This is officially the best pizza crust I’ve ever made at home. It’s thin and crispy on the edges and bottom but still chewy on the inside and substantial enough to hold a bunch of toppings. Growing up in the Detroit suburbs, I didn’t realize that pizza could be made this way. We got takeout from our neighborhood pizzeria pretty regularly, and it was delicious, with a thick crust that sometimes got soggy in the middle. I ate at least three pieces every time. But when we went to Italy for our honeymoon and later moved to a California town with a restaurant that specialized in wood-fired pizza, I realized that my favorite kind of pizza might just be the kind with a thin crust baked at incredibly high temperatures to a crispy golden brown. I’ve tried to make a lot of pizza crusts over the years, but this one comes the closest to recreating those wood-fired pizzas without going all Mario Batali and installing a pizza oven in my backyard.
Making this crust made me realize something: I think I’m in love with my food processor. A pie crust here, another here, and oh yes, scones over here. And I’m using it to make this pizza dough. I usually don’t subscribe to having a bunch of gadgetry in the kitchen, and to be sure, you could use a pastry blender to work butter into pie crusts and scones and a wooden spoon to stir together pizza dough. But a food processor makes it so much faster and easier that I usually reach for it, even if it does take up counter space.
This dough comes from a Mark Bittman recipe for the New York Times, so you know it is going to be good. It comes together in a few pulses, and then after an hour or two of rising time, you’re on your way to artisanal pizza goals. If you are making this on a weeknight or don’t have a couple of hours of prep time before dinner, you could make the dough in the morning and pop it in the fridge to rise slowly all day, then proceed with the rest of the recipe once you get home. This recipe makes enough dough for two pizzas – if you only want to make one, you could freeze half of the dough. I’m feeding four people, so we always end up eating two.
The toppings are an homage to my favorite pizza from that California restaurant. I think it’s the perfect combination of heat and sweet, with spicy Italian sausage and serrano peppers balanced out by creamy mascarpone cheese and a drizzle of honey. The tomato sauce is as simple as it gets, just diced tomatoes drained of excess liquid and then pureed with a dash of olive oil and oregano. It’s bright and vibrant, and doesn’t overpower the toppings.
When you’re ready to roll out the dough, you can decide how fancy you can or want to get in terms of pizza baking equipment. I bought a pizza stone a few months ago because we make pizza at home a lot, and the stone really does help make sure the dough is crisp. If you’re using a pizza stone, you need to leave it in the oven while you preheat it so that it is nice and hot. That means you have to transfer the dough from wherever you rolled it out onto the stone. You could use a pizza peel, that fancy wooden board you might see in pizza restaurants; I don’t have one of those (yet), so I rolled my dough out on the back of a baking sheet and then used my biggest spatula to get it from the sheet onto the pizza stone. If you don’t have a pizza stone, fear not! You can bake the crust on the back of the baking pan you rolled it out on and still get a delicious crust.
I baked the crust for about five minutes by itself to make sure it didn’t get soggy from the toppings. Then I added the sausage and peppers and baked it for another ten minutes, until the crust was golden brown at the edges. I took the pizza out and immediately dolloped on the mascarpone cheese and drizzled on the honey. The cheese melted on the hot pizza and gave it just the right sweet and creamy note to balance out the other spicy toppings. Truly, I could eat an entire one of these pizzas all by myself. I won’t judge if you do as well.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2½ teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
- Splash of olive oil
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of oregano
- 2 spicy Italian sausages
- 1 serrano pepper
- 4 oz. mascarpone cheese
- Honey, for drizzling
- Place flour, salt, yeast, and olive oil in a food processor. Turn it on and slowly pour in the water. Process until the dough is smooth, around 30 seconds.
- Place the dough on the counter and wrap in plastic wrap. Let dough stand on counter for 1.5 to 2 hours, or until dough is doubled in size. If you want to make this in the morning for dinner that same day, place it in the fridge.
- Open the can of diced tomatoes and dump it into a fine mesh strainer. Allow the extra liquid to drain away for 10 to 15 minutes. Place tomatoes in food processor, add a splash of olive oil, and a pinch each of salt and oregano, and process until it reaches your desired consistency. I left a few tomato pieces for texture, but you could process it until it is pureed.
- Divide dough into two equal balls. If you have a pizza peel (the fancy board to transfer a pizza in and out of the oven), lightly flour it and place the dough on it. Otherwise, flip a baking pan upside down, lightly spray it with oil, and sprinkle it with flour. Place one of the dough balls on it and cover it with plastic wrap or a dish towel. If making two pizzas, repeat with the other dough ball on another baking pan.
- Preheat the oven to 500°F. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven now. Let the dough rest while it preheats, and prepare your toppings.
- Place a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove the casings from the sausages and cook them in the skillet, breaking the sausages into small pieces, until they are cooked through.
- Trim the stem and end off the serrano pepper. Cut in half lengthwise and, using a spoon, scrape out the seeds. Finely chop into small ribbons and set aside.
- When the oven is almost preheated, roll out the pizza dough to your desired size and shape. I made mine fairly close to a circle to fit on my pizza stone. If you have trouble getting the dough as big as you want it, let it rest for a couple of minutes and try again.
- Carefully transfer the pizza dough onto the pizza stone, or if not using, keep the dough on the baking sheet and place the whole thing in the oven. Cook for five minutes.
- Remove the pizza (if using a pizza stone, use a large spatula to carefully put it back on the baking sheet) and spread the tomato sauce on top. Add the Italian sausage crumbles and serrano peppers and return it to the oven for 5-10 minutes more, until crust is golden brown and crisp at the edges.
- Remove the pizza, dollop with mascarpone and drizzle with honey, and allow it to cool for a few minutes before cutting and serving. Repeat with the other pizza dough.