Perfect Pizza Crust at Home?
by Brian Ricci
Making a satisfying pizza crust can be difficult at home. For one, our ovens don’t get hot enough to bake high-hydration doughs, and if they did, most likely we would be setting our sensitive smoke detectors off whenever we tried. Let me suggest an alternative: cooking with cast iron.
Cast iron pans are inexpensive, durable and versatile. The recipe that follows is for a flatbread pizza and can easily be adapted into a naan or scallion pancake recipe.
Ricotta-and-Salad Topped Homemade Flatbread
For the flatbread:
- 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 cloves garlic, grated/microplaned
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 1 pinch sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for coating the bowl
- 3/4 cup warm water—about 110 F—not too hot or it will kill the yeast
For the topping:
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 6 leaves lacinato kale (also known as dinosaur kale), shredded
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved (with a peeler)
- 1 lemon’s worth of zest
- 3 tablespoons capers
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 4 strips cooked bacon or four slices of prosciutto
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large mixing bowl, add yeast, garlic, herbs, sugar and all-purpose flour and whisk.
- Make a well in the dry ingredients and add olive oil and 1/2 cup of warm water to start. Stir with a wooden spoon. Add more water as needed until a dough forms. Wait 10 minutes and add sea salt. Mix for another minute.
- Transfer to a clean, well-floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic—about 2 minutes—adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking.
- Allow dough to rest, covered with a towel for 15 minutes.
- Resume hand kneading of dough—gently pulling and turning dough over to develop elasticity. This will take about 5 minutes.
- To round the dough, make a cage with your hands with the dough inside it. Move your hands clockwise, tugging slightly at the dough—this will develop tension in the dough and help to shape it.
- Move the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Place in a warm area to rise for 1 hour.
- The dough should now be double in size. Cut dough into 6 even pieces, arrange on a clean surface and lay a damp towel on top. Let rest again while you prepare your pan and toppings.
- Heat your cast iron pan to medium-high heat.
- Toppings: In a large mixing bowl, add kale, Parmigiano, lemon zest, capers, bacon/prosciutto, sherry vinegar and olive oil and mix.
- Taste and lightly season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Roll your doughs out thinly to about 1/8-inch thick and lightly coat the pan in olive oil.
- Place one dough at a time in the pan and cook until the bottom begins to blister slightly—about 2 minutes. Then flip, place a dollop of ricotta cheese on top and spread around with the back of a spoon. Place into a 375 F oven for 2 minutes.
- When each flatbread is done, remove from the pan and top with salad mix.
Brian Ricci is a chef living and working in Philadelphia.