CRACKER-CRUST PIZZA, p.32
Even though I already owned this book and nominated it, I was having trouble drumming up enthusiasm for it this week. I’ve been reading it in the evenings, and it’s a wonderful book in that gives a real sense of local tradition, in a way that reminds me of Deep Run Roots, but I wasn’t excited to cook from it. I decided to start with some low hanging fruit and use this recipe for pizza night.
The dough is very easy: you simply mix cool water, neutral oil, salt, sugar, and flour. Knead for 5 minutes, separate into 3 balls, shape into discs, and let sit for at least 30 minutes. After kneading the dough was very supple and lovely. The sauce is … not my favorite. Onions and garlic cooked in butter and salt, to which you add canned tomatoes, basil, rosemary, sugar, and pepper. I should have listened to my instincts and left the rosemary out. My dried rosemary was old (she gives both fresh and dried quantities) but it was still too overpowering. It’s just not a flavor I want on pizza. And the sauce was too sweet for me.
To assemble the pizza, you roll out the discs between parchment, fold the edges liked a crimped pie crust, brush with olive oil, and add toppings.
Toppings are open, but she suggests Italian sausage, basil, and mozzarella. The recipe makes three 12-inch pizzas. I did one as suggested by Thielen, one with just sauce and cheese, another with sauce, cheese, and sautéed mushrooms.
The real problem was the heat and cooking method. You put a pizza stone (I used a baking steel) on the bottom third oven, preheat as high as it will go, or 500. I did 550. The pizzas go on the stone with the parchment still beneath them. And the cooking time calls for 15-18 minutes.
Friends, I pulled my first two pizzas out at 10 minutes. My parchment was fully burnt (not “a harmless dark-toast color” that “won’t burn,” as the author claims), and the pizzas were rather black in parts on the crust bottom. I used my better sense for the final pizza, reduced the heat to 450, and that one was cooked more reasonably, though still quite brown on the bottom, and the crust was very crunchy in a dry way.
I lived in Minneapolis for 6.5 years and I’ve eaten my fair share of this type of Midwestern pizza. I thought this was over cooked, the sauce flavor was all wrong, and there wasn’t much redeemable about it, other than the fact that the dough was a breeze to make. I’m afraid this is going to be infamous in our house because my kids, who will eat any pizza, were very upset and having little meltdowns because we wouldn’t make them something else (in their defense, they have colds right now and were looking forward to pizza night). Anyway, it wasn’t that bad, but I wouldn’t recommend it.