The Best Basic Pizza Crust

I recently found the best pizza crust recipe ever. It instantly replaced my prior attempts, because of it’s ease, it’s crispiness, lightness, and doughiness. In my (humble, inexperienced pizza maker’s) opinion, it’s the full package. The photo below is from my first attempt, which turned out perfectly in spite of my minor deviations from the recipe. It’s a pretty forgiving dough, I’ve found. Enjoy!

Pesto-Asparagus White Pizza

Todd English’s Pizza Dough Recipe

(Recipe from The Figs Table. For the original recipe, see here. I’ve made some adjustments to the instructions, based on what I’ve found to be easiest for the inexperienced pizza maker, ie. me.)

Ingredients:

– ¼ cup whole wheat flour
– 3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling
– 2 teaspoons kosher salt
– 1 2/3 cups lukewarm water
– 2 teaspoons sugar
– 2 teaspoons active-dry yeast
– 2 teaspoons olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Mixing: Stir the flours and salt together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the water, sugar and yeast in and let sit for five minutes, until the mixture bubbles slightly. Add the olive oil and stir. Gradually (in 3-4 parts) add the oil-water mixture into the bowl, and knead until the dough is firm and smooth. (*1)
  2. Rising: Divide the dough into two to four balls, depending on how large of a pizza you’d like to make (*2).  Place dough balls on lightly-oiled parchment paper (*3), with enough room for dough to roughly double in size. Lightly rub the dough with olive oil, then cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm spot for about two hours. (If you want to freeze all or some of the dough, do this now. See below, *4.)
  3. Rolling: Dab your fingers in flour and then place one ball on a plain sheet of parchment paper (NOT floured or oiled). Press down in the center with the tips of your fingers, spreading the dough with your hand. Gradually work your way out, until you have flattened the dough out from the center to the edge, roughly the thickness of a flatbread. The outer edge should be a little thicker than the inner portion.
  4. Topping: top as desired. (Read on for the toppings for the pizza pictured above.)
  5. Baking: Preheat oven to 500 degrees. If you are using a baking stone, preheat with the stone in the oven. Transfer the pizza-on-parchment paper to the stone by holding the edges of the parchment paper. If you are not using a baking stone, simply slide the pizza-on-parchment paper onto a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, until crust is lightly browned and cheese is melted.
  6. Eating: Forks and knives, hands, sandwich method. All’s fair in love, war, and pizza.

Notes from Erin:

(1) The dough will be very wet and sort of difficult to work with. Fact of life, it will stick all over your hands. This is how it’s supposed to be. No worries.

(2) The pizza shown below used half of a recipe of dough, and fed 3 people. A quarter recipe makes more of an individual-size pizza, enough to feed 1-2 people, depending on how hungry the people are and/or how delicious the topping is.

(3) A quick once-over with cooking spray easily does the trick.

(4) To freeze: This is a freezer-friendly recipe. After the initial 2-hour rise, punch down the dough and wrap in plastic, then place in a zip-lock in the freezer. When ready to use, let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours, then proceed with rolling and baking.

(5) Rolling the dough on parchment paper makes rolling and transferring so much easier. The dough will stick to the paper, making it easier to roll because it won’t keep shrinking down on you. To transfer to the oven, move the pizza simply by picking up the parchment paper. And don’t worry about sticking; after baking the pizza will pop cleanly off the parchment paper.

And now for one delicious option for toppings:

Erin’s Pesto-Asparagus White Pizza

  1. Cut one chicken breast into bite-sized pieces, and fry in olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. (Optional; omit for vegetarian pizza.)
  2. Remove chicken from pan, and in remaining oil fry 1/4 of an onion, thinly sliced.
  3. Trim the ends off 8 stalks of asparagus, and cut stalks in thirds. Blanch in salted boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water. Pat dry with a clean towel.
  4. Roll dough from 1/2 recipe of pizza dough. Spread 6 heaping tablespoonfuls of pesto sauce over pizza, or more as desired, so that pizza is covered with a thin layer of pesto sauce.
  5. Evenly spread asparagus, chicken, and onions over the top.
  6. Top with 1/2 of a ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into thin rounds.
  7. Bake per instructions above.

Groundnut Soup (Sierra Leonean Peanut Curry)

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I learned this recipe when I lived in Sierra Leone, and it quickly became a favorite. It is also a very nostalgic one for me, which was a bit of a problem when I made it this time around because the temperature margin between the weather there and here in Chicago is depressingly massive. (Damn you, Polar Plunge!)

This recipe also became an instant member of the Emergency Recipe list – the exclusive list of recipes that get me through The Dark Days of the Empty Refrigerator. (Be honest, we all get busy and/or lazy, and it happens.) All of the ingredients are basic and easy to keep in stock – you probably have them all in your pantry right now. Even the chicken isn’t an essential element – because of the peanut butter you’ll still get your protein serving.

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Ingredients:

–   2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
–   1 tbsp olive oil
–   1 large onion, finely chopped
vegetables as desired/available (carrot, celery, etc.)
–   4 tbsp tomato paste
–   2-3 cups water or chicken broth (depending on whether or not you added veggies)
–   ½-¾ cups peanut butter
–   ½-1 tsp cayenne

Instructions:

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1)   Prepare white rice separately.

2)   Fry chicken in the bottom of a medium-sized pan in 1 tbsp of olive oil.

3)   Once cooked (or mostly-cooked), add onions and any vegetables that you are throwing in, and fry briefly with the chicken.

P10507044)   Add the water or chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add tomato paste, peanut butter, and cayenne pepper.

5)   Simmer until vegetables are tender, or if you didn’t add any, until flavors have melded.

6)   Serve over rice.

Enjoy!

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