The key to a really good pizza is, of course, the crust. We make pizza at our house at least once a week, so you can be sure this recipe comes to you after years of very meticulous kitchen testing! Also, the fact that this dough comes together in just a few minutes and doesn't need time to rise means that we can have pizza for dinner any night of the week.
This crust has a nice bit of crunch, but it's pliable enough to fold in half if required. The mild wheat flavor is a nice backdrop to whatever toppings you want to layer on top.
Since we're keeping the crust on the thinner side, this dough doesn't actually require time to rise. You roll it out after kneading it briefly and let it rest on the counter while you prepare the toppings. When it goes in the oven, the heat gives the bread a quick burst of rising so it will still have some chew when you bite into it.
This said, letting the dough rise a little or even refrigerating it overnight gives the dough even more depth of flavor and a crackling crust. Once you've finished kneading, let it rise until doubled, divide it in two, and store the balls of dough in separate containers. When you're ready to make your pizza, take the dough out of the fridge and let it warm up a bit while you prepare the toppings—ten minutes or so should do it.
Homemade Thin Crust Pizza
Makes two 10-inch pizzas
For the dough:
3/4 cups (6 ounces) lukewarm water
1 teaspoon active-dry or instant yeast
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
For the toppings:
For the base, classic red sauce or a white sauce, a thin spread of ricotta cheese, or a simple brush of olive oil
For toppings, sauteed onions, red peppers, mushrooms, cooked sausage, or bacon
For cheese, one or a combination of the following: mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, fontina, romano, and asiago
Set the oven to 500°F or as hot as it will go and let it heat for at least a half an hour before making the pizza. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the lower-middle part of the oven now.
Combine the water and yeast in a mixing bowl, and stir to dissolve the yeast. The mixture should look like thin miso soup. Add the flour and salt to the bowl and mix until you've formed a shaggy dough.
Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface along with any loose flour still in the bowl. Knead until all the flour is incorporated, and the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. The dough should still feel moist and slightly tacky. If it's sticking to your hands and counter-top like bubble gum, work in more flour one tablespoon at a time until it is smooth.
If you have time at this point, you can let the dough rise until you need it or until doubled in bulk (about an hour and a half). After rising, you can use the dough or refrigerate it for up to three days.
Cover the dough with the upside-down mixing bowl or a clean kitchen towel while you prepare the pizza toppings.
When ready to make the pizza, tear off two pieces of parchment paper roughly 12-inches wide. Divide the dough in two with a bench scraper. Working with one piece of the dough at a time, form it into a large disk with your hands and lay it on the parchment paper.
Work from the middle of the dough outwards, using the heel of your hand to gently press and stretch the dough until it's about 1/4 of an inch thick or less. For an extra-thin crust, roll it with a rolling pin. If the dough starts to shrink back, let it rest for five minutes and then continue rolling.
The dough will stick to the parchment paper, making it easier for you to roll out, and the pizza is baked while still on the parchment. As it cooks, the dough will release from the parchment, and you can slide the paper out midway through cooking.
Spoon a few tablespoons of sauce into the center of the pizza and use the back of a spoon to spread it out to the edges. Pile on all of your toppings.
Using a bread peel or the backside of a baking sheet, slide your pizza (still on the parchment) onto the baking stone in the oven. If you don't have a baking stone, bake the pizza right on the baking sheet.
Bake for about 5 minutes and then rotate the pizza, removing the parchment from under the pizza as you do so. Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes until the crust is golden-brown and the cheese looks toasty.
Remove the pizza from oven and let it cool on a wire rack. Repeat with shaping, topping, and baking second pizza.
Let both pizzas cool for about five minutes before slicing and serving.