Thatsa Nice!: Pizza at Home

Yesterday we covered the basic items you would need to get started making pizza at home.  Today we will cover the rest.  As I stated yesterday, this is a fun meal to make with others, but be sure you have some time to devote to this process.

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I hope that you have great success.  However, I must provide a simple yet lifesaving disclaimer.  If this is your first time making pizza at home, have a back up plan.  At the very least, have the number to your favorite local pizzeria handy.  Many things can go wrong the first time out.  Fortunately, experience is the best teacher.

I have included a basic pizza dough recipe and a sauce recipe.  The rest is up to you.  Have fun with this.  Soon you won’t remember why you ever ordered pizza out.

savour…drippy cheese

Basic Pizza

Before you start:

Pizza is personal.  I have included how I made the margarita pizza.  Many people like this variety.  As you know, you can top your crust with almost anything.

Pizza making is one of those things that has specifics that should not be ignored. 

The temperature of the yeast bath is vital.  Too cold and it won’t activate.  Too hot and you will kill the yeast.  You could become skilled at knowing how 105 to 115 degrees feels, I imagine.  I will just leave it up to science. 

If the yeast bath does not turn beige and cloudy something went wrong.  It could be the water temperature, but if you used a thermometer it is more likely bad yeast.  Start over.

I have made the assumption that you have a stand mixer.  You can do this by hand, kneading the dough with the heel of your palm, but a stand mixer makes this much simpler.

Don’t try to leave out the cornmeal.  It will make your pizza slide around infinitely better.

Getting the shimmy down with the pizza peel might be the most difficult part.  Practice before you try to place a fully loaded pie into the oven.

If you intend to put moister things on the pizza (tomatoes, for example) be sure to par bake the crust for a couple of minutes first to set the bottom of the crust.  This will keep the moisture from sogging up the bottom. 

In my experience, the more loaded the pie; the more difficult the shimmy.  Use your favorite toppings, but do not overdo it. 

Once you put the pie in the oven, you are on deck.  It must be carefully watched.  Check the bottom of the crust when things begin to brown to make sure it is browned to the level you desire.

BE CAREFUL!  You will have your oven at its highest setting.  You will be moving things in and out of the oven.  The potential for burns is high.  Take care and use the proper tools. 

Basic Pizza Dough

The ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of water (105 – 115 degrees)
  • 1 packet (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
  • 3 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Corn meal
  • Plastic wrap
  • Additional olive oil for brushing crust 

The method:

  1. In a bowl or measuring cup, dissolve sugar in warm water (I use the thermometer to stir it up).
  2. Sprinkle yeast into water and stir until water becomes a beige color (around 1 minute).
  3. Allow yeast to continue activating for the next five minutes.  A layer of foam will form on the top of the mixture.
  4. Place the flour, salt, oil, and yeast mixture in the bowl of your mixer.  With a dough hook begin mixing on a slower speed until ingredients are moist. 
  5. Turn up to medium and continue mixing for 5 minutes.
  6. Test the dough.  If it is sticky, sprinkle in a little more flour and mix until incorporated.  Continue until you get a smooth and elastic dough. If it becomes crumbly, add a little water.
  7. Oil a bowl big enough for your dough ball to double.
  8. Roll the dough into a ball tucking the dough into the center underneath as you go.
  9. Place the dough ball top side down into the oiled bowl and then flip the dough ball over.
  10. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with non-stick spray and cover the bowl.
  11. The bowl should be placed somewhere warm (around 85 degrees).  I usually put mine on the stove top with a thick towel folded in half over the top of it.
  12. Place your pizza stone on a rack about 1/3 of the way from the bottom.
  13. Preheat oven as high as it will go, but not higher than 600.  Mine tops out at 545.
  14. Leave the dough to rise (about 60 – 90 minutes).  When completely raised, it should be double in size.  Note:  if you do not plan to bake your crust within the next two hours punch it down, roll it into a ball again, cover it in oiled plastic wrap, and store it in the fridge until you are ready to use.  Let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes before using.
  15. Cut the dough into three equal pieces with your bench scraper.
  16. With lightly floured hands, work a ball into a disk.
  17. On a lightly floured surface begin forming your crust.  You may choose the heel of your palm to work in a circular motion leaving a thicker edge or just roll the whole thing out with a rolling pin (this will probably yield more consistent results).
  18. Check occasionally to make sure your dough is not sticking to the counter.  If it is, pull up the edge with your bench scraper and toss a little flour under the crust.
  19. Rub a little flour and cornmeal on the pizza peel.
  20. Toss a little flour and cornmeal under the crust.
  21. Slide the crust onto the peel.
  22. Shake it around to make sure that it will move.  If not, toss a little more cornmeal and flour underneath.
  23. Load up the pizza with your sauce and toppings.
  24. Shimmy the pie around gently on the peel to make sure it will move.
  25. Shimmy again, but this time onto the stone.  Once the leading edge is on the stone slowly shimmy and pull the peel out at the same time.  This takes great patience and practice.  Go slow.
  26. Watch the pizza closely.  At 545 degrees, mine usually takes about 6 minutes.
  27. Lift the edge with your bench scraper and carefully slide the peel under the pie.  Too much force will send the pie right off the edge of your stone.
  28. Remove the pie to a cutting board.
  29. Brush the outside edge of the crust with olive oil.
  30. Allow to cool slightly.
  31. Cut with pizza cutter and serve.
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Basic Pizza Sauce

The ingredients:

  • 1 can (28 oz) tomato puree
  • 1 ¾ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoons salt

The method:

  1. In a bowl, mix all ingredients together.  You may add more salt to taste.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Margarita Pizza:

  1. Prepare crust.
  2. Before putting in oven, poke holes in crust with fork.
  3. Par bake crust for 2 minutes.
  4. Remove crust and top with sauce, fresh tomato slices, and fresh mozzarella slices.
  5. Bake for additional 4 minutes or until just starting to brown.
  6. Add chopped up fresh basil.
  7. Bake 1 or 2 minutes more.
  8. Remove from the oven.
  9. Lightly sprinkle with sea salt.
  10. Cool.  Cut.  Serve.