America's Test Kitchen: New York Thin Crust Pizza

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America's Test Kitchen: New York Thin Crust Pizza
America's Test Kitchen: New York Thin Crust Pizza
Pizza is one of my favorite dishes to eat as a kid and in fact I'm sure many kids across America would agree with me on that statement. You can find many of them having pizza parties at such establishments as Chuck E. Cheese, Round Table, Pizza Hut, Toto's, Straw Hat, or Papa John's or maybe even having it delivered to your door or ordered to pick up at Dominoes, Papa Murphy's (take and bake), and Little Caesars. There are many different kinds of pizzas out there. There is Chicago style deep dish pizza, Sicilian Pizza, flatbread pizza, New Haven style pizza, and Neapolitan pizza (of which you can find Margherita pizza). Among all the different kinds of pizzas out there, my favorite is the New York style thin crust pizza. New York style pizza was popularized by pizzerias like Di Fara (Dom De Marco), Grimaldi's, John’s of Bleecker Street, and Lombardi's (of Gennaro Lombardi) popping up all around New York. In the America's Test Kitchen episode "New York-Style Pizza at Home" (season 12, episode 8), the test kitchen shows us how to properly make a New York-Style Thin-Crust Pizza.

Thinness of a slice of New York style pizza
See how thin a New York style pizza turns out.
What I like about New York style thin crust pizza is simply because it's thin. Thicker pizzas tend to be doughy and with each bite you would get a disproportionate amount of bread to everything else (pizza, sauce, toppings). A lot of pizzerias in New York have a special commercial oven to bake these pizza pies. These ovens can reach up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit in temperature which would fully bake a pizza in minutes if not seconds. I unfortunately do not have a commercial oven nor a wood burning oven in my home, so you would think that making a New York thin style pizza is next to impossible at home. But no. That is until you see the technique that ATK utilizes. They put a pizza stone on the very top rack of the pizza and preheat it for up to an hour to mimic the ovens they use in pizzerias. Once the pizza stone is properly preheated, the top portion of the oven where the pizza will go will be hot enough to cook a pizza.

Another technique which I have never seen before until now is how they make the dough. They make the dough and then run it through a food processor. You're probably wondering why would you use a food processor since you don't intend to puree the dough. The thing is, when making bread dough, you must knead it in order for it to develop gluten which will give the dough structure and allow it to rise again. The trapped the gases from the yeast give your bread flavor and the gluten gives the bread a chewy texture. Back in the day, people would simply knead the dough by hand which could take a long time. You can also knead the dough with an electric mixer with the proper dough hook attachment which could still take a few minutes. The food processor, however, can knead the dough in a mere seconds saving you a whole lot of time. Be aware that if you plan to use a food processor to knead your pizza dough, be sure it's powerful enough for dough. When I first tried this recipe, I used a food processor that wasn't strong enough for the dough that the dough made the food processor stop in its tracks. As a result, I ended up just getting the same exact food processor that Bridget Lancaster uses in the video since I already knew that that model of food processor could do the job.

You want a bit of char on the bottom
The bottom of a New York style thin crust pizza turns golden brown and charred.
When you have your dough ready, you have to roll out the dough into a 14 inch circle. I had trouble doing this because the dough tended to be sticky even if I properly floured the rolling pin and my marble board. I found it easier to stretch the dough by hand the way they do it in pizzerias. You can look up videos on YouTube to see how to do it, but the premise is simple. You press the dough into a disc. Then, you drape the dough on the tops of your hands (specifically the kuckles) because you don't want your fingers to puncture the dough. Once the dough is resting on your hands, you pull your hands away from each other and, thereby, stretch it. Once that portion of dough is stretched, you shift over to the next portion and stretch that and so on and so forth. You do this until you get to your desired thickness. For me this method was easier than using a rolling pin, but if the rolling pin technique works for you, then definitely go with that. Once you have your dough rolled out, add the pizza sauce, cheese, and any other toppings you wish.

Another part of making a pizza at home which proved to be challenging was sliding the pizza onto the baking stone from the pizza peel. I know they mentioned to use a lot of cornmeal which would allow you to easily transfer the pizza, but they always seem to make it look easier on tv than in reality. Whenever I tried sliding the pizza from the peel, the pizza would stick to the peel and the toppings would fly off as I'm trying to transfer the pizza. As an alternative, I formed the pizza on an oiled metal pizza sheet. I used 1 tablespoon of canola oil on the pizza sheet and put the stretched out dough on the sheet and prepared the pizza on that. I then put both the pizza and the pizza sheet in the oven to bake for a few minutes. What's great about this method is that the oil on the baking sheet allows the bottom of the pizza to fry a bit which gives good flavor. Half way through the baking process, you can then slide easily slide the pizza off from the pan directly on the baking stone since the dough is cooked enough that it no longer sticks to the pan.

Fresh baked NY Style Pizza
Homemade pizza fresh out of the oven.
I really like this recipe for New York style thin crust pizza at your home. What's great is that you can prepare several batches of pizza dough, pizza sauce, and cheese and make a pizza bar with a wide variety of toppings anytime you have guests over or have a social gathering. This is a great idea if you're hosting a Super Bowl party for example. You can allow your guests to customize their own pizza pie using whatever ingredients and toppings they like since baking the pizza doesn't take too long. If you read my post on Chicago style deep dish pizza, then you'd know that I like my pizza with pepperoni, green bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms. I sometimes like adding cooked Italian sausage and olives as well, but those do not normally come standard on my customized pizza.

FlavorFool's Notes

  • I didn't use the red wine vinegar. I'm pretty sure NY pizzerias don't use this ingredient either.
  • I don't like rolling out the dough with a rolling pin. I prefer to use my hands and form the pie in that fashion.
  • I do like to add some bits of basil into the tomato sauce.
  • I coat a pizza pan with some oil and I bake the pizza on a pizza pan for the first few minutes so that the bottom fries and then I transfer the pizza onto the stone. I found it difficult transferring an unbaked pizza from the peel onto the stone even if I use a lot of cornmeal or flour.
  • New York-Style Thin-Crust Pizza Recipe

    America's Test Kitchen - season 12, episode 8, New York-Style Pizza at Home
    Makes two 13 inch pizzas

    Ingredients

    Dough
    1 1/3 cups ice water (about 10.5 oz)
    3 cups (16 1/2 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting work surface
    1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for work surface
    .5 tsp instant or rapid-rise yeast
    1.5 tsp salt
    2 tsp sugar

    Sauce
    1 (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and liquid discarded
    1 tsp red wine vinegar [I left this out]
    1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
    2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tsp)
    1 tsp dried oregano
    .25 tsp ground black pepper
    1 tsp salt

    Cheese
    8 oz whole milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
    1 oz finely grated Parmesan cheese (about .5 cup)

    Instructions

    1. FOR THE DOUGH: In food processor fitted with metal blade, process sugar, yeast, and flour until combined, about 2 seconds. With machine running, slowly add water through feed tube; process until dough is just combined and no dry flour remains, about 10 seconds. Let dough stand 10 min.

    2. Add salt and oil to dough and process until dough forms satiny, sticky ball that clears sides of workbowl, 30-60 seconds. Remove dough from bowl and knead briefly on lightly oiled countertop until smooth, about 1 min. Shape dough into tight ball and place in large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hrs and up to 3 days.

    3. FOR THE SAUCE: Process all ingredients in food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to medium bowl or container and refrigerate until ready to use.

    4. TO BAKE THE PIZZA: 1 hr before baking pizza, adjust oven rack to second highest position (rack should be about 4 to 5 inches below broiler), set pizza stone on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and divide in half. Shape each half into smooth, tight ball. Place on lightly oiled baking sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart; cover loosely with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray; let stand for 1 hr.

    5. Coat 1 ball of dough generously with flour and place on well-floured countertop. Using fingertips, gently flatten into 8 inch disk, leaving 1 inch of outer edge slightly thicker than center. Using hands, gently stretch disk into 12 inch round, working along edges and giving disk quarter turns as you stretch. Transfer dough to well-floured peel and stretch into 13 inch round. Using back of spoon or ladle, spread .5 cup tomato sauce in thin layer over surface of dough, leaving 1/4-inch border around edge. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese evenly over sauce, followed by 1 cup mozzarella. Slide pizza carefully onto stone and bake until crust is well browned and cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown, 10-12 mins, rotating pizza halfway through. Remove pizza and place on wire rack for 5 mins before slicing and serving. Repeat step 5 to shape, top, and bake second pizza.

    TOPPING TIPS: We like our Thin-Crust Pizza simply dressed with tomato sauce and handfuls of shredded mozzarella and Parmesan, but additional toppings are always an option - provided they're prepared correctly and added judiciously. (An overloaded pie will bake up soggy.) Here are a few guidelines for how to handle different types of toppings:

    MEATS Proteins (no more than 4 oz per pie) should be precooked and drained to remove excess fat. We like to poach meats like sausage (broken up into 1/2-inch chunks), pepperoni, or ground beef for 4 to 5 mins in a wide skillet along with 1/4 cup of water, which helps to render the fat while keeping the meat moist.

    DELICATE VEGETABLES AND HERBS Leafy greens and herbs like basil and spinach are best placed beneath the cheese to protect them or added raw to the fully cooked pizza.

    HEARTY VEGETABLES Aim for a maximum of 6 oz per pie, spread out in a single layer. Vegetables such as mushrooms, peppers, and onions should be thinly sliced and lightly sautéed (or microwaved for a minute or two along with a little olive oil) before using.


    ATK Chef Bridget Lancaster shows Chris Kimball how to make a New York style thin crust pizza at home.

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