I love pizza. I’ve loved it as an omnivore, a vegetarian, as well as now as a vegan. For many, it’s all about the cheese. Even when I ate dairy cheese, it was always the crust that sold me. I’m particular about a crust with a good flavor and texture, but not so much about the style; I love a hand-tossed pizza just as well as I love a deep-dish pie with that delectable biscuit-like but yeast-raised crust.
When I’m making pizza at home, I rely on 00 flour, a slow rise, the smallest amount of yeast I need, and a really hot oven to maximize flavor. This is especially important when making a Neapolitan-style lean crust without oil or sugar in the dough. Sometimes I mix this kind of dough up the evening before and let it ferment slowly in the refrigerator. If it’s cool in the house, I’ll mix it up in the morning and cut back the yeast to slow things down and leave it to rise for several hours on the counter. You can even freeze the leftovers, though how anyone has pizza dough leftovers when there are garlic knots to be
made eaten is simply beyond me.
This past weekend’s pizza was a different kind of treat though. I don’t usually have Chicago-style pizza that often anymore, but I had a craving for that lovely crust with that simple layer of seasoned tomatoes that cook down into a chunky sauce right on top of everything.
This pizza dough is quite different from the lean ones I usually make. It’s a short crust, more biscuit-like than bready, but leavened with yeast instead of baking powder. In addition to flour, yeast, salt, and water, this type of crust needs a little sugar and a lot of oil. I used 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) oil to 2 cups of flour, but I’ve seen suggestions of 3 tbsp per cup for the proper texture. Mine tasted pretty rich at the proportions I used, but if you’re feeling decadent, give it a go sometime.
The oil inhibits gluten development in the crust much like shortening or margarine in a biscuit. It also increases the rise time. I think I ended up fermenting this dough for five or six hours. These pies also take longer to cook than thin pizzas (about 30-35 minutes at 450° F/230° C for two pies in 8-inch cast iron skillets), but you have plenty of time for a beer while you wait.