Daring Bakers’ October Challenge: Thin-Crust Pizza

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Last month, I joined the Daring Bakers, an online community of fabulous foodies and cooks who do a baking challenge every month. They provide the recipe, you provide the cooking.

Their blogroll includes some of the savviest and intrepid bakers I’ve ever encountered. Definitely check out their amazing—and lengthy—list of food blogs.

This month’s theme is pizza. And the recipe for dough couldn’t be better. It’s chewy and flavorful. The bottom crust gets gloriously crisp from baking on the back of a sheet pan in a super-hot oven. The recipe makes enough for 6 medium to smallish pizzas. I made two last night.

The first is a white pizza that’s topped with ground lamb (and the flavorful fat from frying it), a blend of six Italian cheeses (mozzerella, provolone, Parmesan, asiago, fontina, and romano), Aleppo chili flakes, and fresh thyme leaves. If you don’t have Aleppo chili on hand, you can use any hot, flaked chili pepper.

The second is a more traditional red pizza, with ground tomatoes, baby spinach leaves, grated Parmesan, and freshly cracked black pepper.

I’m excited to play with the rest of the dough, which can sit in the fridge for a few days happily developing flavor.

Six-Cheese Thin-Crust Pizza with Lamb and Fresh Thyme

Spinach Parmesan Thin-Crust Pizza

This is a long post, but here it is: step-by-step photos on how to make your own thin-crust pizza. The technique for the dough is first, followed by the specific instructions for these two pizzas.

Daring Bakers’ October Challenge, Thin-Crust Pizza: A note on the recipe
The recipe for the dough was taken from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart. It’s a two-day dough, so start it the day before you want to make your pizza. The dough needs to rest in the fridge overnight.

Basic Pizza Dough

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches in diameter)

4 1/2 cups unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1 3/4 cups water, ice cold
1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting
Spray oil

Six-Cheese Thin-Crust Pizza with Lamb and Fresh Thyme

1 ball of pizza dough
ground lamb + some of the oil that results from frying it
powdered garlic
dried rosemary
shredded Italian cheese mix with mozzerella, provolone, Parmesan, asiago, fontina, and romano
Aleppo chili flakes

Spinach Parmesan Thin-Crust Pizza

1 ball pizza dough
ground, peeled tomatoes
baby spinach leaves
grated Parmesan cheese
freshly cracked black pepper
olive oil

Daring Bakers’ October Challenge, Thin-Crust Pizza. Day one: Make the dough, then let it rest overnight

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Spray the paper lightly with oil. Set it aside.

Fit your mixer with the standard paddle attachment. Put the yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Toss in the flour.

Stir the dry ingredients to mix well. I like to do this with a wooden spoon to be sure I get everything on the very bottom of the bowl.

With the mixer running on low, drizzle in the olive oil.

When all the oil has been added, the dough will have formed little balls, like this:

Sprinkle in the sugar, with the mixer running on low.

Drizzle in the cold water, with the mixer running on low. As you add the water, the dough will form little balls, then come together in a sticky ball.

When you’ve added all the water, your dough should look about like this:

At this point, switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook.

Knead for 5-7 minutes on medium speed, til the dough is smooth and even. When you remove the hook, it should look about like this:

Lightly flour a board or your counter and turn the dough out of the bowl. At this point, it should be creamy and tacky, but not super sticky.

With your hands, form the dough into a fairly uniform ball. Using a dough scraper, cut the dough ball into 6 pieces that are about the same size. (Or fewer pieces if you want larger pizzas.)

Sprinkle the dough with a little flour. Roll each piece into a ball.

Put the dough balls onto your prepared sheet pan.

Mist them liberally with spray oil. Wrap the pan up with plastic wrap. Stick the pan in the fridge overnight (or for up to three days) to let the dough rest.

Daring Bakers’ October Challenge, Thin-Crust Pizza. Day two: Make your pizza

When you’re ready to make your pizza, dust your counter or a board with flour. Remove the desired number of dough balls from the fridge 2 hours before you’re ready to cook. Put them on the counter and dust them with flour.

Gently press each ball into a flat round that’s about half an inch thick and 5 inches in diameter.

Sprinkle with flour and mist with spray oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let them rest for 2 hours.

Daring Bakers’ October Challenge, Thin-Crust Pizza: A quick note about baking and preheating your oven

About 20 minutes before you’re ready to bake your pizza, preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Grab a sheet pan and flip it upside down. Sprinkle it generously with cornmeal. Set it aside.

(You can also use a baking stone if you have one. If you do, preheat your oven 45 minutes beforehand, and stick the stone in the oven in the lower third.)

Daring Bakers’ October Challenge, Thin-Crust Pizza: Toss, top, and bake your pizza

After 2 hours, your dough balls will have poofed up a bit and should look about like this:

Loosen one dough round from the board with a dough scraper.

Flour your hands. Lay the dough across the back of your hands.

Gently spread your hands apart, stretching the dough.

Do this over and over, rotating the dough as you go. If you’re feeling brave, give it a full toss or two.

If this is giving you trouble, you can also roll the dough out with a rolling pin. When it’s reached the thinness you want, lay the dough on top of the cornmeal on the sheet pan.

Daring Bakers’ October Challenge, Thin-Crust Pizza: A note on toppings

I’ve included the topping instructions for both the pizzas I made below.

Use whatever toppings you like at this point. Sprinkle sparingly, though. The thinner your pizza is, the smaller the amount of toppings you want, so your crust doesn’t get soggy or overwhelmed.

Six-Cheese Thin-Crust Pizza with Lamb and Fresh Thyme

I made the lamb pizza first, so at this point, I stopped to fry up the lamb. You could also do this in advance, of course.

Break up some ground lamb in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic powder and dried rosemary to taste.

Fry ’til it’s nicely browned. Reserve some of the lamb fat. You’ll be using it to flavor your pizza. Your lamb should look about like this:

Add a tablespoon or so of the fat from the lamb to your pizza dough.

With your hands, spread it around so it covers the whole piece of dough. Sprinkle on the ground lamb.

Then sprinkle on some cheese in a thin, even layer.

Add fresh thyme leaves and Aleppo chili flakes to taste.

Your pizza should look about like this when it’s ready to go in the oven:

Pop the pizza into your preheated oven, and bake at 500 degrees for 5-8 minutes. Take it out when the crust is nicely brown and the toppings are done to your liking.

When it’s done, slide it onto a cutting board. Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Daring Bakers’ October Challenge, Thin-Crust Pizza: Spinach Parmesan Thin-Crust Pizza

For this pizza, follow the instructions above for prepping your dough.

When you’re ready to top your pizza, add a few large soup spoons of ground, peeled tomatoes to the center of your dough.

With your hands, spread the tomatoes out so they cover the entire piece of dough, like this:

Add some whole baby spinach leaves on top of the tomatoes. If you’re patient and have the inclination, you can make a pretty pattern with them.

When you’ve added the spinach, sprinkle generously with grated Parmesan cheese. Your pizza should look about like this:

Crack some black pepper over the pizza. Drizzle with a little olive oil.

Bake in a 500 degree oven for 5-8 minutes. Take it out when the crust is nicely brown and the toppings are done to your liking.

Slide off the pan onto a board. Slice, serve, and enjoy!


Copyright 2008 The Hungry Mouse/Jessica B. Konopa. All rights reserved.

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie works as an advertising copywriter in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


  1. Jessie, you are so good in the step by step process! I have learnt soooo much since I started reading your blog! i'll admit Im no wizard in the kitchen, but after your demistifications it always makes me feel as though i could become a better cook :P that lamb n thyme just made me salivate.
  2. Hello Jessie! This is my first Daring Bakers challenge too and wow..I am totally impressed with your blog and this step by step photos! If I were to do step by step photos - I'd literally have to leave my full time job and spend all that time figuring out taking photos..haha..cause I am just not good with photography. My mouth is watering thinking about the Aleppo chili flakes...and the basil ones just look superb.
  3. Your pizza's look wonderful! Lamb on a pizza? That's a new one to me. You did an awesome job for your first daring baker. But then I've always thought of you that way!
  4. Great job with your pizzas! THis is my first DB challenge too. I can't wait to see what November is. My husband says that the lamb pizza is one of the best pizzas he has ever seen (he loves lamb..lol)
  5. Hi Jessie! Fantastic great job with these 2 types of pizzas..I want to congrat you for the first one with lamb and the 6 cheeses...is very original!! You've had some work but the result worth!! Drooling at the office with the photos..very good signal for you but not for the keyboard ;)
  6. Hi Jessie! Don't laugh... I have a Kitchenaid Mixer but always have used it to whip or mix things together. That dough hook has been hiding in my cupboard somewhere... until now! :) I just realized how handy it can be. hahaha. I can't wait to make pizza and blog about it! Thanks for the helpful tips!!!
  7. Hehe, thanks guys! Ambitious--I don't use the dough hook often, but it's definitely worth it for something like this. Let me know what you think if you try it out! +Jessie
  8. That lamb pizza is mouth watering! I've been thinking of joining Daring Bakers but I fear I may be taking on too many challenge groups. :) My husband likes most of the results though. ;)
  9. Thanks, all! Jessica--Daring Bakers rocks! That said, this is the only challenge I've done so far. Not sure I could handle more than one right now with my hectic schedule... +Jessie
  10. This looks delicious! I have my own pizza recipe, but I've never achieved an ideal thin-crust pizza. Do you have any ideas for how to make your own italian sausage? I know I can buy it at the store, but it's so much more fun to make your own (and the mistakes to go with it... :])
  11. If you haven't already, try the marble rye formula (pp183) from the book...AWESOME. Also, the middle-class brioche (pp 127)makes a GREAT cinnamon rolls/sticky buns. The Portuguese sweet bread (pp 215) is a fun formula as well. The book is one of my favorites...had it for about 11 years now. One more - the Pain de Mie, variation 1 (pp 266) formula makes really great sandwich bread and super soft dinner rolls (shape & retard in refrigerator overnight for best flavor!)