My battle with Central NY pizza began the day I moved here, and it will continue until the day I leave. I know natives love the stuff; it’s what they’ve grown up with, so it’s all they know, and they can therefore be forgiven. Everybody has their preference, right? Well, this so-called pizza is not mine.
They make it on super thick crusts. I don’t necessarily mind a thick crust if it’s done right, like a buttery deep-dish crust for example. But this is just cardboard-like, and there ain’t enough toppings to balance out all that extra crust. The worst part is when they cut a circular pizza into square slices. Where is the logic in that? I’ve nothing against square slices, as long as they’re from square/rectangular pizzas. But when you cut a circular pizza into squares, you get these awkward end slices that are all crust/sauce and no cheese, and these floppy middle pieces with no crust to hold. It’s horrible.
I’m sorry if my animosity towards CNY pizza offends any of you. It’s just that I was raised on thin crust pizza, cut into big slices that you can fold if you wish, generously covered in toppings, and preferably good and greasy. Is that gross? I don’t care. I think it’s grosser to blot the grease off your slice with a napkin. That’s just pizza mutilation.
So, since I can’t find satisfactory pizza here, I decided it was about time I make my own. The only problem was: most homemade dough recipes need to rise overnight, and you know I lack patience. So instead, I found an thin crust that only needed 90 minutes to rise as opposed to 12 hours. It was the perfect texture, with a bit of crispiness and bite, and so much tastier than the cardboard crusts I’m used to. Plus, it was fool-proof, perfect for a pizza dough beginner like myself!
Now how do you top such a tasty crust? With equally tasty toppings of course! This Vodka Blush Pizza starts with an absolutely incredible, velvety, creamy vodka blush sauce instead of plain marinara. That indulgent stuff is good enough to eat with a spoon alone. As my father said, “You can put that sauce on anything!”
Then, I buried that amazing sauce in a mound of melty mozzarella and finished with a sprinkle of fresh basil. The flavors in this pizza are out of this world, the cheese is abundant, the crust is thin and crisp, and the sauce is so good you could drink it. That, my friends, is what I call a good pizza.
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- This is a versatile crust. Use it for any pizza flavor your heart desires.
- This vodka blush sauce can be doubled and served on pasta. Amazing!
- Go fresh or go home! Fresh basil is a MUST.
- I use San Marzano tomatoes because they’re good-quality, sweet, and delicious. You won’t get the same flavor without them.
- Cornmeal gives the crust that crispness you get from the pizzeria and keeps it from sticking, whereas flour just makes it taste, well, flour-y.
Vodka Blush Pizza
For the Thin Crust
adapted from Williams-Sonoma
- 1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 3/4 cup warm water (about 105°F)
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1 cup + 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
For the Vodka Blush Sauce & toppings
Vodka Sauce by The Smart Cookie Cook
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup vodka
- Half a 28-0z. can San Marzano Tomatoes
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 8 0z. mozzarella cheese
- additional fresh basil for garnish
- In a small bowl, whisk together the yeast, sugar and warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade, combine the cake flour, all-purpose flour and salt and pulse 3 or 4 times.
- Whisk 1 tbsp. of the olive oil into the yeast mixture. With the motor running, slowly add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding more. Pulse the machine 10 to 15 times to knead the dough. The dough should clean the insides of the bowl but will be slightly sticky.
- Coat the inside of a large bowl with the remaining 1 tbsp. oil. Dust your hands with flour and remove the dough from the food processor. Form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Roll the dough out on a floured surface however thin you’d like it. Sprinkle a pizza pan or preheated pizza with cornmeal. Lay the crust on top and parbake for 7 minutes, or until puffed and set but not yes browned. Spread the sauce on top in an even layer and sprinkle with the cheese. Top with fresh basil and bake for another 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and crust is browned around the edges. Let sit for a minute then slice and enjoy.