Sardines may rise and fall in popularity, but they never completely disappear from the culinary landscape. If you are not a sardine person, you may substitute 8 anchovy fillets, or 8 shrimp, peeled and deveined and lightly sauteed in garlic and olive oil. The Carta di Musica dough makes the crispiest, thinnest pizza crusts you’ll ever eat. It calls for a two-step process, but it does not take a long time to accomplish, and the crusts can double as soft or crisp flatbreads. Once crisped, the crusts will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. This recipe is written for the cook using a baking stone in a conventional home oven.—Peter Reinhart
For the carta di musica dough
5 cups unbleached bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
2 teaspoons table salt or 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil or solid vegetable shortening
1 2/3 cups room-temperature water (70°F) (20°C)
Unbleached bread flour, cornmeal, or semolina flour for dusting peel
For the crushed tomato sauce
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoondried basil or 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil (optional)
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (optional)
1 tablespoon granulated garlic powder, or 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice, or a combination
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
For the pizza
2 Carta di Musica crusts, either soft or crisp
1/2 cup Crushed Tomato Sauce
4 high-quality sardines
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, either mozzarella di bufala or fior di latte , or full-fat low-moisture mozzarella cheese, cut into thin strips
12 caramelized garlic cloves
16 Kalamata or favorite brine- or salt-cured black olives
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 fresh basil leaves
Make the Carta di Musica dough
(Makes 8 soft or crisp 10-by-7-inch crusts)
1. With a large metal spoon, stir together all the ingredients in a 4-quart bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer until combined. If mixing with an electric mixer, fit it with the dough hook and mix on low speed for about 4 minutes, or until the dough forms a coarse ball and clears the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Add more flour or water by the tablespoonful as needed. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes, then mix again on low-speed for an additional 2 to 4 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, stretchy, and tacky but not sticky. The dough should pass the windowpane test.
2. If mixing by hand, repeatedly dip one of your hands or the spoon into room-temperature water and use it much like a dough hook, working the dough vigorously as you rotate the bowl with your other hand. Continue mixing for about 4 minutes, or until the dough forms a coarse ball, adding more flour or water by the tablespoonful as needed. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes, then transfer it to a lightly floured counter. Dust the top with flour to absorb the surface moisture, then knead the dough by hand for 2 to 4 minutes, or until it is smooth, stretchy, and tacky but not sticky. The dough should pass the windowpane test.
3. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl brushed with olive oil. Roll the dough in the oil to coat the entire surface and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough sit at room temperature for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.
4. Place a baking stone on the middle shelf of the oven (unless you know your oven well enough to place it on a different shelf) and preheat on the highest setting for at least 1 hour.
5. While the oven is heating, sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough from the bowl to the floured counter. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Round each piece into a ball, flatten each ball with the palm of your hand into a disk, and lay the disks on a clean counter lightly dusted again with flour. Lightly dust the tops of the disks with more flour, cover them loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
6. With a rolling pin, evenly roll out each disk into a rectangle or oblong about 10 by 7 inches. If the dough resists extending to the full size, cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rest for at least 5 minutes. Move on to another dough disk and then return to the first piece. When it is fully rolled, it should be a scant 1/4 inch thick. If it is slightly longer or shorter than 10 inches or is not a perfect rectangle, yet appears to be the proper thickness, stop rolling. Let the rolled-out dough rest uncovered on the counter for about 3 minutes, then gently lift one (you may need to use a metal or plastic scraper) onto a wooden or metal peel that has been lightly dusted with flour.
7. Slide the dough from the peel onto the stone, close the oven door, and wait for 2 minutes before opening the door. The dough should begin separating horizontally into 2 thin halves, puffing up into a large pita-like bread. When this occurs, count to 20 and then remove the bread, placing it on a wire rack to cool; do not wait for it to brown or crisp. While the first piece is baking, prepare the next piece and continue in this manner until all 4 pieces are baked. If any do not begin to puff and separate within 4 minutes, remove them from the oven and use them as soft flatbreads.
8. When the puffed breads have cooled, they will release their air and flatten. Separate the halves with a sharp, serrated knife into 2 very thin disks (one side may be thinner than the other, but unless it is too thin to hold together it will be okay). These halved breads may be used in this soft form for pizza crusts or they can be crisped in the same preheated oven and used either as ultra crisp pizza crusts or cracker bread (carta di musica).
9. To make crisp crusts, place as many halved pieces as will fit on the baking stone or inverted sheet pan in the still-hot oven and bake for about 5 minutes or until the disks begin to brown and curl. Remove them from the oven to a wire rack to cool.
Make the crushed tomato sauce
1. In a bowl, stir together all the ingredients, starting with 1/2 teaspoon salt and adding more to taste. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Make the pizza
1. Place a baking stone on the middle shelf of the oven (unless you know your oven well enough to place it on a different shelf) and preheat to 450°F (230°C) for at least 1 hour. Make 1 pizza at a time unless your peel and oven can accommodate both pizzas. Set 1 crust, rough surface up, on a peel or inverted sheet pan. (You do not need to dust the peel with flour because the baked crust will not stick.)
2. Spread 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce over the surface of the crust, leaving a 1/4-inch border uncovered. Cut 2 sardines crosswise to yield 4 pieces each and distribute the pieces evenly over the crust. Arrange half of the cheese strips evenly over the surface, and then top with 6 garlic cloves and 8 olives. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over the surface, spiraling it out from the center.
3. Carefully slide the pizza onto the baking stone and bake for about 6 minutes, or until the cheese melts. While the pizza is baking, stack the basil leaves, roll them up lengthwise, and cut thinly crosswise to create shreds (known as a chiffonade cut). Remove the finished pizza from the oven and place on a serving platter. Immediately sprinkle half of the basil over the top. Let the pizza cool for 3 minutes before serving. To eat, break off sections by hand. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make the second pizza.
Recipe © 2003 Peter Reinhart. All rights reserved.