Photo: Cary Norton; Styling: Lindsey Lower
This emerged from my obsession with getting store-made pizza dough to be ultrathin and yield a crackerlike crust, perfect for a healthy-portion appetizer. I bake the dough until done and then add a room-temperature garlicky tomato sauce and fresh basil. To get the dough cracker thin, you have to abandon the rolling pin and tease the dough by hand. It takes some practice, but it's fun. The cutting away of excess dough in step 4 helps preserve the round shape: Start with a circle, and end with a circle. You'll have leftover dough, which you can use to make breadsticks.
1. Place dough on a lightly floured wood surface; lightly coat with cooking spray, and cover with plastic wrap, making sure no air is getting in. Let stand for 2 hours. You want the dough to be at room temperature when you stretch it; it will likely start to bubble a bit. It should feel a bit loose and flabby.
2. While dough stands, make sauce. Heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds or until garlic softens but doesn't brown. Add marinara; simmer until slightly thickened (about 6 minutes). Cool to room temperature.
3. Place a 15-inch pizza stone or heavy pizza pan in oven. Preheat oven to 500° (leave the pan in the oven as it preheats).
4. Place dough on a work surface dusted with flour. (Keep a bit of extra flour on hand.) Dough will be about 8 inches across. With a pizza cutter, cut an inner circle of dough by cutting away an outer ring of dough that's about 2 1/2 inches wide. This will leave a round of dough that weighs about 8 ounces. Reserve cut-away dough for another use.
5. Sprinkle dough circle with a bit of flour if it's damp, and begin to tease the dough out with your fingers, working it in all directions. It will persist in bouncing back. When it is flat and as wide as a dinner plate, pick it up with your hands close together, and begin working it by holding the edge and rotating along the edge as the circle dangles, like you're quickly turning a steering wheel. As you rotate the dough, holding the edges, it will stretch downward by its own weight. If it's stretching too fast, you can also put the dough over both of your hands and gently stretch and rotate. Watch for areas that are getting too thin--most of the available dough for stretching is at the edges. Continue working the dough until it reaches a diameter of about 12 1/2 inches.
6. Carefully remove hot pizza stone from oven, and place on heat-resistant surface. Carefully transfer dough to the stone (it will start to cook). Pierce dough all over liberally with a fork.
7. Bake at 500° for 7 to 8 minutes, watching closely. If it's baking too much on one side, rotate the dough. Bake until very brown but not burned, and remove from oven. Slide pizza to a wood or stone surface. Spread evenly with sauce; top with basil. Serve immediately.