Twenty Minute Pizza Experiment

Pizza is one of my go to meals to make when people come over.  Everyone likes it, depending on the toppings, I can accommodate a lot of different diets (especially with some of the paleo crust recipes that are out there).  I have my bread machine recipe for making pizza dough. And I’ve been told that people like my pizza.  All told, I could whip up a batch of my traditional pizza dough and have a pizza out of the oven in about an hour–that’s from nothing but flour, water, oil, and toppings to a ready to slice pizza.  A friend sent me this video, on how to make it in a frying pan in twenty minutes, so I figured why not give that a shot to cut the time by a third.  So, how did it go?

You have to admit, that pizza did look yummy, and in just twenty minutes to boot.  To reproduce the results I had to deviate from their plans a little bit.  The first problem I have is that I don’t have an induction stove.  It may be that you can do that sort of cooking with a conventional stove, mine is gas, but I think the increased uniformity of the heat of an induction cooking system is really what makes that possible.  Unless your burner covers the entire bottom of your skillet you will get a lot more heat in the center and less on the edges.  That’s not going to make for a happy pizza.  The second thing is that their water to flour ratio seems a bit off.  In fact the written down version of the recipe calls for 1/3 a cup less water than the video does.  To avoid having an overly sticky mess I skimped on the water a bit.  Lastly, I don’t feel like messing with the honey mess so I just used regular sugar.

I used a cast iron skillet rather than a non-stick surfaced skillet for my dough.  I pre-mixed the yeast and sugar into the 1/2 cup of water in a measuring cup and let it rest for a few minutes.  I then put a cup of flour unbleached all purpose wheat flour, 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder, and a rounded 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a bowl and stir it together.  The baking powder and salt actually approximate the self rising flour that they call for in the recipe.  I poured in the water and with a spatula mixed all the ingredients until they were fully incorporated.   This made for a pretty sticky dough.

I took my skillet and drizzled some garlic infused olive oil in the bottom of the pan and spread it around, making sure it coated everything evenly.  I then poured the dough into the pan and pressed it out so it took up the entire bottom of the skillet evenly.  Because of how stick the dough was I had to regularly flour my fingers to prevent sticking.  With that done I poured some more garlic infused olive oil on top, between a teaspoon and tablespoon, to nicely coat the top of the dough.  I then added the sauce, cheese, and toppings.  With that all done it was ready to go into a preheated 500 degree F oven, sitting on a baking stone.

According to the cooking times on the video it needed a total of 15 minutes.  I instead ended up cooking mine for about 17 minutes.  The first five minutes I cooked with some aluminum foil on top.  The rest was without the foil.  In the future I may end up leaving the foil on for all but the last five minutes.

With the cooking done, definitely less than a half hour after I started, the pizza was out of the oven.  I slid a non-stick spatula around the bottom and it eased out onto my pizza pan.  After a couple of minutes of cooling we sliced and ate it.

Flavor wise the pizza was spot on.  It should have been though, the basic ingredients were the same as my normal pizza.  The dough didn’t stick to the pan, and it browned evenly on the bottom.  All of that was spot on.  The dough however didn’t have quite the consistency I was hoping for.  I like a good chewy pizza dough.  This had more of a biscuit consistency.  It held up well to the toppings, even holding together when you picked it up to eat it, so it was certainly more substantial than a biscuit, but it just didn’t have the crisp bread-like crust that I love.

It think it’s clear why this happened.  The dough really wasn’t worked much at all.  The dough also had less than five minutes of time to rest, rise, and mature.  That means there was no time or activity that really let the gluten strands set up.  Gluten is what gives the dough it’s elasticity and it’s something you can only expedite so much.  Whipping this up in five minutes is just not enough time to let that happen.  Along the same lines, I’m not sure what the yeast is for besides giving it some flavor.  The heavy lifting of the airiness is going to come from the baking powder, just like in a cake.  Five minutes isn’t enough time for the yeast to digest much sugar and generate gases to inflate the dough.  The baking powder can only do so much too, but with the relatively low gluten formation there were probably limits to what you’d get anyway.

The experiment was a success in that I now know I can turn out a pizza from scratch in about half an hour.  That’s faster than take out.  However the compromise is a crust that isn’t quite up to what I’m looking for.  In a pinch it’s far better, healthier, and cheaper, than ordering take out, so I will certainly be trying it again when in a pinch.