Saturday, July 2, 2011

Savory Crust Pizza

Forgiveness asked, please, for being a half a day late with this post. (I normally look to have new posts up every Saturday morning, and occasionally even Friday evening.) Hopefully you will consider it worth the wait.

A sharp-eyed reader recently noted that, in my profile picture, I’m putting a pizza into the oven, and asked that sometime soon I post the recipe. I thought it was a great idea. And so, by special request and with great pleasure, I give you this week the gift of Savory Crust Pizza. And a great gift you will find it to be.

While just about everyone loves eating some form of pizza, the choices and combinations of topping can vary widely. And so, rather than being about one particular type of pizza, in order to be useful to a wide range of readers this recipe is really about two things:
  • A delicious, savory crust that goes beyond being simply a holder for the toppings and brings a flavor of its own.
  • General guidelines that will be helpful when applying toppings.

And therein is one of the great strengths of homemade pizza: the toppings can be custom- selected in combinations that go beyond those offered by a typical pizza parlor. (As a side note, since pizza bakes for a short time at a high temperature, it would also be easy to let children select and apply their own toppings to have as dinner only a short time later!)

This recipe uses bread flour. For any readers new to making pizza or working with dough in general, a brief flour primer may be helpful. Otherwise, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. Specialty flours aside, you’ll generally find three kinds of wheat flour in the supermarket: all-purpose flour, pastry flour (or cake flour), and bread flour. The difference is in their gluten content. Gluten is a complex string of proteins that, when developed by kneading, adds chewiness to the dough. When the dough is overworked, such as by being kneaded for too long, the chewiness becomes extreme and the dough becomes overly tough. For this reason, cakes and pastries, which need as little chewiness as possible, are made with pastry or cake flour, which has the lowest gluten content. Chewier items, such as breads, are made with bread flour, which has a high gluten content. (There’s also “high gluten” flour which has even more gluten than bread flour and that is often used for chewy breads like focaccia, but this is typically a restaurant supply house item you won’t find at your local supermarket.) And, as the name implies, the gluten content of all-purpose flour is somewhere in the middle.

When it’s time to let the dough rest and ferment, a room-temperature kitchen should be adequate. However, if you’re concerned your kitchen may be too cool for the doughs to ferment properly, here’s a useful baker’s trick: heat your oven to 200 degrees, turn off the heat, put the foil-covered bowls with the dough into the oven, close the door, and let the oven return to room temperature while the doughs ferment.

Finally, a note about saucing the pizza. The recipe below calls for each pizza to get 3 ounces of sauce. If you’ve never made pizza before, you might spread the sauce and, after looking at it, think that amount can’t possibly be enough, and add more. Please resist any temptation to do that. Once the pizza is baking with all the other toppings, you’ll find 3 ounces of sauce was just enough.

This recipe makes dough for three 16” diameter (or 11” x 17” rectangular) pizzas.

First, let’s make our savory dough:
In a bowl, whisk 2 packages (1/2 oz.) of dry yeast in 1 quart of 110 degree water. When the yeast has dissolved, add 1 teaspoon of sugar, then whisk in 1/2 cup olive oil.

In a large bowl, combine dry dough ingredients -  3 pounds of bread flour, 2 tablespoons of  salt, 1-1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder, ¼ cup dried oregano, and ¼ cup dried basil - in a large bowl and mix well. Gradually add the yeast mixture and mix just until the dry ingredients are incorporated, forming a sticky dough. Be careful not to overwork the dough.

In a stand mixer (using the dough hook) or by hand on a floured surface, knead the dough for about 5 minutes. If necessary, add a little more flour to make dough smooth and elastic.

Divide the dough into three pieces and round off. Place each in a separate oiled bowl, and cover the bowl with foil or plastic. Allow the doughs to ferment on the kitchen counter until at least doubled (about an hour). When doubled, the dough should hold the indentation when poked with a finger.

Now let’s make our pizza! (If you’re not using all three doughs right away, any you’re not using can be frozen for later use.)
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Apply a very light coating of olive oil to a 16” round or 11” x 17” pan. Dust the  pan with corn meal. Place a dough on the pan and press it over the surface of the pan, working toward the edges. Flatten all but a 1” border around the circumference.

Apply a very thin coat of olive oil to the surface of the dough, spread the sauce, and add the selected toppings. A few suggestions for your consideration:
  • 1 large green pepper slice
  • Cheese: Shred and combine 1-1/4 cups mozzarella, ¼ cup parmesan, ½ cup provolone
  • 8 ounces mushrooms
  • 6 ounces sliced sausage
  • Anything else that seems interesting (Note: If topping with ziti, cook ziti half-way, and coat with sauce before baking.)

Bake the pizza for 11 minutes, turning the pan around in the oven half-way. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, and you’re ready to serve. Bellisimo!

If you’d like a cookbook-style, notebook-ready copy of this recipe, just send a request along with your e-mail address and you’ll have it before you can say, “Send me a cookbook-style, notebook-ready copy of this recipe.”

See you next week with an exciting (to me, anyway) dessert recipe! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)


  1. I love this!!! I will so try this! Thanks Ben!!

  2. Thank you, Tawnya! There is nothing like fresh pizza, and I was very happy with what the herbs and garlic added to the crust. And, best of all, it can be topped with anything you feel like putting on it at that moment!

  3. mann this looks good, ben!
    i hope you had a wonderful fourth and i can't wait for the dessert recipe!

  4. What a fantastic post! The pizza sounds other worldly good, but the background information you provided for your readers is priceless. I hope you had a great weekend. Blessings...Mary

  5. Thank you, Katie and Mary. Hope you both had a great 4th! I am glad you liked the background items too, Mary. My favorite recipes not only share a particular dish, but also provide information that can be incorporated into other recipes. When I take classes or watch cooking programs, the real value is often not in seeing what the chef is doing, but in learning why he/she is doing it.