Published September 1, 2008.
Italians have a way to create a superbly crisp, chewy crust that sidesteps the single biggest hassle of making pizza: rolling out the dough. What’s their secret?
Pizza Bianca is made from the same basic ingredients as our familiar pizza crusts: flour, water, yeast, and salt. And the general pizza dough method (mix, knead, rise) is no more difficult. But Italians use significantly more water, creating a dough that’s so wet, it’s impossible to roll out.
We loved this pizza dough version with its crisp exterior and chewy, bubbly middle that doesn’t even require toppings to make a satisfying snack. We needed to devise a method that allowed a home cook with ordinary kitchen tools to handle this super-hydrated dough.
We focused on perfecting an easy alternative to rolling—simply pressing the wet dough into a baking sheet. First, we had to deal with the high amount of water this dough requires—a hydration level around 90% was necessary get the super chewy, bubbly interior we wanted. To form a dough this wet required both a 20-minute resting time (after initially mixing the flour, water, and salt) and 10 minutes of kneading at high speed. After two hours the dough had tripled in volume, and, although sticky, proved remarkably easy to shape. We pressed the dough over an 18- by 13-inch baking sheet, finding it showed little of the “spring back” we’ve found in other pizza dough. After pressing, we simply let the dough rest for 5 to 10 minutes, and it was ready to bake on a pizza stone set on the middle rack of a 450-degree oven.
For toppings, we created both an authentic snack-appropriate version adorned with no more than salt, a handful of rosemary (added halfway through cooking to avoid burning) and a thin coat of olive oil brushed on at the end, as well as several meal-appropriate versions with combinations of tomatoes, mozzarella, sausage, and fontina. Adding these heavier ingredients did require some fine- tuning. We needed to add the toppings halfway through baking to prevent a gummy crust—and only in moderate amounts, to keep the ingredients from overpowering the flavor of the crust.list of recipes