The Pizza Crust of My Discontent

I love pizza. Pizza and I are like this. As a child, I can remember at least one birthday in which my birthday cake actually was a pizza, with candles and “Happy Birthday Eric” written in Cheez Whiz across the surface.

Blue cheese and sausage pizza on whole wheat crust.

As an adult, I’ve come to see pizza as a convenience food. Yeah, I do the takeout thing and there are a few pizzerias in San Francisco I really like but I enjoy making pizza even more. When I say pizza is a convenience food, I mean I find pizza easy to make. I have yet to settle on a decent crust recipe, however.

Sauces? No problem. Chop up a few ripe tomatoes (or use canned in the winter) and toss them into a skillet with a little olive oil, some garlic, some salt, some pepper, oregano, and maybe some red wine if there’s a bottle open. Cook it down, reducing the moisture, and I’ve got a flavorful sauce better than most I’ve had elsewhere. Toppings? I’ve always got mozzarella around and I like throwing other cheeses on, too, such as the Point Reyes blue that I’d been munching on all week. At the simplest, I’ll throw on some basil leaves, cover it with cheese, and toss it into a fast oven. Not only do I have dinner taken care of, but there’s lunch and, quite possibly, breakfast the next day, as well.

But that crust. I make a competent pizza crust but it’s too bready for my tastes. It tastes good, mind you, but it’s not the right texture for a really good pizza. Earlier this week, for example, I made a whole wheat crust using this recipe:

1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil

After proofing the yeast in the water with just a pinch of sugar – not for flavor but to feed the yeast – I began adding the salt and the flour, about a half cup at a time (I’m doing all of this in a Kitchen Aid mixer, by the way). Once the flour is incorporated, I let the machine continue turning the dough for another minute or so and then pour it out onto a wooden cutting board where I knead it until it’s smooth. After returning the dough to the bowl, I pour a little olive oil on to it, turning it over a few times to cover it in the oil, and then let rise for about 45 minutes to an hour.

And that’s it. As I noted earlier, it tastes good but it’s too thick, too bread-like. On the bright side, I now have a quest.

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