The quest to make a great pizza at home for me has spanned many, many years.
From the early days of toasted bread smeared with tomato ketchup and topped with a slice of processed cheese that would end up looking like melted plastic bound within a thin border of burned toast. The intermediary phase of a round of Lebanese flat bread spread with tomato paste topped with a copious kaleidoscope of ingredients; a cacophony of flavours swamped under a mound of pre-shredded supermarket mozzarella. The artisan phase where you take the time to make your own dough based off the recipe of one of your favourite celebrity chefs, cooking your own pizza sauce, sourcing some buffalo mozzarella and topping the pizza with ingredients like Jamon Serrano and rocket; a meal that leaves you with the feeling like you’ve had a wonderful entree served off a warm, edible plate that’s on par with a frozen pizza base.
During each frustrating phase, the focus had always been on the toppings first and the base and sauce last. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I’d realised that the focus should be the other way around; to find the recipes and processes to make a fantastic pizza base and sauce and a great pizza will follow.
Follow on below to find recipes for a fantastic pizza base and sauce that will serve as the foundation of a great pizza and will forever change your homemade pizza game.
This is part 2 in a series of posts on making a good thin crust pizza at home. The topics covered in this series include:
Challenges: Challenges that home cook face and some lessons learned.
Dough & Sauce: Recipes for a good pizza dough and sauce.
Cooking 1 – Barbecue Method: Using a barbecue and pizza stone to turn your good dough into a great pizza.
Cooking 2 – Frying Pan Method: An alternate method of cooking a pizza that doesn’t require a pizza stone, barbecue or even an oven.
Instant Gratification – How to go from zero to a good pizza in around 90 mins.
The pizza base and sauce are the foundation of the pizza. Not just as a physical platform to mount the cheese and toppings onto but it also establishes a base tone of flavour and texture for every bite. The importance of a good base and sauce is something that is greatly under appreciated. Once you realise how straightforward it is to do at home, you’ll never need to go back to faux or frozen pizzas.
The recipes for the thin crust pizza dough and sauce in this post are based on a New York style pizza from the cookbook, The Pizza Bible by Tony Gemignani. Tony Gemignani is an American chef you’ve probably never heard of who has won numerous international awards for his pizzas. I happened to come across him by chance via a Google Talk on Youtube and ever since then my pizza game has never been the same. If you want to learn how to make great pizzas at home, particularly American and Italian styles like the Chicago Deep Dish or the Napoletana, I highly recommend getting a copy of his book.
The dough and sauce recipes are pretty much straight out of The Pizza Bible, with a couple of minor changes. The pizza dough recipe is the same aside for one exclusion and an increase in volume for a larger batch of dough to minimise the reliance on special equipment. The sauce recipe was adapted to make better use of a tin of tomatoes but is otherwise the same.
The remainder of this post is broken up into three main sections:
If you’re able to, please take the time to read through the note sections for the dough and for the sauce, particularly if you’re a beginner or are new to working with dough. Each of the note sections contain background information, as well as expand on some areas of the recipe and highlight things you may need to be aware of.
Thin Crust Pizza Dough (approx. 4 balls of dough)
1/16 tsp Yeast
70g Cold tap water
70g High protein flour
3g Dry yeast
105g Warm water (~26-29C)
680g High protein flour
315g Ice water
15g Fine sea salt
7g Extra virgin olive oil
Method (see notes for step-by-step photos)
1. In a small mixing bowl, add the cold water and yeast and whisk vigorously for 30 seconds until all the yeast is incorporated into the water.
2. Add the flour and mix the ingredients until it forms a thick lumpy batter.
3. Cover with some plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 18 hours.
1. Add the yeast to the warm water and whisk vigorously for 30 seconds until it’s incorporated into the water.
2. Add the flour to a large mixing bowl and form a well in the flour.
3. Add the iced water to the flour and gradually stir in the flour until a thick batter forms. Not all the flour will be incorporated at this stage.
4. Add the yeast and water mixture over the ice water batter and keep stirring in dry flour into the mixture. By this stage most but not all of the flour will be mixed into the dough.
5. Add the poolish starter to the centre of the dough and using a bowl scraper, fold over the dry flour and dough from the edges of the mixing bowl into the centre and use an up and down chopping motion moving back and forth from the centre to the edge to work it into the rest of the dough. Keep doing this until a sticky and lumpy ball of dough is formed and there is no more dry flour.
6. Add the fine sea salt and as with step 5, fold in from the edges to the centre and use a chopping motion to incorporate.
7. Add the extra virgin olive oil and use the chopping motion to incorporate the oil into the dough.
8. Either in the bowl or turned out onto a counter, knead the dough by folding over the edge into the centre, press down with the heel of the palm, give the dough a quarter turn and repeat until a reasonably smooth dough ball forms and it isn’t too sticky. It should take around 5-10 minutes.
9. Flip the dough over so the area you were kneading into is on the bottom, add the dough back into the mixing bowl, cover the bowl with a double layer of plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator overnight. If there’s too much dough or it fills up more than half the height of the mixing bowl, separate the dough into 2-3 separate portions and store though in their own bowls covered with plastic wrap in the fridge.
10. The next day, degas the risen dough by pressing down in a vertical motion with your fists to remove the gas.
11. Using a bowl scraper, scrap down the edges of the bowl and fold into the centre, rotation a quarter turn each time to form a square parcel of dough in the centre of the mixing bowl.
12. Cover with the double plastic wrap again, return it to the refrigerator and leave the dough to rise overnight.
13. The next day, repeat steps 10-12, returning the dough to the refrigerator one last overnight rise.
14. Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and degas the dough in the bowl.
15. Scrape down the sides of the bowl using a bowl scraper and turn out the dough onto a clean counter.
16. Shape the dough into a long block and potion out the dough into approx. 300g or around 4 even portions.
17. For each portion of dough, shape the dough into ball with your hands and pinch the dough on the underside to form a seal.
18. If to be used on the day, place the dough ball onto a counter or tray and cover with a damp tea towel.
19. If it’s to be frozen, place the balls of dough onto a tray and place it into the freezer uncovered overnight. The next day, remove the frozen dough from the tray and place into a large freezer bag or individually wrap with a double layer of plastic wrap.
New York Style Tomato Sauce
400g Tin of whole tomatoes
65g Tomato paste (approx. 1/4 cup)
1 tsp Extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of dried oregano
Pince of fine sea salt
1. Place the tin of whole tomatoes into a large bowl.
2. Remove the whole tomatoes from the tomato juice and separate them into two even piles.
3. Deseed both piles of tomatoes, using the bowl of tomato juice to help rise away the seeds from the tomato flesh. Also make sure to remove any peel or tough bits like the pith at the top of the tomato. After deseeding all the tomatoes, the juice can be discarded or put to another use (see notes).
4. With one pile of tomatoes, add them to a blender with the tomato paste, olive oil, sea salt and dried oregano and blend until pureed.
5. Hand crush the other pile of tomatoes into small pieces and stir into the blended tomato puree.