After suggesting that you use any leftover dough you may have if you don’t like the bread it gives you by making pizza more than three months ago, I finally have a pizza recipe ready for you. I made the low whole-wheat version of the dough here but reduced the salt a little more. Making the dough early enough to allow for at least an overnight refrigeration will make your life a lot easier when rolling it out. Remember that the dough can be used within 14 days of making it. The actual preparation of the sauce and toppings takes about as long as heating up the oven so this is a quick dinner once you have the refrigerated dough.
The basic tomato sauce is tomatoes, ground pepper, a tiny bit of salt (if you can afford it in your diet), and red chili pepper flakes if you like spicy food. We sometimes add garlic and other spices to the sauce. We always top with mushrooms and fresh mozzarella and, when we’re feeling fancy, with shrimp. I of course made the fancy version to post.
I assume in my directions that you have no experience making pizza. I also assume that you don’t have any of the pizza-making tools you could have because we certainly don’t. We cook our pizzas in our 12-inch cast iron pan, but see the tips section for suggestions on how to cook it on other mediums like cookie sheets or baking stones.
I learned the hard way that it’s not a good idea to roll out the dough and let it sit. The longer it stays out of the fridge, the stickier it gets and trust me, you don’t want to end up having to try to scrape it out of the pan after it’s cooked. Let’s just say that you generally don’t end up getting much of the crust when you have to do that. So, I recommend getting everything else ready before bringing the dough out of the fridge to form it into a ball and roll it out. Any surface the dough will touch should be generously dusted with flour to prevent from sticking, your hands included. More importantly, dusting cornmeal on the rolling surface and cooking surface is the only way we’ve found to prevent the dough from sticking. If you work with the dough quickly, don’t leave it out of the fridge for long, and dust the cooking surface with cornmeal, you probably won’t have any issues with it sticking to the cooking surface. But if you’re worried about the non-stickiness of the pan you choose to use and don’t want to risk having toppings with scraped up dough for dinner, you can line the cooking surface with parchment paper. This will, however, make the bottom of the crust a little less crispy and might not allow you to eat the pizza by holding it in your hands if that’s your preferred method to eat it.
To prevent the crust from getting soggy once it’s cooked, we eat it one slice at a time and leave the rest on the cutting board.
Oh, I should also mention that since posting the revised dough recipe, I’ve learned that the stickiness of the dough depends not on how much whole wheat flour I use, but on the brand of the flour I use. Using the high-end flour (you know, the most expensive brand) has given me the stickiest dough but the best results with the loaves (the interior is more moist and less shiny). As far as I can tell, there’s no difference in the result when making pizza, so I would actually recommend using the lower-brand flours for pizza, since the dough is less sticky and easier to roll out.
Low-sodium homemade pizza with crispy crust
Yields a 10″ pizza, serves 2
- 250g (8.8 oz) piece of dough, recipe below
- medium-ground cornmeal, for dusting
- flour, for dusting
- 2 medium-sized tomatoes
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 2 basil leaves, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- dried oregano, to taste
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- red chili pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
- a tiny bit of salt (optional)
- 110g (4 oz) mushrooms (I used 2 crimini mushrooms)
- 80g (2.8 oz) shrimp, peeled
- 45g (1.5 oz) mozzarella
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- a few basil leaves, as garnish
Preheat the oven to 500°F.
Prepare tomato sauce
Coarsely chop the tomatoes and garlic. Using a blender (we use this hand blender), blend the tomatoes and garlic to preferred texture. We leave it slightly chunky. Season with basil, bay leaf, dried oregano, freshly ground pepper, and, if using, red chili pepper flakes and salt.
Transfer to a small saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for as long as it takes to prepare the toppings and roll out the dough. This generally takes us 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the sauce and remove it from the heat if it thickens too much for your taste.
Slice the mushrooms. Cut the shrimp into bite-size pieces (we cut ours into thirds or fourths) and season them with freshly ground pepper. Break up the mozzarella into smaller chunks and set it on a paper towel to allow it to absorb some of the moisture.
Roll out dough
Prepare the surface on which you’ll roll the dough with a generous dusting of cornmeal and flour. We use a wooden cutting board but you could even do it on a clean counter.
At this point, you can remove the dough from the fridge. Dust your hands with flour and pull out a 250g (apple-sized) piece of dough, about a sixth of the yield from the recipe below. Pull the dough out gently or cut its tail with a pair of kitchen shears or a knife. You will shape the dough into a ball by pulling the dough towards the bottom until you have a smooth shape. Set the dough onto the prepared rolling surface.
Roll the dough out using a rolling pin or, if you don’t have one, a clean bottle. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin, dust it with a bit of flour. Roll out from the middle until you get a circle with a diameter of approximately 10 1/2″. The bottom of the 12″ cast iron pan we have is around 10″ but we roll it out a little big larger because the dough retracts.
If you want a thicker crust edge, like we do, lift the rolling pin as you reach the edge. If you want a flatter crust edge, roll the dough past the edge.
If the dough is being stubborn and shrinks too much, leave it be for a couple of minutes and then return to rolling it. If any holes develop, pinch them closed with floured fingers.
Prepare pizza for baking
Prepare the baking surface with a generous dusting of cornmeal and flour. Place the rolled out dough onto the cooking surface. I just use my flour-dusted hands to lift it into the pan.
Once the rolled out dough is placed in the pan, it is time to dress the pizza. Use as much of the sauce as you’d like (we use all of it) and spread it out evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2″ to 1″ border at the crust edge. Top with the rest of the toppings, mushrooms, shrimp, and mozzarella.
Move the pan to the preheated oven, place it on the middle rack, and bake until the crust is slightly brown and the cheese is bubbly and brown, about 18-20 minutes.
Prepare pizza to serve
Remove the pizza from the pan by lifting it out with a large spatula or two. Place it onto a cutting board. Using a large knife, cut the pizza into slices by pressing down and then lifting the knife rather than dragging it across. This will give you neater slices and won’t cause the cheese to drag.
Wait for the pizza sauce to cool slightly to avoid the risk of burning the gums behind your two front teeth.
Top with basil leaves or chunks of basil leaves right before serving.
Low-sodium light whole wheat dough
Adapted from Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François’ The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Makes enough dough for about six 10″ pizzas
- 680 grams (1lb 8oz) lukewarm water (100°F or below)
- 9 grams (0.32oz) of dry yeast (1 packet)
- 130 grams (4.5oz) whole wheat flour
- 800 grams (1lb 12oz) all purpose flour
- 5 grams (0.17oz) sea salt (optional, see tips below)
- Pour the water into a large container with a capacity of at least 7 quarts. I sometimes use a 7.5-quart stainless steel roaster, other times a crock pot. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let sit while measuring out the flours and salt.
- Pour the flour and salt over the water mixture. With a wooden spoon, mix until the ingredients begin to combine and the dough becomes scraggly. Reach in with wet hands and gently mix until all of the flour is incorporated, there are no dry patches, and the dough is uniformly moist. Make sure not to knead or pinch too much. You might need to keep wetting your hands if the dough is too sticky. If that’s the case, be careful not to introduce too much extra water. Use only as much as you need to get rid of the dry patches.
- Cover the container with a lid that is not airtight (or loosely with plastic wrap). Allow the dough to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses or flattens on top, around 2-3 hours.
- After the rising period, move the container to the fridge. Store the dough in the fridge with the lid that is not airtight (or loosely covered) for up to 14 days.
- The dough can be used right away after the initial rising period but it is very sticky and difficult to work with. It is easier to work with it after it is refrigerated overnight.
Sources of sodium
- Sea salt
Approximate sodium intake per serving: 287 mg
- 164 mg from the sea salt in the dough, which has 590 mg per 1/4 tsp (1.5g) serving (328 mg per pizza, 1967 mg per entire dough yield)
- 76 mg from the mozzarella, which has 95 mg per 1 oz (28 g) serving
- 47 mg from the shrimp
- These values are calculated from the nutritional labels of the ingredients I used
Reduce the sodium
Skip the shrimp, reduce the amount of cheese you use, or reduce the amount of salt you use to make the dough. The dough can, according to the authors of the book from which I adapt the recipe, be made without any salt whatsoever.
Increase the sodium
If we weren’t worried about our sodium intake, we would add more salt to the tomato sauce because tomatoes can generally benefit from a little bit of salt. And we would increase the amount of salt we used in our dough. In the book from which I adapt the recipe, the authors recommend using between 17 and 25 grams of salt to make the dough.
If you’d prefer to use canned tomatoes, cubed, crushed or pureed tomatoes all work well. You likely won’t need to reduce the sauce and can use about 250ml (8oz) tomatoes. Just be very careful to choose a can that has either no salt added or a relatively small amount of sodium. Canned tomatoes sometimes have an astronomically high amount of salt added.
Using fewer of the toppings we used will affect the overall cooking time. When we make it without the shrimp, the pizza cooks 2-3 minutes faster, in 17-18 minutes. A margherita pizza would probably take even less time. Be aware of the amount of juices the toppings you use may leave or how quickly the toppings may cook.
Other cooking equipment
We didn’t have a 12-inch cast iron pan when we first started making pizza and we made it in a cookie sheet instead. Ours are fairly heavy duty. We baked the pizza for about 15-16 minutes until tomato sauce started to bubble and then turned on the broiler for another 2-3 minutes, until the cheese browned. If you have regular cookie sheets, double them and check on the pizza earlier. Just a word of notice. Most cookie sheets aren’t made for the high temperatures needed to make pizza so you’ll probably end up discoloring them, burning off the non-stick coating and end up with designated pizza-baking cookie sheets or ones for which you’ll need to use lining to use.
If you have a pizza peel and are able to preheat your cooking surface, the cooking time will be greatly reduced. We don’t have a pizza peel and even if we did, I would be reluctant to use it because just thinking about the idea of trying to nudge a prepared pizza onto another surface makes me anxious. But if you have experience with it or are bolder than me, use a baking stone or turn the cookie sheets upside down to make it easier to slide the prepared pizza. Check on it after 8-10 minutes and increase the time until the sauce starts to bubble. If the sauce is bubbling but the cheese is not browned, turn on the broiler for 2-3 minutes. If you do cook the pizza onto a preheated surface, it would be a good idea to check the cooking time of ingredients that should not be served undercooked, like shrimp, and to precook them slightly before using them as pizza toppings.
You can safely use only all purpose flour by increasing the amount to 930 grams and skipping the whole wheat flour but not vice versa. If you want to use other flours or change the proportions in any other way, you will need to compensate by changing the amount of water needed. There are suggestions in the book from which this recipe is adapted for other recipes.