I started to write “we love pizza”. While I believe that’s true, the reality is love pizza. I have sweet memories or ordering pizza with my parents and watching tv on Friday night when TGIF had quality family programs or a movie or something else. I think I get it genetically, my mom seems to love pizza too.
A few years ago, I was watching America’s Test Kitchen and was intrigued by their deep dish pepperoni pizza. I worked on that one for a while. It was great. I was hooked. Making homemade pizza was so fun. It was my first real venture into yeast dough. Have I mentioned how marvelous I think it is to watch as flour and water and salt mixed with a teeny amount of yeast becomes this living bubbly warm and delicious smelling dough? It’s fantastic.
So, for several years now, my family has endured my pizza making adventures. We went really deep dish for a while, then I started thinning it out. My favorite is probably a bit thicker than “hand tossed” from a delivery place. But the next challenge was a crispy bottom crust. I could make a good dough. I mean, it is flavorful. I sprinkle oregano, basil & garlic powder into the dough so that the bread itself has flavor once you finish all the toppings. Recently, after a bunch of reading, experimenting and more advice from my parents, I think we have found a truly successful, repeatable pizza. We use some corn meal and HEAT! A pizza stone is beyond our kitchen accessory space allotment right now, but I learned that I can preheat my oven to 500, with a baking sheet in there and make a nice hot baking sheet. I move my crust (on parchment and cornmeal) to the HOT pan, drop the heat to 425 and I get a GREAT crust – soft, fluffy to eat, but a crispy bottom that you can actually bite and cut into.
Once you have a great crust, you can have fun with the toppings. In the summer, we lay fresh basil, sliced red onions, artichoke hearts and ham on top. We like pepperoni, sliced spinach, bell peppers, sausage, chicken. Once I coated the crust with barbecue sauce, added corn and chicken and then topped with a mixture of colby jack and mozzarella. This time we have some ground turkey and onions on hand. I mix in a bit of sage and it’s almost like sausage. I chopped some fresh spinach and finely sliced some red onions. My kids just like plain cheese!
Pizza Dough (Printable recipe: Pizza)
1 Tablespoon yeast
1 Tablespoon honey
1 1/2 cups warm (tap) water
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon basil
4 cups flour (I used 2 cups bread and 1 cup whole wheat and 1 cup almond flour)
Toppings of your choice
2/3 lb shredded mozzarella cheese
If you’re using whole wheat flour, soak the flour with 1 1/4 cup warm water to soak/soften the grains.
Take 1/2 cup of the hottest water you can out of the tap (it should be hot to the touch, but not burning). Sprinkle yeast and honey over the water and stir to make sure your yeast is active. It should get frothy in a few minutes. Meanwhile mix together flours (all purpose will work just fine), salt, and spices. Once yeast mixture is frothy, add in oil, mix into flour. If you soaked whole wheat flour, now is the time to add it in. Otherwise, just add an extra 1 cup warm water to flour and yeast mixture.
Knead. For as long as you can stand, but at least 5 minutes. It’s messy at first, but then it comes together. If it’s too sticky, sprinkle with a bit of flour. If it’s too dry, keep kneading! Take a clean bowl, coat it with oil and place dough in bowl. Cover with plastic and wait until it doubles in size (about 1 1/2 hours).
If you’re making homemade pizza sauce, now is a great time to do it. Open a can of 28 oz tomatoes, puree them. Add in lots of oregano, a little salt and some basil, hot peppers if you like a little kick. Simmer this in a skillet until it reduces and thickens ~ 30 minutes.
Prepare parchment paper with about 2 Tablespoons of corn meal in piles. You can put them on pans or just on the counter on the parchment. Take dough, press into the middle so that it deflates (no need to punch here). Spread out the corn meal and take 1/2 of the dough and stretch/roll it on the corn meal into desired shape. We usually have 1 large and 2 smaller pizzas, so adjust your fractions accordingly. If it’s not stretching, just let it rest, move on to something else and come back in a few minutes.
Once your dough is stretched and ready, cover and let it rise for another 45 minutes. Now get your toppings ready – cook your meat, cut your vegetables, shred your cheese, etc. After 15 minutes, turn your oven on to 500 (or as hot as your stone/sheets can handle) and put them in the oven – a large baking sheet works just fine here. You just want the pan to be HOT! Once the dough is puffy again, I sprinkle it with a bit of Parmesan cheese, spread on the sauce, top with toppings and cheese.
Pull out your hot pans, drop the oven temperature to 425 and gently slide the parchment & pizza straight on to the hot pan, back into a hot oven. Bake for about 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown, firm when you try to pick it up and cheese is bubbly.
We had leftovers this last time, so I wrapped up a whole pizza in plastic and foil and stuck it in the freezer. Easy freezer pizza for another night! Happy Friday Night Pizza 🙂