Pizza 101: Making satisfying thin-crusted Pizzas at home

Monday, September 10, 2012

I dread pizza.
I love pizza.

I dread the ones which come on a thick bread with sourish tomato paste. The thick leftover side crust is hardest to finish. And after downing all that cheese, you feel "jelak" as the Malays will say. I have negative memories of pizzas from a chain (which shall not be named), as I have always see them as convenient food for children who do not know any better. And on nights when there was no dinner, they became phoned-in meals. Dread.

All that change the first time I encountered "real" Italian pizzas. It comes in thin crusts with delicious toppings. I love cracker biscuits and I naturally become partial to pizzas that are "biscuity." I like it when the base is as equally enjoyable as the toppings.

It has never dawned on me these kind of pizzas can be made easily at home. As I read around, the idea of pizza stones and need for professional ovens put me off from bothering to make it.

My interest was renewed when I came across the video by Chef Peter, filmed by and hosted at Silver Chef's blog. It looked easy enough. A few ordinary ingredients and simple steps. Having made the Char Siew bun bread, this looked easier.     

I am glad I took the step to learn to make this thin crust pizza. It was a hit at first try. Yes, you can make some very satisfying pizzas at home using domestic ovens. And as you can put anything on a pizza (er...almost), this means that I can experiment with fillings from different cuisines. My children love it and my wife is confident about learning to make it.

You should watch the video as that will create a visual image and build your confidence.

I use a 1 kg ration because the flour I buy all come in 1 kg packs. Just halve the portions if you are feeding just a few. You can get all these from Phoon Huat or any of the super-mart chains. Here is the recipe:

Pizza Dough Recipe
To make about 10 x 13" inch pizzas.      

1 kg of Top Flour (this is finer than plain flour)
0.5 liter of cold water
2 tsp of salt
8 Tbsp of Olive Oil.
22g of yeast (or two tablespoons)
  1. Mix the flour, yeast, salt and olive oil. 
  2. Add the water slowly and mix and knead the flour into a dough. This takes about 5 minutes. 
  3. Cover it with a cloth and let it rise for about 40 minutes.
  4. Cut into smaller pieces of about 180-200 gm each. At this point you can start flattening it.
  5. Alternatively, you can let it rise for a few more hours. If overnight, just arrange it neatly in a tub and fridge it. This gives time for the yeast to work its way through the dough and will result in a crust which is more flaky. If you do not have the time, the quickie 40 minutes will result in a good crust too.   
  6. Flatten the dough to a very thin crust with a roller. Make it round of course, though nothing should stop you from going square or oblong. Don't bother about making a perfect circle - it should look home-made!
  7. Use a tray with holes underneath or use a pizza baking try (it is more convenient).
  8. Pre-heat your oven to the max 250°C or more. 
  9. Spread the base with tomato paste, dress the toppings on it, spray some olive oil on it and bake it. It will be done in about 5-6 minutes.   

Now of course, you can variate the steps according to the base, toppings you use and your personal preference. You can decide to add the cheese mid way if you do not like it burnt. As your home oven temperature is lower than professional ones or wood fire ovens, you may want to bake the base first for 2 minutes. And then add the spread and toppings and go for another 5 minutes.

Canned whole tomatoes before they are pureed.
As for the tomato base, use whole tomatoes. I use canned Italian ones. You can mash it up easily with a spatula or puree it with a stick blender.

Just master the dough and the rest from here is a lot of common sense re your mise en place, ingredients, how herby, how spicy, how moist etc. There can be of course more finesse in the way you lay out the toppings to create a visually appealing pizza and also taking into consideration how you will cut it and what goes on each piece. Mozzarella cheese is of course the usual favorite. Shredded is fine but square blocks will create neater patterns. As rocket leaves or arugula is cheap and widely available, use them generously as garnishings. Dress them , if possible, so that they stay fresh and lightly flavoured. Cut fresh tomatoes, mushrooms and onions are good to add of course, often adding moisture and making every bite more juicy. It really depends on what you like.

You can make it "skinnier" if you wish and you do not always need to add cheese. Pizza is one good thing to make if you want to clear your fridge.

Before it goes into the oven
This can sound daunting if you don't make your own bread but the pizza dough is easy to make. You don't need a bread-making machine and it is good to learn to feel the dough with your hands. Watch the video to gain some confidence. Making bread is common to Westerners, Indians and Middle-Easterners just as cooking rice is to Asians. It is really basic 101 stuff.

Start to learn to make this and your family dinners will be more interesting. Pizza is also a great party dish.

I will blog a series of other pizza recipes soon. Stay tuned.

Green Curry Pizza - Chicken and Squid, garnished with Basil leaves

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  1. Do we place the pizza on middle rack or nearer base of the oven? Tks! Fr PSSS.

    1. Depends. I normally cook two pizzas at once, one in the middle, the other lower bottom. I swap them around if I need to.

  2. It looks absolutely delicious! And authentic :)

  3. I am a little hesitant cos am not good at kneading. Did you knead by hand or the machine? Did you try it with the quick rise method or overnight? If so, how much yeast to use if using the overnight rise method?

    I've baked the no-knead bread with the overnight rise (air con room temperature) and the yeast amount needed was very small cos of the slow fermentation. Bread was delicious tho!

  4. I have truly enjoyed reading your blog & regained my confidence in cooking by following your recipe. Thanks Karen

  5. Can you pls let me know where can I buy tray with holes or pizza tray? I'm hoping to try pizza this weekend. Thanks Karen .

    1. Karen - I got them from Phoon Huat

  6. Thanks for the recipe! Just a quick question - your recipe calls for instant dried yeast or fresh yeast?
    Thanks! -Sarah-

  7. Pizza Making is actually an art and it is very interesting teach in easy way thanks for information

    pizza making