Bird worked in a Midwestern pizza joint for a few years when he was in high school and therefore, considers himself a connoisseur of all things pizza. I'm a pizza lover too - Bird would never have married me otherwise. In Chicago it's easy to satisfy our pizza craving, though we don't always agree on where to find the best pie. Experience aside, Bird had never attempted pizza outside the walls of Louie's Pizza, where Bird still insists the best pizzas were made. (Unfortunately, Louie's closed before I met Bird, so I have to take his word.) So at the beginning of the year, I challenged him to make a pie superior to any we could get here in Chicago.
It was no surprise Bird forgot the recipes for both the sauce and the dough - he left Louie's in 1987. Still he was up for the challenge. To say it became our obsession would be an understatement - just ask our friends who've been served nothing but pizza here for the last nine months. Every Friday night our kitchen turned into a flour-dusted laboratory deliciously smelling of yeast and garlic. Everyone who learned of our challenge had a dough recipe they insisted we try. Leaving no stone unturned and not wanting to disappoint anyone's Italian grandmother, we tried nearly ten unique recipes and multiple variations of each before we got the dough right.
The recipe that follows makes two 16" thin crust pizzas. We typically make one white pizza, or flatbread as we like to call it, and one traditional red sauce pizza. The sauce is good, but still needs some tweaking - stay tuned. In the meantime, I've included a few photos of our favorite flatbread combinations.
Bird stretching the dough
Potato, garlic, rosemary and parmesan before it hits the oven
wild mushroom, thyme and truffle oil
Piping hot: tomato, mozzarella, and fresh basil
Bird's Never Fail Pizza Dough
The dough is simple and consistent and goes together in under 20 minutes.
- 1 pkg active dry yeast (.25 oz or 2 1/4 tspn.)
- 1 cup warm water (110F)
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tspn. salt
- Thoroughly mix the water and the yeast in a small bowl until completely dissolved. Set aside until slightly foamy (5 minutes).
- Combine cake flour, 1 cup of AP flour and salt in a large bowl.
- Make a well in the center. Pour in yeast mixture and stir with a spoon until a dough forms. Add additional flour 1/4 cup at a time and mix by hand until the dough can be handled without sticking to your fingers. Note: You may not need all the flour.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead until smooth - about 7-10 minutes. If dough gets sticky add more flour a little at a time. Notes: 1. If your bowl is big, you can probably knead the dough in the bowl. 2. Only on rare occasions (1 in 5?) will the dough require more than 1 1/2 cups of AP flour.
- Lightly spray another mixing bowl with olive oil. Place the dough ball in the bowl turning once to coat the top and bottom of the ball. Cover with a lid or clean towel and set in a warm place until double in size (approx. 45 minutes). Note: Set your bowl beneath your under-cabinet lights if you have them.
- Preheat oven to 450F.
- Divide dough into two equal portions. Roll and stretch dough until it fits your pizza stone or pan. Prebake plain crust for 6 minutes.
Now the real fun begins: add the toppings of your choice and bake until the crust edges are golden (approx. 12-14 minutes).