pizza! pizza! pizza!
is it really worth making your own pizza? i’ve had some friends that have gone completely cold-turkey on places like pizza hut and dominoes and others that just can’t be bothered to go out and get their own ingredients and try it themselves. i’ve also heard arguments over the cost of making your own versus ordering out, and for me, it’s got to come down to taste. i don’t mind shelling about a bit more for a great pizza, and i especially don’t mind shelling out a bit more if i can make it myself. kramer was really onto something.
the cost of making your own pizza really balances out when you consider that making dough ahead of time can save you a ton of trouble. peter reinhart’s dough uses just a few simple ingredients and can keep in your fridge for days or freezer for months so you can whip up a pizza whenever it strikes your fancy. it’s a never-fail dough that handled better than i could have anticipated. plus, you can just empty your cabinets and pile on whatever weird combination of toppings that you’d like without fear of being judged by the delivery guy.
the key to homemade pizza is getting the dough to cook quickly and at an extremely high temperature. pizzeria ovens hit 800 F, you can still get a great crust at home. most commercial ovens only reach 500 or 550 F, but using a baking stone or baking tiles definitely helps.
my first pizza attempt included caramelized onions (flavored with a bit of balsamic vinegar), mozzarella and white sauce (recipe below). after it came out of the oven i quickly topped it with fresh arugula. feel free to pile on the greens, as they’ll wilt a bit once they hit the hot pizza.
over the past few years, i’ve really developed a taste for white sauce pizzas over traditional red. i also like my pizzas swimming in mozzarella cheese.
after i added the arugula, i grated some fresh parmesan reggiano that immediately melted into neat little pools of deliciousness. you can also see above where i cut the pizza and sliced directly into my wooden peel. whoops.
pizza number 2 was the same as pizza 1, except i added some crumbled and lightly fried sweet italian sausage. let me just say: BEST PIZZA EVER. since these pizzas, i’ve made 3 more: 1 with sun dried tomato pesto and basil, one with traditional red sauce and lightly fried crispy eggplant, and another with sausage and pineapple. i’m looking forward to trying out squash and bacon as a combo. what are your favorite toppings?
makes 6 medium-sized pizzas. top with anything you can think of! dough from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.
4 1/2 cups flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp yeast
1/4 cup olive oil (optional)
1 3/4 cups water, ice cold
semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting
white sauce (enough for 2 pizzas)
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp fresh basil, minced
1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano cheese, shredded
1. day one: stir together the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. stir in the oil and cold water with a big spoon until all the flour is absorbed. you may need to keep dipping the spoon in a bowl of ice cold water as you stir so it doesn’t stick. mix for 5-7 minutes until the dough is smooth and sticky. sprinkle some more flour in as needed. at some point in the mixing, i abandoned the spoon and used my hands to incorporate all of the flour completely.
2. transfer the dough to a floured surface and cut into six equal pieces. line a sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly oil it. sprinkle a bit of flour on the dough and gnetly shape them into balls. place the dough balls on the sheet pan and slip the whole pan into a large ziploc bag (i had to use one from each end of the pan to cover the whole thing. put the pan in the fridge overnight to rest. they will keep in the fridge for 3 days (or in the freezer for up to 3 months).
3. day two: remove the dough from the fridge 2 hours before making the pizza. dust the counter with flour, place the number of dough balls down you are going to use, and sprinkle with more flour. gently press them into flat disks (about 1/2 inch thick). sprinkle with a bit more flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap. let rest.
4. about 45 minutes before making the pizza, preheat the oven to 500 F (or higher if your oven goes that high) with your baking stone or tiles on the lowest shelf or directly on the floor of the oven. if you don’t have a stone, you can bake on the back of a large baking sheet, but don’t preheat the baking sheet.
5. if you’re going to make white sauce, now is the time. heat the butter in a small saucepan. add the flour flour and stir until thoroughly mixed. slowly whisk in milk, adding gradually. stir in remaining ingredients. the sauce will thicken upon standing.
6. to shape the pizzas, dust a pizza peel or the back of a sheet pan with cornmeal or semolina flour. dip your hands in flour and pick up the dough round. very gently lay the dough across your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing the dough in a circular motion on your hands. keep it across your knuckes and it will slowly stretch as you bounce it. if it sticks, gently put the dough down and reflour your hands. eventually, you can move to a full toss instead of a bounce, and the dough will quickly shape into a large thin round.
7. lay it own the pizza peel or pan and top lightly with your favorite sauces, cheeses, veggies and meats. keep in mind that this is a pretty thin crust, so a little topping goes a long way. slide your pizza from the pizza peel directly onto the hot baking stone or place the sheet pan in the oven and bake for 5-8 minutes. the edges will puff a little bit, darken and crisp up. remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. wait a few minutes for the toppings to set before slicing and serving.