Homemade Pizza – The hidden treasure in your own kitchen
Making pizza is something that I have been doing for years. It has been a lot of trial and error and my then wife eating a few less than perfect pies. I have worked hard at making my pizza the best pizza I eat. I don’t mind takeout pizza but nothing is better than making it yourself with just a few very simple ingredients.
To make pizza you need
2 ½ cups all purpose flour- Bleached or unbleached it’s your choice. I prefer unbleached because the thought of bleach in anything I eat just sounds bad.
2 ½ teaspoons of yeast
1 cup of warm not scolding hot tap water
Pinch or two of salt
1 tablespoon – Dried herbs of your choice- I use an Italian blend that I pulverize in my mortar and pestle
Sauce- Homemade is best but a jar of your favorite sauce from the store works also
Cheese of your choice
Fresh or tube basil.
The first thing I make when I am making pizza is my sauce. Today I made a sauce with onion, mushrooms, garlic, Japanese eggplant and San Marzano tomatoes. San Marzano tomatoes are a special variety of plum tomatoes that are exceptional in sauces. You can find them from Italy in Safeway for about $8 a can or the Safeway variety for $4 a can. I go with the Safeway version. I cook my sauce in my Fagor all in one cooker. I use the High pressure setting and cook everything for about 45 minutes and then use my stick blender to blend everything together and allow the sauce to cool. The amounts of all of the sauce ingredients will depend entirely on how much sauce you need and your own tastes. I made about 8 cups of sauce today. I cook according to need not recipe so if you are going to make your own sauces imagine all of the ingredients together and how much final product you will have. If you don’t want to have gallons of sauce don’t use gallons of ingredients.
Now for my dough, I first get my cup of warm not scolding water and add my yeast. This allows the yeast to proof before adding it to the flour. Your yeast and water mixture should start to look fluffy on top and have a bready smell after about 10 minutes or so. If the yeast is dead already or your water is to hot the proofing action will not happen and you have to start over. So remember warm tap water and yeast and a pinch of sugar if you want and your yeast will be ready. [Picture]
I add my flour to my mixers bowl and make sure I have my dough hook attached. Once the yeast mixture is ready add it with all the water to the flour. Add your extra herbs if desired and lower the hook into the bowl. Start your mixer slowly so you are not wearing the flour. Slowly increase the speed and allow the mixer to knead the dough for about 5 minutes. Turn off your mixer and check your dough. I never allow my dough to get dry and you never want it to be too wet. I feel my dough and if it’s a little sticky and has pulled away from the side of the bowl it’s done.
I dust my work surface with about a half a handful of flour and spread it around. I place my almost done dough on the surface and begin to knead it by hand for roughly 7 minutes. Kneading time will vary but your dough will be ready to rest when the surface is smooth and when you pull a small piece of dough off it resists a little. Practice will make perfect when making your own pizza dough. If you don’t knead it enough your dough will be cracker like and just fall apart, if you knead it too much it will be tough and chewy. Like I mentioned above practice will make perfect and you will find your own technique that works best for you. If you Google search homemade pizza dough you will be amazed at what you find. I have seen recipes where the dough is allowed to be a soupy mess poured out on the counter and lightly dusted and then allowed to rise in the refrigerator. I tried that method the dough turned out well.
Take your well kneaded dough into a large glass or metal bowl that has about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in it. Roll the ball around so it is covered all around with oil then place a clean dish towel or paper towel over the top of the bowl loosely and set aside for about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size. Don’t place your towel on the dough itself.
Turn on your oven after your dough has been rising for about 45 minutes. I turn whatever oven I am using up as high as it will go but not to broil. I am guessing on the temp of the oven I am using now to be at about 600 degrees or so. You also want to make sure one of your racks is at the lowest setting. Allow the oven to warm up completely before cooking your pizza.
So now that your dough has had an hour or so to get happy you can begin the rolling. I begin by making sure my work surface has flour on it. I take a baseball size ball of dough and begin to form a circle with it in my hands. Then I take my lightly dusted rolling pin and begin rolling. You can make your pizza any shape you want but I go for round or rectangle.
I roll my dough pretty thin. I like thin crust pizza. I get a baking sheet ready. Again, you can use round or whatever you want. I use cooking spray to put a thin layer of oil on the pan and then I lay the rolled out dough onto the pan. Once my dough is on the pan it is topping time. I stick to pretty basic toppings, just mozzarella and basil, fresh is best but the kind you find in the produce area of your store in a tube is pretty good as well.
Put your sauce on the pizza, about a cup to a cup and half and spread it out evenly. Then place your toppings on the sauce, a little or a lot, it’s your pie. Once your pie is dressed it’s time to go in the oven. Now remember your oven is very hot at this point and your pizza will be very hot when it comes out of the oven. Place the pizza and baking sheet on the bottom rack and shut the door. Your pizza will take about 5-7 minutes to cook depending on your ovens overall temperature. I had an oven once that would cook the pizza in 3 minutes so don’t leave the kitchen and keep an eye on your pizza at the 3 minute mark.
Once your pizza comes out of the oven it’s time to enjoy your hard work. I hope that this article has given you the confidence to make your own pizzas at home. You will be surprised at the flavor of homemade pizza. It is much more flavorful then delivery and is an easy meal to get the kids involved with. My son loves helping me make the dough and he gets very excited when it’s time to eat what he helped make.
Recipe by David Aguiar
When your done, tell us how it turns out!
Photo courtesy of Stock.Xchng