I'm constantly searching for a homemade pizza dough that tastes good but isn't too challenging to execute. In other words, a recipe that doesn't require any arcane "dough whispering" skills. However, my hunt may be coming to an end thanks to one celebrity chef's concept.
Making bread or any rising dough is difficult, so it's hardly surprising that many sculptors go into the bread-baking business. In my experience, it requires patience, practice, and something of a magic touch.
I've tried Jim Lahey's no-knead pizza dough recipe with great success, but I'm always looking for fresh variations, so one particular recipe from Jamie Oliver's 30-Minute Meals caught my eye. His "cheat's pizza" sounded like an interesting alternative to traditional recipes, and like everything else in that book, it takes 30 minutes or less to make from start to finish.
Actually, this could only take you 20 minutes if you're more experienced since this is just one aspect of Jamie's 30-minute meal. The remaining parts of the meal include three delish salads and squashed cherries and vanilla mascarpone cream. Here, we're only focusing on the pizza.
Jamie's pizza is indeed a cheat's — you don't have to agonize over that precise point between over- and under-kneaded dough or wait for the dough to rise. Instead, you sneak in a food processor and self-rising flour.
It's also quick to assemble and cook: Simply stove-fry the dough for three to four minutes, and finish under the broiler for the same. The result? Not bad. Pretty decent, in fact. It won't have the wonderful elasticity that the best pizza dough has, but if you like a light, crispy crust, you should be able to nail a tasty outcome in two attempts or less.
The recipe below should feed two to three people. I doubled it and made two batches of the dough for four people; this yielded one large pizza, and two smaller ones (dictated by my cast iron pan options).
Aside from the ingredients listed below, you'll also need a food processor, broiler-safe or cast iron pan, blender, and a measuring cup that can hold at least one cup.
- 1 c. self-rising flour
- ½ c. water
- pinch of salt
- 1 can chopped or crushed tomatoes
- 1½ handfuls of basil leaves
- 1–2 cloves garlic
- fresh mozzarella cheese
- toppings of choice (I used thinly sliced dried salami, green bell peppers, sliced zucchini, and basil)
- balsamic vinegar
- olive oil
"30-Minute Meals" is kind of a shticky TV concept. The time it takes you to prepare the pizza is entirely dictated by how organized you are and how comfortable you are with the process, as well as how speedy you are in the kitchen period.
The first time I made it, I took about an hour, but the second time I was much more comfortable with the process and managed to do it in about 30 minutes. Since I doubled the ingredients, I'm sure it would have taken even less time.
Before you start, take out all your ingredients, set up your food processor and blender, and oil your cast iron pan. Also, make sure to turn on the broiler and pull out your measuring cup.
You can use any sauce you like — canned, jarred, or fresh. Jamie recommends a quick option that combines a canned tomato base with fresh ingredients. The 28 oz. can size seen below is more than enough — I probably only used a third of it for four people, so you should use a smaller can.
Open and empty a can of crushed or chopped tomatoes into your blender. I used one with roasted garlic, but you can choose any variation you like.
Chop about 1½ handfuls of basil (you will use 1/3 now for the sauce, 2/3 later for the pizza topping). Jamie recommends rolling your basil for easy chopping, a process is called chiffonade. See below.
Roughly chop 1 to 2 cloves of garlic, then throw the garlic and basil into the blender with the canned tomatoes. Add a swig of balsamic for taste, then drizzle some olive oil inside and blend to a smooth consistency.
This is the easiest dough I've ever made! It even beats Jim Lahey's no-knead bread (though, I'm not sure it tastes as good).
Measure 1 cup of self-rising flour (it must be self-rising flour — no substitutes!) into your food processor. Add ½ cup of water, a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Pulse.
Your first pulse will result in a soft, wet dough that looks like the above image to the left. The goal is to work toward a firmer, processor-formed ball as pictured to the right. Do this by slowly adding more flour — I added as much as an additional 1/3 to ½ cup. In the end, you want your dough to be somewhat wet and elastic, but not so wet that it's impossible to work with a rolling pin.
Once you have a satisfactory ball of dough, cover a dry surface with a layer of flour. Remove the dough from the processor and add the remnants to your solid "baseball"; coat lightly with flour and roll into a flat, round piece with a rolling pin.
Jamie recommends that the dough be about 1 cm thick. In my second round with this recipe, I made it a little bit thinner and liked the results better (it had a thinner, crispier crust).
Once you have a good thickness and large enough piece to fill an approximately 14-inch cast iron pan (or two smaller pans), fold your dough in half or quarters to easily transport to the well-oiled pan. Unfold and spread/smooth slightly with your fingers if necessary.
Before you start cooking your dough, you should have your sauce, cheese, and toppings on hand. Have all your toppings chopped — I prepped bell peppers, zucchini, basil, and thinly sliced dried salami.
Use fresh mozzarella! It tastes better than the shredded stuff. Tear it into chunks beforehand.
Now for the fun part! Turn the heat on high, and let your dough get crispy. Stand by with a spatula and lift the edges to make sure the bottom isn't burning (this is why coating the pan with olive oil is so important — you don't want the dough to stick to the bottom).
You want it to get it crispy, but not charred. Let it go for 3 to 4 minutes, and once it's almost finished, spoon sauce in the center and spread. Remove from the heat entirely, and top with cheese and toppings. If you're using fresh basil like me, hold off on that until the next step.
Now that your pizza is ready, place it under the broiler for another 4 minutes or so. Leave the oven light on and watch it carefully. Remove when it looks good to you. If you want fresh basil on it like in my version, wait until the last second when you're about to remove the pizza from the broiler — that way the leaves will be warm and slightly cooked without being charred.
Jamie added fennel seeds and freshly grated Parmesan to the top of his cheat's pizza as well — I'm going to try that next time because it sounds delicious.
Eat, savoring the cheater's satisfaction of a cheesy, tomato-slathered crunch stolen from right under the noses of the pizza dough purists.
If you know of a good pizza dough recipe, please post below. I'm always looking for new ones, even after almost mastering this one.