sided bowl with the warm water and sugar until foamy (usually 5-10 minutes, and you can speed it up once the yeast softens by beating the mixture together). Add olive oil, half the flour, and the salt. Mix with a mixer at high speed for 2-3 minutes, until it’s smooth and somewhat sticky. Remove the mixer and mix in about 1/2-3/4 of the remaining flour using a spoon, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead in the rest of the flour. You want to end up with quite a soft dough.
Flour the surface of the dough (or it’ll stick to whatever you put it down on) and let it rest for about 15 minutes. After that, on a fairly well-floured surface (sticky dough, remember) gently roll out to the size and shape needed. Put it into a prepared pan (oiled or cornmealed) or onto a prepared cooking sheet, then add sauce, toppings, etc.
I usually cook pizza at around 450F for about 20-25 minutes, depending. Keep an eye on it, this is highly dependent on the crust and the toppings used. If I do a deep-dish pizza I’ll cook around 350-400F for about 35-45 minutes, again depending.
I usually find it helpful after putting it in the pan (or on the cooking sheet) to use my fingers to put a bunch of dents into the bread. This can help prevent it separating (as pita does) on cooking.
To make a crispy crust, you actually cook the crust before assembly. Roll the crust out, put it into an oiled (not cornmealed) pan, then lightly oil the top and edges. Cook in a 450F oven for about 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Allow to cool, assemble with sauce and toppings, then put under a broiler for a few minutes to finish cooking the toppings, and melt and brown any cheese.
To make a thicker crust, increase everything by (about) half — 1 cup of water, 3 cups of flour, etc. Remember that on scaling yeast recipes you typically don’t change the amount of yeast. If I’m making a thicker crust I usually aim for a stiffer dough as well, so more kneading and more vigorous, and work a bit more flour in that is suggested by simple scaling, perhaps 3.25-3.5 cups.
To make a lighter, fluffier crust you can let it rise after shaping, before applying sauce and toppings.
Whole Wheat Crust
For whole wheat crust you can do much the same, but I would use only about half whole wheat flour. Going much above 50% very quickly leads to a heavy, heavy, hard dough (less gluten, and the husks in the flour abrade the gluten that is present so you don’t get the same good structure you do with white flour). You can also supplement with gluten (available in many grocery stores, I think) to encourage lighter dough.
A cornmeal crust is pretty simple. Replace up to half the wheat flour with cornmeal. As with whole wheat, you might supplement the mix by adding some gluten. I’ve gotten some satisfactorily light dough using cornmeal, though.