Thin-Crust Spinach and Feta pizza: you can never be too thin...

spinach and feta pizza

Thin-crust pizza’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

But it’s some folks’ slice of heaven.

My husband, Rick, absolutely turns up his nose at anything with a thin crust that dares to call itself pizza.

He grew up outside Boston, and worked in Boston’s Italian neighborhood, the North End, beginning as a 7-year-old. He and his grandfather would ride “in town” every night about midnight to sell vegetables from the family farm to early morning wholesale buyers.

Pizza in the North End was decidedly thick-crust: inch-high slabs slathered with marinara and showered with cheese. Pizza was available at every bread bakery, served from enormous rectangular baking sheets – still hot from the oven, if you timed your visit just right.

“Thin crust” pizza?

No such thing, according to Rick.

Thus it was with pure amazement that I watched him devour the thin-crust spinach-and-feta pizza I’d made to illustrate just how thin you can roll a pizza crust made with King Arthur’s Italian-Style Flour.

“How come you’re eating that? I thought you hated thin-crust pizza!” I said.

“Huh,” Rick scoffed, a sly grin on his face. “It’s NOT pizza. But it still tastes good.”

Call it thin-crust pizza. Call  it “that spinach appetizer thing,” as Rick ended up calling it.

But don’t miss this ultra-thin-crust [pizza], with its garlic-scented, sautéed spinach and crumbles of salty feta.

First, let’s talk about flour.

You’ve rolled pizza dough before, right? And been frustrated, no doubt, by how determined it is to return to its original shape – a tight ball.

You roll it out, it shrinks back. You roll harder; it resists. What’s a pizza crust maker to do?

Step… away… from… the crust. Let it relax for 10 or 15 minutes, then roll it again; you’ll see how much less it resists.

What’s going on here?

Gluten, the stretchy substance (think elastic) that forms when you add flour to water, is simply doing its thing. You knead dough, the gluten gets stronger, and it acts like an elastic band.

What happens when you stretch an elastic band, then let it go?

It snaps back to its original size. And that’s what gluten is doing. So, the reason you can roll dough out more easily after giving it a rest is that the gluten has had time to relax.

Anyway, with a lot of rest periods, you might be able to roll pizza crust made with high-protein flour ultra-thin.

But why torture yourself?

While lots of gluten is wonderful in your high-rising loaf of sandwich bread, it’s your enemy when you’re making thin-crust pizza.

Enter our Italian-Style Flour. With its low protein level (8.5%), it makes an extremely mellow, extensible dough, one that’s simple to roll ultra-thin.

We call this flour our Italian 00 clone; but that’s a partial truth at best. In Italy, the 00 refers to the grind of the flour, and how much bran/germ have been removed (its extraction); not to its protein level. There are low-protein 00 flours, high-protein 00 flours, and in-between 00 flours.

Italian bakers can choose from integrale (whole wheat), 2, 1, 0, or 00 flours, with 00 the finest grind, and the most refined (with the most bran/germ removed); it feels silky smooth in your hands. Most Italian bakers consider this highly refined flour the best they can choose; thus, Italian 00 flour’s reputation has crossed the Atlantic and come to represent, in America, the “best” Italian flour – for pasta, pizza, bread, pastry, all of your Italian baking.

The Italian-Style Flour we sell is lower in protein than the most widely used 00 flour in Italy. The protein level of that Italian flour is in the 10.0%-10.5% range – same as our Perfect Pastry Blend.

Rather than replicate a flour we already offer, we’ve chosen a lower-protein – 8.5% – for our “00.” Which makes it perfect for thin-crust pizza, focaccia, grissini, and all manner of low-rising, tender/crisp treats.

Have you absorbed all that?

Good. Let’s make thin-crust pizza.

The following crust is quite versatile, as far as timing your pizza. You can make it and bake it almost immediately; or make the dough, let it rise for an hour, then refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Personally, I like to give it a rest in the fridge, for at least a few hours; it makes it even easier to roll, and builds the crust’s flavor.

Put the following in a mixing bowl:

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons instant yeast*
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
3 1/2 cups (11 ounces) King Arthur Italian-Style Flour
3/4 cup to 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm water**
2 tablespoons olive oil

*Use the greater amount of yeast if you plan on baking the pizza right away; the lesser amount if you’ll refrigerate the dough first.

**Use the lesser amount of water in summer or humid conditions; the greater amount in winter or under drier conditions.

Mix until everything comes together.

Switch to the dough hook, and knead for about 4 minutes. The dough will probably be quite sticky.

Stop the mixer, and scrape the dough away from the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Knead for about 3 more minutes. You should have a smooth dough, one that sticks a bit to the sides of the bowl, but is easy to pick up and handle.

Now, at this point you can use the dough immediately. Or, for best flavor, let the dough rise for an hour, then refrigerate for up to 3 days before using.

I love the flavor the dough develops with at least several hour of refrigeration; but do whatever fits your schedule.

Divide the dough in half. See that satiny sheen? Dough made with Italian-Style Flour is silky smooth; you just want to plunge your hands into it…

Let the dough rest, covered, for about 15 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 450°F and make the topping.

If you have a pizza stone and want to use it, put it on your oven’s lower shelf.

Thaw two 10-ounce packages frozen spinach, or two 16-ounce bags frozen spinach. Squeeze it in your hands (or a paper towel, or a dish towel) until it’s very dry.

Like this. Surprisingly, the paper towel will peel right off, leaving you a nice dry handful of chopped spinach.

Why the huge variation in how much frozen spinach (20 ounces vs. 32 ounces); and can you use fresh spinach instead?

Frozen spinach usually comes two ways: in 10-ounce blocks, or 16-ounce bags. Two 10-ounce blocks is barely enough; two 16-ounce bags is plenty. Bottom line, use as much as you like.

As for fresh spinach — sure, fresh is fine. But you still need to cook it and wring it dry, otherwise your crust runs the risk of becoming soggy.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan, and add the spinach, a big pinch of salt, a small pinch of nutmeg (if you like), and 2 to 4 peeled, minced garlic cloves.

Sauté briefly, just until the spinach is warm and everything is well combined. Remove from the heat.

Lightly grease two sheets of parchment paper, waxed paper, or (last choice) plastic wrap.

If you’re baking pizza on a stone, parchment is your ONLY CHOICE here; waxed paper or plastic wrap would melt.

If you’re going to bake pizza in a pan, not on a stone, lightly grease one or two large rectangular pans (half sheet pans work well), and drizzle with olive oil.

OK, back to the dough. Pick up one of the pieces, and gently stretch it in your hands; just letting it droop off your hand allows gravity to do most of the stretching.

Place the gently stretched oval of dough onto one of the pieces of greased parchment. Top with the other piece of parchment, greased side towards the dough.

Roll dough until it’s as thin as you like; you’ll find it rolls out VERY easily. I made this dough about 1/8″ thick, but you can actually go even thinner than that.

Peel off the top piece of parchment. If you’re baking in a pan, pick up the crust/parchment, and flop it into the pan, crust down. Peel off the other piece of parchment.

If you’re baking on a stone, get out your peel or whatever you use to transfer big, floppy crusts onto the hot stone.

Hint: looking for a little more cheese – and a neat way to anchor the spinach on the pizza? Sprinkle the crust with a thin layer of mozzarella or other pizza-type cheese before adding the spinach and feta.

Add half your squeezed-dry spinach, and 3 to 4 ounces crumbled feta, or however much you like. Crumbled herbed feta is nice, if you can get it.

Bake the pizza on the stone (or in the pan set on a lower oven rack) for about 5 minutes; the bottom will brown nicely.

Yes, it’s perfectly fine to lift the edge of the crust just a bit to look underneath, as I’m doing here; the toppings won’t fall off!

Then move the pizza to a middle or upper-middle rack, and continue to bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the top of the crust is golden and the feta is beginning to brown.

Like this.

Remove the pizza from the oven, and transfer it to a rack immediately, so the crust stays crisp. Serve hot.

Repeat with the remaining piece of the dough. Or return the dough to the refrigerator, along with the remaining spinach and cheese, and bake later – up to 3 days later.

See how you can vary the thickness of even a thin crust?

We’ve got crust that’s about 1/4″ thick on the bottom; a 1/8″-thick crust in the middle, and kind of a compromise on top, going from thinner to thicker.

The distinguishing characteristic of all three of these crusts is that they’re crisp, rather than chewy.

Not cracker-crisp, like one of those charred-bottom New York pizzas baked in a 700°F coal-fired oven. But then again, you don’t have a coal-fired brick oven capable of temperatures up to 700°F, do you? Working with what you’ve got – a home oven – this crust is remarkably thin and crisp.

And just the ticket for friends and family members looking for “THIN crust, not thick!”

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Thin-Crust Spinach & Feta Pizza.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Jess

    I’ve been experimenting recently with your cast-iron skillet method of making pizza crust. Would dough this thin work using that method? And, while it looks delicious, it doesn’t seem as though this dough produces those big bubbles you get from pizzeria pizza. Any ideas how to get that? Or is it just not possible with a regular oven? Thanks!

    I assume thin dough would work, Jess, if you can get it into the pan – I’d say roll it on greased parchment the same size as the bottom of the pan, then flip it into the pan. I think those giant bubbles/blisters in a thin crust are the result of a VERY hot oven… Try using a “wetter” dough, and see if that helps. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  2. Brenda

    Now I know where the local feta and garlic I bought last week at the farmer’s market is being used, maybe for supper rather than the planned meatloaf. Note to self: 2 bags of spinach on the way home from work.

    Reply
  3. JuliaJ

    Can low-protein pastry or cake flour be used in place of the
    Italian flour?

    Try pastry flour rather than cake flour, Julia – cake flour has it gluten toughened chemically. If your pastry flour is higher protein than the Italian flour, add a bit more water. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  4. amgbooth

    I love thin crust pizza but I don’t have a stand mixer, yet. Can I use the dough cycle on my bread machine?
    You bet! This will be fine in a bread machine set on the dough/manual cycle. ~Jessica

    Reply
  5. dgcbooth

    ok, I’m not generally a thin-crust pizza person, but I have discovered if you have a super thin crust, it actually highlights the ingredients immensely and is just a different pizza. Maybe we should call them flatbread pizzas? Well, I am drooling over the _pictures_ of your dough! :) (Good thing I don’t have the actual dough; that would be really gross :) That looks amazing. Even the balled up dough looks so silky I could feel it sliding over my hands. wow. Looking forward to trying this next paycheck! thanks!!! btw, I have switched to only cast-iron pizzas since your post on that. they are amazing, finally bringing my pizza up to how I really like it. thanks!!

    Reply
  6. claricef

    I don’t like very thick doughy crusts. If on the other hand you like thin crust or slightly thicker crust (Neopolitan or Roman style in other words as opposed to US concoctions) in my opinion the very best dough is Peter Reinhart’s Neo Neopolitan pizza dough. The flavor is fantastic and the texture perfect. It is easy to work with.

    I use either KAF bread flour or Sir Lancelot with little difference in result. You can also use 00 flour though I have not yet tried that variation.

    Reply
  7. ebenezer94

    Looks fabulous. I love spinach and feta (or this time of year more likely chard and feta since chard is still available from the garden) and love a thin crust pizza. If I wanted to go whole wheat with this recipe would you recommend whole wheat pastry flour? White whole wheat flour? Maybe some whole spelt flour?

    White whole wheat, whole wheat pastry, whole spelt… I think any would work. The ww pastry should be easiest to roll thin… PJH

    Reply
  8. minxiebones22

    I noticed that you don’t mention docking the crust after rolling it very thin. I get an awesome result with the KAF Whole Wheat Pizza Crust mix by docking the crust with a rolling docker. The little holes ensure that the crust doesn’t rise and bubble up. I bake in an outside oven that can go over 500 Celsius, but the docked crust comes out just as good if I bake at 500 Farenheit in my indoor oven. We never run out of the KAF pizza crust mix. You just have to work really fast, putting the docked crust on a peel over cornmeal: top quickly and slide onto preheated pizza stone. Our friends say our pizza is better than some of the great pizza restaurants in our area!

    Good hint – I didn’t have any trouble with bubbling, but docking would certainly prevent it. Wish we still sold a dough docker – it makes it so easy! PJH

    Reply
  9. alton11

    Can this be made with whole wheat flour?

    Yes, Alton – you may not be able to roll it as thin, but give it a try for sure. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes before kneading, to allow the flour a chance to absorb the liquid. PJH

    Reply
  10. minxiebones22

    I have another hint for learning to make super thin crust (besides the docking tip, previously posted, which I learned from a pizza restaurant). I started making two pies with one box of KAF Whole Wheat Pizza Crust Mix. The next time, I divided the dough into three pieces and tried to make pies the same size. The next time, I divided the dough into four equal pieces and really focused on covering the same surface area with a smaller amount of dough. After a few tries, I was able to make four super-thin crust pizzas from one box of mix!

    Reply
  11. dance2

    What is the difference between Italian Style Flour and Semolina flour? Can I make this with all Semolina?

    The difference is the type of wheat. Italian-Style flour is milled from Soft Red Winter Wheat. Semolina is milled from Durum Wheat. A 100% replacement with Semolina will be an experiment. You can expect to need additional liquid to achieve a similarly consistent dough. Give it a try. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  12. dance2

    Thanks Frank. This is what I did. I used 1/2 Semolina plus 1/2 pastry flour in one batch and another one with 1/2 Semolina and 1/2 bread flour. While tasty and ever bit eaten I did not achieve a soft dough or that beautiful satiny sheen. I did have to add more liquid and think I got the balance right. Guess I better send in an order for the Italian Style Flour!

    Reply
  13. Aaron Frank

    I use both whole wheat (KAF white whole wheat) and Queen Guinevere cake flour and manage a very thin crust.

    I’ve tried the Italian 00 flour and my family didn’t like it as well. I think they didn’t like the semolina so I went back to my mixture. I split it about 50/50 between the two flours.

    I’ve made pizza a couple of different places in Italy as well as sticking my head back in kitchens and asking questions and most seem to let their dough rise for about three days. It’s supposed to build flavor.

    PJ, as for your husband’s “there is no thin crust pizza in the North End” I have two words: Pizzeria Regina. :)

    Thanks

    Reply
  14. Kristie

    I love this thin crust with Italian Style flour. Would it be possible to freeze one of the crusts for later? If so what would be the best way?

    Reply
    1. Kristie

      Thank you! Now that my son is in college this is a perfect way to make one and freeze one for later!

  15. shasha

    Hi. I want to know if there is a typo error on the weight of the flour. It says 3 1/2 cups or 11oz. When I measured the 11oz on a cup, it didn’t even reach 3 cups. Just want to know which one I have to follow. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Amy Trage

      The conversion for the Italian-style flour is actually 1 cup per 3 3/4 oz. And the recipe is calling for 3 1/2 cups or 13 ounces. The recipe is correct as written. Please let us know if you have further questions. ~Amy

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