The problem with home baked pizzas is crispiness, because who has a oven that goes to 700 degrees? I’ve figured out a solution: Make the tomato sauce on the pizza while it’s baking. (If you are fine with thick crusts or pan pizzas, best if you move along now, as you have it easy.)
The issue for thin, crispy pizza is sogginess. The best my research has come up with to prevent mush is to watch the amounts: For a large (about 12 inches) home pie, then a maximum of 1 cup of toppings, a heaping 1/2 cup of cheese (or more veggies) and a half-cup of sauce. No more than that. It will end up looking like an artisanal pizza — topped with dollops, not the usual even layers of goo.
I used to love layers of goo, but at home that’s a fail.
Even with my way, you still might see a pool of liquid in the middle when you pull the pizza from the oven. Just dab at the puddle with a balled-up paper towel.
A big problem was the sauce. Store-bought pasta sauce is OK; jarred pizza sauce is awful. My go-to homemade sauce comes from 101Cookbooks.com, and it remains my favorite tomato sauce. But here its slight runniness is a fault. Also, the recipe makes more than needed for the pizza. I make it for pasta.
But Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks post — her noting the differences between a quick and simmered sauce — led me to the concept below. I’m using a food processor here, but any way you can make very thin, consistent slices of tomato will do. The idea is to use whole tomatoes, including seeds.
Also, any dough is fine, I guess, but I do have a recommended recipe.
I would’ve posted a photo but we ate the subject!
- 1/2 recipe Bittman Pizza Dough (can use whole wheat flour)
- 3 roma or 2 regular, medium fresh tomatoes, cored
- 1 Tablespoon good olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian herb mix
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup texturized vegetable protein (TVP) — optional
- 1 cup toppings, such as a variety of diced or thin-sliced vegetables, bits of sausage etc.
- 1/2 cup, heaping, grated cheese (such as mozzarella) OR another half cup of toppings
Make the dough according to its recipe, reserving half for later use, OR halve all ingredients. Let rise an hour. Pizza dough needs neither vigorous kneading nor lengthy rising.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
In a food processor, halve or quarter tomatoes so they will fit in the chute. Slice using the thinnest blade. Put the slices in a small bowl and the juice from the processor into another small bowl. Press the tomatoes with your fingers or the back of a spoon over the bowl of juice to extract more juice — it will end up about 1/2 cup juice and, separately, about 1 cup tomatoes.
Stir in oil, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper into the bowl of juice; herbs will need at least 5 minutes to flavor the liquid. If using TVP (it’s a ground beef substitute), add to the juice; the TVP needs no less than 15 minutes to soften.
Grease a 12-inch round pizza pan or similarly sized cookie sheet. OR cut a piece of parchment paper to that size and place on the pan. Press and stretch the dough onto it. If dough is resilient, let it rest 5 minutes and resume flattening. It’s OK to sprinkle a tablespoon or two of flour to cut stickiness as you work the dough.
Press out more juice from the tomato slices into the bowl of seasoned juice. When placing the various toppings below, leave open a quarter-size round spot in the middle — bare — to reduce liquid pooling.
Evenly spread the tomato slices across the pizza; the pie should be well covered, though the slices will shrink during baking. If using, sprinkle grated cheese evenly. Dot with the various toppings. Restir the seasoned juice and dribble it over the pizza (the soaked TVP should be evenly spread). Push toppings away from the small blank spot you’ve left in the middle.
Place pizza in oven. If using a baking stone slide the pie from the pan onto it, including the parchment paper if using. Bake 10 minutes, until tips of vegetables are dry or a little browned, and dough along the edge is well-browned. Let rest 3 to 5 minutes before slicing.
Serves 3-4 people as part of a meal.