A few weeks ago, I tried making homemade pizza--dough, sauces, toppings--and was generally pleased with the results. Yes, the dough took 24 hours to rise and came out a little thick and chewy and yes the sauce was sort of uninspired and rather dull, but for a first attempt, things could have certainly gone worse. Still, generally pleased is not good enough for me, especially when it comes to pizza. I wanted better--crispier, sweeter, more thickly cheesy. I had to try again. I knew exactly what I wanted: thin crust with a sweeter-than-usual tomato sauce. I already had the perfect toppings in mind (more on that later), and it wouldn't hurt either if I didn't have to prepare everything a day earlier. Hopeful and hungry, I started my search.
First, the sauce. To me, the sauce on a pizza is one of the most crucially important factors. The toppings get all the attention and the crust is what defines the pizza, but the sauce is so individual and unique and defines the flavor in an important way (don't believe me? Try eating pizza in any elementary school cafeteria. Most places get the crust and cheese fine, but sandwich between them brown, crusty, dried-out tomato sauce. Oh yum.). While I'm sure it's all about preference, my favorite pizza sauce (other than the kind we make our pizzas with at home) is thin but not watery and sweet in a fresh, not cloying, way. It should be fragrant and complex without overpowering any of the other parts of the pizza, and finally, it should cook well, remaining fresh, red, and moist despite a jaunt in a 500-degree oven.
With a little Google-searching, I found the perfect recipe: Iron Mike's Sweet Tomato Pizza Sauce. Mike, who based his own recipe after a much-beloved sauce at a much-beloved Cincinnati restaurant, used honey and brown sugar to sweeten up this basic sauce (this time I had honey but no brown sugar. I substituted raw cane sugar), and the results were great. Maybe not as jaw-droppingly vibrant as my favorites (even Mike admits his disappointment when he compares it to the pizza place's), but certainly sweet, certainly easy, and--with 2-3 pizzas' worth of leftovers sitting in my fridge--certainly making a comeback to my dinner table in the future.
Next step was the crust, and here I really lucked out. I am a fan of super-thin, super-crispy pizza crust (not quite cracker texture, but close). My last dough was chewy and thick, not terrible once I addressed the chewy part but still, you know, not what I wanted. I stumbled across Robbie's Recipes, which featured various pizza-Italian food doughs (also had calzone dough, which I found intriguing). A glance at the thin-crust recipe had me skeptical--there was absolutely no rising time for the dough. Not even a "let it sit for 10 minutes." Nothing. Never, in my year of baking breads and doughs and pastas, have I ever come across a dough that needed no rising. In fact, everything I've read has been in favor of more rising, a process that allows the glutens in the bread to relax and soften and reveals more of the bread's flavors. Robbie answered that question in a footnote: baking the dough immediately makes it thin crust, letting it rise will make it thicker. I love the idea of making pizza and eating it less than an hour later. I had to try. And good thing I did--it was so amazingly good. It cooked up perfectly, smooth and crisp and golden brown and oh oh oh so delicious. I will only ever use this recipe (add me to Robbie's long list of admirers).
Finally, the toppings. Ages ago I fell in love with a pizza topped with a fried egg. It was so fantastically good and I loved it so much that one time, in the midst of a blizzard, I was struck with such a crazing for it that I walked 40 minutes there and back, in the snow and sleet, to get a pie (even the guys working there were like "That's commitment." They even gave me a free Coke because they felt bad they weren't delivering!). Since I always wanted to try it at home, and I had some leftover bacon, I concocted a breakfast pizza: diced egg-white omelet with fried bacon, topped with mozzarella and parmesan. I was nervous, especially when my roommate accepted my offer of a slice (I don't generally like to try out my weird experiments on unsuspecting innocents, but she was eating her own dinner so I figured couldn't be terrible if she had to throw it away). Surprisingly, it turned out great! The sulphurous taste of the eggs was nicely complimented by the cheese, and the sweetness of the sauce turned out to balance the bacon quite well.
So, the second time around, my pizza-making skillz have vastly improved (that or my Google-searching skillz)! Still must work on flipping the dough into the air...
SWEET TOMATO SAUCE
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (28 ounce) can tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cloves fresh minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
fresh ground pepper, to taste
In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat
Carefully add the Tomato Puree--it will splatter
Add everything else and simmer uncovered on low, stirring frequently, for 30-60 minutes, until desired consistency
check out the THIN CRUST PIZZA DOUGH recipe at Robbie's website!
Posted by Kendall Kulper Toniatti at 12:00 AM