This pizza is so thin and crackly that light shines through it! It’s much easier to achieve perfection with this Tuscan specialty than you might think. Plus, our TV segment in Charlotte, North Carolina, with former Saturday Night Live cast-member Colin Quinn. On TV with Colin, we threw pizza high into the air for Neapolitan thickness crusts (1/8-inch), but don’t try that with this much-thinner (1/16-inch) cracker-crust, or it will tear (this segment, from January 19, 2012 isn’t live anymore).
Colin is about 10 times funnier than we are…
Everyone knows that cracker-crust pizza needs to be stretched really, really thin in order to get a crunchy and super-thin result. But before you even start with that, two things to do:
- Pre-heat your oven for 30 minutes or longer, with a glazed or unglazed baking stone in the bottom third of the oven, and use the highest heat your oven allows (for me that’s 550 degrees F).
- Prepare all your toppings before you start stretching the dough: Otherwise the dough will glue itself to the pizza peel while it’s waiting to be topped and you’ll never get it into the oven. Today I used a smooth, plain tomato sauce (less than 1/4-cup), and about 1.5 ounces of fresh mozzarella. Cracker-crust pizzas need very little topping– if you use lots, it won’t crisp and the whole thing may turn to porridge.
In Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day, our cracker-crust pizzas call for a dough-round that’s only 1/16-inch of an inch thick. Maybe there’s someone out there who can do that with their bare hands, but I can’t. I need a rolling pin, and I’ve come to love the handle-less French milled rolling pins, which give you better control in this situation. Use a small ball, about 4 ounces (peach-sized) of refrigerated dough from one of our recipes. You need “lean” dough here (those not enriched with eggs and lots of sweetener) from our books: white dough, or the whole-grain are just two examples, see the books for more. Using some whole grain makes it easier to get very thin–plain white dough is the most difficult to stretch because of its gluten-strength. If you use a large ball, you’ll have a very hard time getting it this thin:
(You don’t really have to weigh it, but it can be nice when you’re learning). Briefly shape it into a ball as in our other posts, and if you have time, let the ball rest under plastic wrap or an overturned bowl at room temperature for up to 60 minutes; that will make it relax and be easier to roll out. So start with the rolling pin and your fingers…
It’s pretty easy to get it to 1/4-inch thick, and then 1/8-inch. But for my ball of dough today, it needed to get to a diameter of about 14 inches in order for the thickness to be down to 1/16-inch…
Use plenty of flour…
Getting it to 1/16-inch takes a bit of perseverance. Some tricks:
- If it just won’t “relax” and thin out, cover the partially-stretched dough-round with plastic wrap and give the glutens five or ten minutes to relax.
- Use the dough’s own stickiness to force it thin: although you’ll need to dust with lots of flour, allow it to stick to your work surface a little. That pins it down and allows the work surface to oppose its natural tendency to shrink back into its thicker self.
- Use a dough scraper: It’s very difficult to make cracker crust without one, because this dough will try to stick miserably to the work surface, and as I say, you want a little of that. But periodically “un-stick” it, like so:
As you gather it up in your other hand, you can see that the top surface is going to need lots of dusting flour. Don’t be stingy with it; most of it will fall off as you work with it. You know you’re getting close when the dough is looking paper-thin, and draping your hands like a glove:
When you get to 1/16-inch thickness, place the dough-round onto a pizza peel dusted with flour. Periodically shake the peel to be sure that you’re not sticking. Start with the sauce; you can use a spoon, but a pastry brush is quite handy for the thin coating of sauce that’s called for here:
… OK, maybe a little more than that, but don’t overdo it:
In our pizza book, our cracker-crust pizzas don’t call for the big cheese chunks that work so nicely on Neapolitan-thickness pizza– go for grated cheese if you’re using commercial mozzarella, or small pieces of fresh mozzarella as in these pictures (you really can’t grate the fresh stuff, it just disintegrates). And not so much– 1.5 ounces is enough here:
… so you’re spacing the cheese a little. Now slide it onto the pre-heated stone (more on that technique in the book). Hopefully the 30-minutes preheat was enough, but if you’re not getting the crispiness you like, next time preheat for up to an hour:
In my oven, which runs hot (and I’m never getting that fixed), this was ready in 5 minutes. If your oven runs cooler, you’ll need more time, but check early– this is thin stuff and you don’t want it burning. Check your oven with a thermometer or it can be challenging to get the crispiness you want. A little scorching is OK– see the blackened bits on the underside and at the edge, and yes, the light should shine through it:
Give my regards to Siena!