I saw a recipe for Mario Batali’s pizza in the April/May issue of Vegetarian Times and I was intrigued: the recipe calls for par-baking very thin crusts on a griddle. This seemed like a really good idea, especially in brutally hot weather, as an alternative to using a 500 degree oven with a pizza stone. Batali says that you can make the par-baked crusts ahead of time, which sounded like another good idea. I was hoping that Batali’s technique would yield pizza crusts that were chewy and crispy instead of soggy.
(Epicurious has the recipe also, along with a few reviews, which warn that the salt listed is excessive; here is the recipe with reader comments at Serious Eats; here is the recipe along with an interview at the Houston Chronicle; and here is some more at Delaware Online, including reassurance that the large amount of salt is correct and the tip that you can parbake the crust using a pizza stone in the oven, too.)
My results? First, I found it somewhat easier to stretch the dough to the 10″ size suggested from a 4 ounce ball of dough when the dough had been refrigerated overnight, but this is not critical.
Second, the pizza crust created is chewy, but not so crisp unless you crisp it well in the oven afterward OR (and this took me a while to figure out), you actually put the crust back on the griddle with topping added, and heat it to melt the topping on the griddle (cover the pan to speed the melting process). By the time that the topping have melted, the bottom of the crust will be crisp:
Even so, the pizza tastes and looks like you made it with chappati or aish tanoor. There are little black flecks that add flavor, but turned off my kids.
My kids liked the first, paler batch better, even though the second batch was crisper and more flavorful.
Bottom line: this is an interesting technique for pizza, and useful for when you have access to a cooktop, but not an oven. I used a non-stick pan, a black steel pan, and an enameled cast-iron pot, and all worked well (although the cast-iron worked especially well because it got really hot and stayed really hot). The downside is that crust is just not the same as an oven-baked crust, and it is hard to get away with using lots of topping. My kids wanted more tomato sauce than the thin floppy crust could hold.
As for the salt, I used 2 tbl. of KOSHER salt, which is probably equal to 3 tsp. of table salt. The dough was salty, but not overpoweringly so.
(Here are the measurements, converted to weight: 10 ounces water, .25 ounces yeast, 18.5 ounces all-purpose flour, 2 scant Tbl. kosher salt, 1 1/2 tsp. sugar)