Pizza for Everybody!
Pizza is a food with almost universal appeal. No matter your age, gender, or background, chances are good that everyone enjoys chowing down on this fast and easy food. While many people immediately think of their favorite local pizza place or perhaps reminisce about the best Chicago-style deep dish they’ve ever had, homemade pizza is by far the most delicious and healthy way to eat this popular savory pie.
With homemade pizza, you not only control the amount of sugars, fats, and starches that go into the crust and the sauce, you also have the ability to choose from the freshest ingredients at the market, or even your own garden, to top it off.
The foundation of every good homemade pizza is the crust. Without a good crust, the rest of your pizza won’t stand out as it should. The trick to the perfect pizza crust is ensuring it is perfectly golden before taking it out of the oven. You don’t want it to be undercooked before adding the sauce and the toppings because then it will be doughy and chewy when finished. Cook it too much, however, and the burnt flavoring of the bottom of the pie will overpower the rest of the ingredients.
Today, we’ll look at a couple different pizza crust doughs—including a gluten free—as a way to encourage you to step outside the norm and experiment with your dough. What’s the worst that can happen?
The problem with gluten
While rolling out your pizza dough, you may notice that you need to stretch it out several times because it keeps contracting back into itself. Blame it on gluten, which is very elastic. Besides making dough difficult to roll out for pizza crust, gluten also creates other challenges for some people.
Many people are gluten intolerant or live with a more serious condition, called celiac disease, which takes traditional pizza crust recipes off the menu. While there have been pre-made gluten-free pizzas and doughs on the market for a while now, they don’t taste all that good. Fortunately, as awareness of this condition spreads, people are sharing more and more recipes for delicious gluten-free baked goods.
The reason gluten-free cooking can be difficult is there is no simple substitute for flour or other wheat products. In order to replicate flavors and textures as closely as possible, you need to use a combination of different starches and flours. Don’t start from scratch, though. You can start with a traditional pizza dough recipe from a family member or friend and substitute out the flour for gluten-free alternatives. Here’s one option, but you may know of others:
Pizza crust (without the gluten)
- 3/4 cup tapioca starch
- 1 cup sorghum flour
- 1/3 cup chickpea flour
- 1/2 cup brown rice flour
- 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup warm water (between 110 – 115ºF)
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
- Grease your pizza stone or baking pan and lightly sprinkle gluten-free cornmeal or rice flour over it. This will help prevent the pizza from sticking to the surface. Preheat the oven to 425 F. If you use cornmeal, check that it is actually gluten-free. Some commercial brands add wheat flour to cornmeal.
- In a large bowl, mix together tapioca starch, sorghum flour, chickpea flour, brown rice flour, xantham gum, salt, and sugar. If brown rice flours give baked goods a grittier taste than you prefer, substitute with white rice flour.
- Next, proof the yeast to make sure it is actually still active. Add the packet to a cup of warm water. In about 10 to 15 minutes, the yeast should bubble and look creamy. If this happens, add the yeast and water to the dry ingredients along with the oil, eggs, and vinegar. If this doesn’t happen, repeat the proofing with a new packet of yeast.
- Beat the dough with an electric mixer until thick, smooth, and sticky. The consistency of the mixture will be between that of bread dough and batter.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and lightly flatten it with wet hands to create a thin shell. Since there is no gluten, you need to be gentler than you would with regular pizza dough. Make sure you keep your hands wet throughout the process to prevent the dough from sticking to your skin. Let the crust rise for about 15 minutes before placing it in the oven.
- Bake for about 10 minutes in the oven until golden. Remove your crust from the oven and add your sauce and toppings. Return the pizza to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes.
Fresh toppings make a difference
Once you have your crust, whether gluten-free or traditional, it’s time to add toppings to your pizza! The crust may have been the foundation of your pie, but the toppings are what gives it personality! Choose fresh fruits, veggies, herbs, and savory meat toppings to add along with your favorite cheeses.
Just don’t go too crazy and overload your crust. If you do, your pizza won’t cook evenly. Keep in mind that any meat toppings will need to be pre-cooked so that they aren’t still raw when the rest of the pizza is finished.
Other crusts to try
First, a basic, no-nonsense crust and then a New York Style crust.
The perfect dough for homemade pizza.
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup warm water (105 – 110 degrees F.)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup corn oil
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast with the water and sugar. Add the corn oil and blend. Add the flour and salt and mix thoroughly. If using a stand mixer, mix for 4 minutes at medium speed, until the dough is smooth and pliable. If kneading by hand, knead for 7 to 8 minutes. Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead by hand for two additional minutes.
Add olive oil to a deep bowl. Place the dough ball into the bowl and turn it twice to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.* Let the dough rise for two hours. Do not punch it down. Spread and push the dough ball across the bottom of the pan.
*At this stage the dough can be put in the refrigerator and allowed to rise slowly over night. Take the dough out of the refrigerator at least an hour before you are ready to assemble the pizza.
New York-Style Pizza Dough
- 1 package (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1 cup lukewarm water (90 F to 100 F)
- 1 1/4 cups ice-cold water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon table salt or 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 1/4 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour, plus more for dusting
This dough to be a little wetter and tackier to work with than some others. Learning to work with a slightly sticky dough rewards you with a crust that is crisp and airy, yet chewy. In New York, most pizza dough is pressed, stretched, and tossed, but never rolled with a rolling pin.
Keep your hands well dusted with flour and even though the dough feels tacky, your hands won’t stick and tear the dough.
In a small bowl, using a fork, stir the yeast into the lukewarm water. Set aside until the yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes.
In another small bowl, combine the cold water, sugar, salt, and olive oil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt.
To make the dough by hand: Place 5 1/4 cups of the flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and stir in the yeast mixture along with the cold-water mixture. Using a wooden spoon, mix the dough, incorporating as much of the flour as possible.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and knead until soft and elastic, 10 to 12 minutes. It will still be a little sticky but shouldn’t stick to your hands. Add only a minimum amount of flour to the work surface to keep the dough from sticking.
To make the dough using a mixer: Fit a heavy-duty stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Place 5 1/4 cups of the flour in the mixer bowl. Add the yeast mixture along with the cold-water mixture and mix on low speed until the flour is incorporated and the dough gathers together to form a coarse ball, about 4 minutes. Let rest for 2 minutes.
Mix on low speed until the dough is smooth and not sticky, about 6 minutes longer. Turn the dough out on a well-floured work surface and knead for a minute or two until it forms a smooth ball, adding up to 1/4 cup of additional flour, if necessary.
To prepare the dough for rising
Cut the dough into thirds to form three even portions, each weighing 15 ounces. With floured hands, pick up one portion of dough and pull the opposite edges together, wrapping them underneath toward the center to form a tight, smooth ball. Pinch to seal. Repeat with the other two portions. Place each portion in a 1-gallon lock-top plastic bag. Squeeze out all the air and seal the bags, allowing enough room for the dough to double in size.
Refrigerate for at least 10 hours or up to 2 days. Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before using to allow the dough to come to room temperature. Proceed with any New York-style pizza recipe. Makes 45 ounces dough or three 15-ounce portions, enough for three 12-inch pizzas.
©Diane Morgan and Tony Gemignani, Pizza (Chronicle Books, 2005).
Oh how we love pizza! Can’t get enough? Check out these pizza-related blogs on CHEFS Mix for more:
- Pizza Stones: An Ideal Way to Bake a Pizza
- Pizza for Everybody!
- Saucy Tips for Homemade Pizza
- Show Pizza Some Amore
- Specialty Pizzas: Thin Crust and Grilled Pizzas
Your turn: Do you have a favorite pizza crust recipe? Share it here!