Monday, March 10, 2008

Homemade Pizza

Pizza is actually really easy to make at home. Assuming you've got flour, all you really need to buy are some packets of yeast and whatever toppings you desire.

Pizza dough is basically flour, water, salt, yeast, a little sugar (to activate the yeast), and a little bit of olive oil. You let it rise, knead it, and let it rise some more. It keeps in the fridge for a fair amount of time, too. I kept mine overnight with no problem. (But cover the dough with a wet cloth, or it'll dry out.)

Once you've got your dough risen, punch it down to release the air inside. Then, flour your board and knead the dough ball and roll it out. The reason you see folks tossing pizza dough in the air is because the yeast kind of makes the dough... springy. It bounces back a little bit if you just use a rolling pin, so I recommend using a rolling pin to flatten and then using your hands to stretch and shape as appropriate. (On the board. You don't have to toss it if you don't want to!)

How to get the dough onto the pan without messing up your nice circle? A good trick is to wrap the dough around the rolling pin, then using the pin to pick it up and transfer it to the pan.

You can make a pizza without a pizza stone, by the way. I heated my oven to 425 F, and I used a normal baking sheet (which can take the heat ok, but it might warp a little in the oven -- don't worry, once the pan cools, it'll be straight once again), which I greased with olive oil and sprinkled with cornmeal. (The cornmeal is a good trick to make the crust nice and crunchy on the bottom.) Also! Depending on the liquidity of the sauce, it helps to roll the edges up into a crust. And, if you like a thin crust pizza, use a fork and lightly poke some holes all over the pizza -- helps to keep the dough from puffing up.

Top it how you like. I used tomato sauce (canned tomato sauce, doctored with minced garlic, an Italian herb mix, dried basil, salt, and sugar), fresh sliced mozzarella, a few daubs of goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, and baby spinach. The uncooked pizza:

Make sure your oven is preheated and ready. Pizza bakes pretty fast! Once you see that the crust is risen and toasty, your pizza is basically done.

Say ah!

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