It’s both a labor of love and a real pain in the ass at the same time, making pizza at home from scratch. But once and awhile I enjoy it, and I thought I’d share some recipes and tips I have sorted out after years of trial and error.
The first task is making the dough for the crust, and if you want it to turn out ‘pizzeria style”, you’d best start 24 hours or longer in advance. I make a double batch, divide into two balls, one of the pie of the moment, one to freeze to have handy for next time. (Tip: to freeze a ball of pizza dough, coat it with olive oil, but in a freezer bag. Allow to thaw for 24 hours in the frig before using, and allow three hours on the counter to come to room temp for best results).
Basic Pizza Dough
- 2 t yeast (jars work better for me than packets)
- 4 t sugar
- 1 T salt
- 4 C flour (the best is designated as “00” which is used in Italy. Find it at good food stores. King Arthur sells a version, too) but almost any white flour will do.
- 1 C + more, water water, warmer than your finger
- 1/2 C EVOO
Put yeast, and 2 t sugar in 1 C warm water, mix. Allow to sit at least ten minutes for the yeast to be activated. You’ll know it’s working when it has a foam cap on top of the liquid. If it doesn’t foam up, start over.
Mix flour, remaining sugar, salt and EVOO together. If using a counter top mixer, about two minutes, lately though, I have been doing it by hand, gives me some added satisfaction. Add water and continue to blend. Eyeball whether you need more water and add appropriate amount until all ingredients are blended. With a KitchenAid, mix on low for 8 minutes, until the dough loses its stickiness.
When I do it by hand, it’s a ten minute chore, folding and kneading to reach the same results. The last minute of mixing, if you want a flavored crust (like herb or garlic), add that ingredient and mix. Split the dough in half and put one in the freezer as described above.
Lightly coat the other ball with oil, and place in a covered bowl for 2 hours to raise. At the end of the two hour period, put in a large tupperware, with lid, overnight in frig, and when ready to use the next day, let sit on the counter (still in the tupperware) for 4-6 hours before using. (If you want a cracker thin, crispy crust, skip the 2 hour rise).
Assembly and Baking
Preheat the oven to 500. Roll out the dough, or hand stretch, into an oval about the size of a cooking sheet. It’s easier to do if you lightly flour your counter or work space. Poke holes across the dough with fork tines. Now here’s a trick. Place the rolled out dough on a piece of parchment. Brush on your favorite tomato sauce, cover with cheese and your favorite toppings. I generally use pinches of fresh hot Italian sausage (you can buy the builk style or rip the casings off of link style, pepperoni, and olives. Sprinkle a t of oregano and basil over the pie.
While I usually make my own sauce, in a pinch, I am quite happy with a product called “Pizza Squeeze” from Contadina. Everyone has a personal preference for how pizza sauce should taste, this product suits me. (pictured left).
Carefully lift the pie on the parchment (you may require assistance) and slide onto middle rack of pre-heated oven.
Bake for six minutes on the parchment, and then pull the parchment out from under the pie, leaving it bare on the oven shelf. Bake 6-10 minutes longer, until the crust browns and the cheese is bubbling. Your time may vary, as oven temps do. You can also do it on a Weber the same way; be sure to keep watching it and rotating every couple of minutes. You can get a nice char from charcoal reminiscent of the 800 degree wood ovens currently in fashion.
Let sit on a bread rack for a couple minutes when removing from oven. Slice in squares, or serve whole and pass a pair of scissors around the table to let guests have a DIY pizza experience.
This is a local Chicago brand of Italian sausage, I really don’t find much variance in brands, except I usually skip ones made in house at groceries. I haven’t found one of those that is all that flavorful. Score a couple of sausages lengthwise to peel back the casing. Pinch off a piece of the pork to dot the pizza. For me, about half the size of a golf ball is ideal.
For olives, when I’m in a the mood for ‘green’, I buy what are often labeled “salad olives.” I’ve paid $5 a jar, and a buck a jar, never seem to be a significant difference.
Today’s pepperoni choice is “Jefferson Brand” – the packages promises “Wisconsin quality made in Kansas” whatever that means. It’s a Tyson company. The plant number on the package indicates the product is made at the Tyson plant in South Hutchinson, KS. It was on sale. Pepperoni is something I don’t see much difference between brands either. But you can tell its ‘cheap’ if the slices char and or cup on the pie, indicating a higher fat to pork ratio. I’m sure you’ve seen that on some pizzeria pies.
I like a little diced fresh garlic on my pizza. Here in Portland, my favorite pie is heavy on the garlic, a “Neapolitan style” at Cara Amico.
.Almost any shredded or sliced mozzarella will do. You may want to mix it up by adding romano, provolone, or exotic blends like flavored goat or fetas. Not sure of the melting quality, but I’d like to try some from Cypress Grove in California, who make a whole raft of flavored goat cheeses. The truffle one might add some interesting depth.
Homemade Pizza Recipe