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Thin-Crust Pizza Recipe

2009 March 4

20090232

You’ve Found What You’re Looking For.

This is, by far, the most popular article that I have written for my blog—a wine blog no less. And for good reason. Most Pizza Huts no longer offer the Thin-n-Crispy crust and all those other pizza places charge you $25 for a pie (are they crazy?) People seem to love that crust and want to duplicate it at home so they don’t have to pay extortion prices for a pizza. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

If you haven’t already seen the photos from the Boy’s Night In and the pizzas I made, then you might want to check them out to see what this recipie is all about. I used to work at Pizza Hut back in my college days and my favorite pizza was the Thin ‘n Crispy sausage and mushroom pizza. I loved the cracker-like texture and the smell of the dough and have always wanted to try and duplicate that pizza at home. After lots of experimentation, I also figured out a good chewy crust which I’ve also included.

My Pizza-making Background

When I worked at Pizza Hut, I often opened the store in the morning and did all the prep for the day. This included making the pizza dough for both the thin crust and pan pizza.  Not that I remember the recipe exactly, nor would it help unless you wanted to make 50 lbs of dough, but I do remember the ingredients: flour, water, yeast, sugar, salt and oil. Pretty simple list but it’s the proportions and technique that make this crust.  By the way, if you see a Pizza Hut thin-crust recipe elsewhere and it doesn’t list these six ingredients, it’s not the real recipe. I’ve experimented with using different types of flour and found that regular all-purpose flour works better than bread flour for getting the right cracker-like texture. High-gluten bread flour produces a chewier crust that’s crisp on the outside but more bread-like in the middle. Me, I like the more cracker-like crust.

Pizza Hut encouraged the sales of this style of pizza in their restaurants because it wasn’t too filling and promoted high-profit drink sales.

I started experimenting with the proportions and I think I’ve come close to the recipe. Remember, baking is chemistry—part precise measurement, part technique. Measure your ingredients carefully. At Pizza Hut after I made the dough I would put it in a 20-gallon food-grade trash can inside a sealed plastic bag and put it next to the ovens for the entire day. When I opened the lid that evening or the next day, it would have that wonderful sour, yeasty dough smell. The texture needs a little more refinement and I may change this recipe as I find out what works, but the flavor is spot on. Aging the dough seems to be the trick there.

Duplicating the Texture is Tricky

Part of the texture problem may have to do with how the pizza is made and not the ingredients.  Pizza Hut used a dough sheeter similar to the one in this photo.  It’s an $1,800 piece of equipment that makes uniform sheets of thin dough. I would grab a grapefruit size piece of dough, shape it into a flattened ball and drop it into the top slot for the upper roller. It would come out as an elongated oval which I would turn sideways and put into the lower rollers and it comes out on the bottom belt as one large sheet of dough with a uniform 1/8″ thickness.  This dough would be thrown onto a lipped pizza pan and a large rolling pin is used to trim the edges of the dough. Total time: 20 seconds. By using a sheeter, the dough is quickly formed into a large sheet without pressing out too many of the air bubbles created by the yeast. This makes for a lighter and crisper crust and is hard to duplicate at home with a rolling pin.

The Right Oven is Essential

The other part of the texture problem is the oven. A typical pizza oven operates at around 500° to 600°F and has large stone tiles to heat evenly and absorb the moisture from the dough. The high heat and stone tiles help to make the crust crispy even when loaded up with toppings. A typical home oven rarely goes above 500°F. My oven can go as high as 550°F which helps but means I have to have the fan hood running the entire time. Using a pizza stone helps but some adjustments in how the pizza is made is necessary to duplicate the texture I remember. More on that later.

Here’s what you’ll need as far as equipment goes:

  • oven with a 14″ ×16″ pizza stone (I got my stone at William-Sonoma because it’s large and they guarantee it for life.)
  • instant read thermometer
  • rolling pin
  • metal pizza pan with a lipped edge (often called a cutter pizza pan)
  • KitchenAid stand mixer with dough hook or a 14-cup food processor with steel blade
  • pizza peel
  • pizza cutter
  • cutting board large enough to accomodate a 12-14″ pizza

Thin-Crust Pizza Dough

Ingredients:
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
1½ tsp. sugar
1½ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup warm water

This recipe is for the Pizza-Hut style thin cracker crust. If you want a crust with a more bread-like texture or you’re just in a hurry, scroll down and see the hand-tossed pizza dough ingredients. The dough needs to be made at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours prior to use. Makes 2 or 3 large pizza crusts and can be kept up to 3 days in the refrigerator or a month in the freezer.

Measure the warm water to be 105 – 110°F. No higher or it will kill the yeast.

Using a stand mixer (preferred method):
Warm the bowl using hot water. Combine the water, yeast, sugar, salt and oil in the bowl and mix thoroughly on low speed for about 2 minutes. Add the flour all at once and mix until ingredients are combined and the dough starts clumping together, about 4 – 5 minutes. The dough will appear too dry and may not stick together and there may even be some unmixed flour in the bottom of the bowl. This is normal.

Using a 14 or 11-cup food processor:
In a warmed mixing bowl or large measuring cup, add the water, yeast and sugar and whisk until all the yeast is dissolved. Add the salt and oil and whisk until combined. In the food processor with the steel blade add the flour and turn on. Pour the liquid ingredients into the food processor gradually as it is running until the dough starts to clump. If the dough appears mealy and doesn’t start to clump, add water, one tablespoon at a time until it starts forming a lump. Process for another 40 seconds until most of the flour is incorporated. You may have to scrape down the sides to get all the ingredients mixed. Take out the clumps of dough, kneed by hand for a minute to fully incorporate all the flour.

Age the Dough
Put the dough into a 2 gallon ziplock bag or in a 6 quart bowl covered with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm location for about 6 to 8 hours, then punch-down the dough. This is an important step because this makes the dough moist enough to handle and helps develop the proper flavor. If you aren’t using the dough immediately, you can put it in the refrigerator until needed.


Hand-Tossed Pizza Dough

Ingredients:
3¼ cups bread flour
1 package active dry yeast
2 tsp. sugar
1½ tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1½ cup warm water

This recipe creates a more bread-like texture, chewy yet crisp. This dough can be made within 2 hours of use and no aging is necessary. Makes 2 or 3 large pizza crusts and can be kept up to 3 days in the refrigerator or a month in the freezer.

Measure the warm water to be 105 – 110°F. No higher or it will kill the yeast.

Using a stand mixer (preferred method):
Warm the bowl using hot water. Combine the water, yeast, sugar, salt and oil in the bowl and mix thoroughly on low speed for about 2 minutes. Add the flour all at once and mix until ingredients are combined and the dough starts to form a ball, about 4 – 5 minutes.

Using a 14 or 11-cup food processor:
In a warmed mixing bowl or large measuring cup, add the water, yeast and sugar and whisk until all the yeast is dissolved. In the food processor with the steel blade add the flour, salt and turn on. Pour the liquid ingredients into the food processor gradually as it is running until the dough starts to form a ball, about 45 seconds. Add oil through the feed tube and process for another 30 seconds.

Raise the Dough
Put the dough into an oiled 6 quart bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm location for about 2 hours, then punch-down the dough. The dough is ready to use. If you aren’t using the dough immediately, you can put it in the refrigerator until needed.


Basic Pizza Sauce

Ingredients:
1 – 14oz. can of diced tomatoes
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 Tsp. extra virgin olive oil

Can be made ahead of time. Makes enough for 2 to 3 pizzas and keeps for 3 days in the fridge.

In a food processor, puree the diced tomatoes for 15 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and process for another 15 seconds. The sauce should be runny and not thick. Add water if needed. Pour the sauce into a small bowl and set aside.

Toppings

What can you put on top of your pizza? Just about any meat that is precooked or anything else that will cook in 10 minutes in an oven. To get you started here are a few pizzas I’ve made:

Marguerite Pizza (pictured at the top of this article on a different experimental crust)
Basic pizza sauce
Balls of soft Mozzarella thinly sliced
Firm Roma tomatoes – thinly sliced
Fresh basil leaves – stacked and sliced into ¼” strips

Deluxe Pizza
Basic pizza sauce
Part-skim low-moisture grated Mozzarella cheese – frozen for easier handling
Thinly-sliced pepperoni
Mushrooms, green peppers and onion – thinly sliced
Black olives pitted and sliced
Chunks of cooked spicy Italian sausage – frozen so it won’t overcook

G.A.S.P. (garlic, artichoke, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto)
2 Tsp. Basil pesto mixed with ½ cup of basic pizza sauce
Part-skim low-moisture grated Mozzarella cheese – frozen for easier handling
Canned artichoke hearts in water, drained
Thinly-sliced garlic cloves
Sun-dried tomatoes


Rolling the Dough

To make the pizzas, take the dough out of the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven and stone for 40 minutes at 500 – 550°F. Take a grapefruit-sized piece of dough and form into a ball. Liberally dust the work surface and ball of dough with flour and using your hands, flatten the dough ball until it’s about ½” thick.  Liberally dust the top and bottom of this dough disc with more flour and using the rolling pin, roll the dough out until it is about 1/8″ thick so it will extend past the edges of the pizza pan. If the dough sticks to the work surface, dust with more flour. If a hole forms or the shape is wrong, cut and patch pieces and re-roll.

Some have suggested tossing the pizza in the air to stretch it, but I find that only works with hand-tossed dough and not the thin crust dough. However, tossing the dough tends to stretch it in the center and not the edges. You end up with a really thin center, fat edges and uneven texture.

Dough Docker

Dough Docker, photo courtesy of foodservicedirect.com

Prebaking for Texture

Place the sheet of dough onto the pizza pan and allow it to rest for about 3 minutes. This gives the dough some time to shrink within the pan and rise again to give it a lighter texture. Prick through the dough with a fork every square inch or so or use a dough docker. Using the rolling pin along the edges of the pan, trim the excess dough and toss the excess back in with the rest of the dough.  Prebake the crust in the pan on top of the pizza stone for 3 minutes in the oven being sure to pop any bubbles that start rising with your fork. Remove from the oven. Optionally, if you’re using a stone, you can remove the crust from the pan and place on a pizza peel lightly dusted with cornmeal. It’s extra work, but worth it.

Add the Sauce & Toppings

Working quickly and using a small ladle, add about ½ cup of the pizza sauce and swirl it around the crust with the ladle to within ½” of the edges. Top with cheese. Add your toppings and more cheese if desired. Don’t overload the pizza or it won’t cook thoroughly. If you’re using a stone, slide the pizza from the peel directly onto the pizza stone. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes or until the edges of the crust start to turn a golden brown. Make sure your fan hood is on when you do this because the cornmeal tends to burn and smoke on the hot stone. If you’re using a pan, rotate the pan halfway through the cooking.

Remove the pizza from the oven using the peel and transfer to a cutting board. Allow to cool for about 1 minutes and cut into wedges. If desired, carefully slide the entire pizza onto a serving pan. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy.

Please note: this recipe is evolving as I continue to experiment with it. It may change without any notice so don’t be surprised if the next time to look at it, the instructions or ingredients are different.

One last thing:  in this new economy, ordering a pizza from just about anywhere will run you $15 – $25 per pizza.  After the initial cost of the stone and peel, using this recipe, you’ll be able to make pizzas for as low as $7 worth of ingredients, even less if you make more at one time.

Please let know how this recipe works for you. Leave me a comment or any suggestions below. Thanks and bon appétit.

Copyright © 2009-2010, Eric Hwang and BricksOfWine. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eric Hwang and BricksOfWine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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8 Responses leave one →
  1. Adam Blake permalink
    March 30, 2010

    I used to work at a Pizza Hut back when I would weigh out all the ingredients for the three dough recipes. Pan Pizza, Thick and Chewy, and Thin and Crispy. We had the three recipes right there on the damn wall and I never thought to write them down. I did memorize the Pan Pizza dough recipe though. It makes great calzone dough or focassia bread dough or dinner rolls, artisan bread, etc.

    I would love to move to a small town somewhere and open a good old fashioned pizza hut circa 1981-82.
    You know, the fire place in the middle of the room, black and red outfits on the staff, the nice wood lattice separating each of the booths on each side of the restaurant, and remember the little two seat table in the back left and back right of the dining room?

    I would do it exactly like we did back then. No personal pan pizza, no delivery, must have salad bar, and blonde, brunette, and red headed bombshells for servers.

    We had an unwritten rule that no matter how busy we were menu, water glasses, crayons, whatever had to be on the guests table no more than45 seconds after they sat down.
    And no matter how busy we were the pizza had to be in front of them 30 seconds after it came out of the oven. Needless to say, we averaged 29,000 to 35,000 a week in sales.
    Lined out the door for hours.

  2. Eric Hwang permalink*
    March 31, 2010

    Adam, Thanks for your comments. Too bad you don’t remember the proportions for the Thin & Crispy dough. Wow, what a trip down memory lane with your spot-on descriptions of where I probably spent most of my days and nights during my college years. We hired the prettiest girls I can remember and that brought in a dining room full of beer-drinking, pizza-eating, horny guys every night practically. I guess we must have been doing something right, because in our district, we had the highest sales figures of any Pizza Hut and weekend beer sales helped with that. I had some really carefree fun times with that crew and often wonder what happened to everyone. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  3. Jane Arrier permalink
    June 12, 2013

    this pizza is turning out lovely but i was wondering if there was a way to do this without the lengthy rising time?

  4. Rivyn permalink
    July 10, 2013

    Hey Jane

    If you know you’re going to be making pizza, sometimes its a good idea to make the dough the day before you’re going to eat it. I dont know if its the same with thin n crispy style but I’ve found that letting the dough sit over night in the fridge (in a sealed container) gives the dough a lot more flavour.

    Again I’m not sure if this holds true for thin n crispy but its worked for every pizza I’ve made recently.

    Hope this helps ^__^

  5. Charlie permalink
    March 1, 2014

    What year did you work atPizza Hut? I heard that the very first thin ‘n crispy pizza was made with baking powder instead of yeast, at that some time after they were bought by PepsiCo in 1977 the recipes were tweaked.

  6. Eric Hwang permalink*
    March 19, 2014

    I worked there in 1980. By that time, all the dough was made with yeast.

  7. Lyle permalink
    April 17, 2014

    The thin crust pizza pans from Pizza Hut are available on Amazon. http://bit.ly/PizzaHutPan

  8. Dave Mowrey permalink
    June 22, 2014

    Thanks for the recipe
    I worked for the hut during high school 77-81. I did days on the weekends and nights during the week. So I made lots of thin, and thick & chewy. I was working when the pan pizza came out, similar to the thick & chewy but also included powdered milk.
    I am looking forward to making a batch of thin dough, I can still see the “Brute” garbage can under the sheeter with the big batch of dough.
    I did find a good pan recipe on all recipes site, it is listed as Pizza Hut pan, but it does call for too much oil in the pan, but other than that it seems spot on.

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