I’m amazed at how much pizza we ate when we were young.
I was going to school at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and working too. Still, my roommates and I made regular treks the two blocks to the local pizza joint, the King’s Kup. The pizza was good and the pretty blonde waitresses didn’t hurt. When it was cold outside, as cold as fifty below, we stayed forever—and consumed mountains of pizza.
Now most commercial pizzas seem heavy and rich to us. We much prefer lighter pizzas, especially in the summertime. A summertime pizza is a lighter pizza made with fresh vegetables, fewer toppings, and a crispy crust. A crispy crust pizza is almost like piling veggies, cheese, and spices on a warm cracker. In this article, we’ll tell you how to do it.
Debbie, my daughter, makes thin crust pizzas in 20 minutes including the baking time. (We timed her at 15 minutes one day.) She doesn’t stop to let them rise though they rise a little while she’s loading the goodies and in the oven. They’re thin and on a perforated pan or pizza stone, they bake very quickly. By the time the cheese is melted and bubbly, the crust is done.
It’s amazing what you can put on a pizza. You can serve many of your favorite garden vegetables on a pizza, everything from tomatoes to potatoes and broccoli to beans. Some may seem a little strange but if you like the veggies, chances are—you’ll like them on a pizza.
Most pizzas are made with a red sauce, a marinara sauce, but it doesn’t have to be a red sauce. White pizzas are made with a white sauce, Alfredo, ranch dressing, or the onion dip you purchase at the grocery store or simply a nice coating of olive oil. You need enough that your pizza is not dry but no more, especially if you want a crispy crust.
These summer pizzas we make on very thin crisp crusts—almost like a cracker. But it took us a while to learn how to make thin, uniform crusts. The secret is dough relaxer that relaxes the gluten in the dough so that it can be rolled to a uniformly thin curst. Before we discovered dough relaxer, we used rye flour to dilute the gluten and make the dough soft. It works but not as well as dough relaxer.
Before we used dough relaxer, we couldn’t roll the crusts as thin and as uniformly as we liked so that they baked quickly and evenly and so we prebaked them. Now we don’t bother; we just roll them thin and load them up with veggies and other goodies. Top your veggies with just enough cheese to balance the veggies and hold things together. Of course you can add meat but we’re trying to make summertime pizzas here. Cook the pizza just until the cheese melts and the crust is crispy, eight to twelve minutes depending on how many goodies you pile on.
Debbie uses one of our pizza dough mixes but since the mixes are designed for thick crusts, she divides the dough three ways and makes three thin crust pizzas. The dough is soft and pliable so that she can roll it out as thin as she likes. (The mix has relaxer in it.)
What you’ll need:
Pizza stones or pizza pans. Either a perforated pan or a pizza stone will bake crispy, thin crusts. Debbie usually, but not always, uses a pizza stone. I use pans. I’m a real believer in perforated pans, pans that will let the hot air through to cook the crust regardless of the toppings—no more soggy crusts.
Pizza dough. You can buy a pizza dough mix, buy a pizza flour blend (with an enhancer in it) or make yours from scratch. We sell pizza dough mixes like Garden Harvest and Italian Herb. (See our pizza crust mixes) If you make your crust from scratch, you’ll need a dough relaxer . (If you use our pizza dough flour blend, the relaxer is included.)
How to Make a Thin Crust Pizza from Scratch
If you don’t have dough relaxer and still want a thin, crispy crust, try this recipe.
With this recipe, you prebake the crust and cook the toppings separately. Add the toppings to the crust and return the pizza to the oven for only five minutes, just long enough to melt the cheese.
This recipe uses a relatively low protein flour—it’s the protein that forms the gluten which creates elasticity—and then dilutes it further with rye flour which does not add gluten.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup dark or white rye flour
2/3 cup warm water (105 to 110 degrees)
1 packet instant dry yeast (7 grams)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Place the wheat and rye flour in the bowl of your stand-type mixer. Add the yeast. Add the water and one tablespoon of the olive oil. Mix with the dough hook for about 30 seconds to distribute and hydrate the yeast.
- Sprinkle the salt into the bowl and continue kneading with the dough hook for about four minutes or until the gluten is developed. Turn the dough out into a large, greased bowl. Turn the dough once to oil both sides.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise for about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
- To form the pizza crust, place the dough in the center of an oiled 15-inch pizza pan. With your fist or fingers work the dough toward the outer edges of the pan, distributing it evenly. Let the dough relax for five minutes and then finish forming the crust. A pizza roller greatly simplifies the rolling of the dough.
- Brush the crust with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and bake for ten to fifteen minutes or until it barely begins to brown. Add any toppings and return the pizza to the oven for another five minutes or until the cheese melts.
Tomato, Parmesan, and Basil Summer Pizza
While most of the time we don’t bother prebaking our crusts anymore, I make an exception for fresh tomato pizzas. I much prefer the tomatoes to be uncooked. But then, I love fresh tomatoes and pile them on sandwiches salads . . . and pizzas.
With this recipe, make a thin crust and prebake it, all but the last five minutes. Then load the pizza with tomatoes, spices, and cheese, and bake it just long enough to melt the cheese. Instead of a tomato base of marina sauce, we use a French onion dip and like it very much.
This is a great pizza.
1 thin pizza crust, prebaked
5 tablespoons French onion dip
1/2 teaspoon crushed oregano
5 medium-sized red and yellow tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves snipped into pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/8 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
2 teaspoons virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Spread the onion dip on the prebaked crust. Sprinkle the oregano evenly over the onion dip.
- Cut the tomatoes into quarter-inch thick slices. Lay them on paper towels as you cut them to soak up part of the juice.
- Layer the tomatoes on the crust. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle the freshly cut basil over the tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil. Spread the parmesan cheese over the tomato slices.
- Return the pizza to the oven. Bake only until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about five minutes. Serve hot.
Summer Squash and Cheddar Cheese Pizza
We used to make this pizza by prebaking the crust and sautéing the veggies. We don’t bother anymore. The squash cooks more quickly than the peppers and onions so we partially cook the onions and peppers in the microwave until they are crisp-tender. Then we load it on an unbaked crust.
This is a surprising pizza and an excellent way to use the zucchini that grows so abundantly in your garden. Because it’s a mild-tasting pizza, even your kids will eat it.
1 thin pizza crust
1 medium zucchini, sliced in 1/8 inch slices
1 medium crookneck squash, sliced in 1/8 inch slices
1/2 medium red pepper, chopped
1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped
1/2 cup marinara or red pizza sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Form a very thin pizza crust, one that will cook quickly in the oven.
- Spread with the marinara sauce on the unbaked crust. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Toss the vegetables in olive oil.
- Layer the vegetables over the marina distributing them evenly. Sprinkle salt over the vegetables. Spread the cheese over the vegetables.
- Place the pizza in the oven and bake for eight to twelve minutes or just until the crust is crispy and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Dennis Weaver is the president of The Prepared Pantry. Visit the website at www.preparedpantry.com