October 13, 2011

Our homemade pizza...

Having suffered through the pathetic pizza options here in the South by one tray of cardboard too many, a few months ago I threw myself headlong into an attempt to make the perfect pizza from scratch.  Our pizza night I’ve described before remains a part of our life, but now it happens right here at home.  (Goodbye, chef’s-day-off.)
Ignoring the fact that I’d never made pizza before, I began the cyclical process of experimentation followed by constructive criticism from my family.  We now have a Wilbur-approved recipe.  As I mentioned last time, that obviously doesn’t mean you’re going to love it.   But I’ll tell you how I do it, and then you can try it, abandon it, or improve it until it is your-last-name-here approved.

First, the dough…
2 ½ cups warm water
2 packages quick-rise dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. olive oil (I only use Filippo Berio brand.  Try it.  You’ll never go back.)

Pour water into mixing bowl.  Slowly add contents of both yeast packages.  Add sugar.  Allow yeast to dissolve, approximately five minutes.  Add olive oil, flour, and salt, and mix until a ball of dough forms.  I have a mixer with a dough hook attachment for this.  If you don’t, I’m really sorry.  Go get one.  They’re fantastic.  If you can’t, then combine everything slowly by hand.  Women did that for centuries before KitchenAid was a twinkle in its mother’s eye.
Cover bowl with a damp dish cloth.  (Moistening it prevents it from sticking to the dough.)  Allow dough to rise for however long it takes to hear the funny thing that SpongeBob just said, help someone with their schoolwork, remind everybody that good pizza takes time, answer a robocall about wonderful vacation opportunities, switch laundry loads, and get the sauce made and cheese grated (more on that later).  Or about half an hour, whichever comes first.
The pizza:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  The amount of dough you’ve made yields one large round and two large rectangle pizzas, just right for this household of six good eaters.  Those shapes and quantities aren’t because of excellent planning or anything related to geometry; I’m just using what I have.  I was once given a fancy round pizza stone, and I use that along with two cookie sheets from the 1970’s that my mom passed down to me when I got married.  I spread a good coating of olive oil on each.  Next I punch down the dough in the bowl, then dump it out onto a floured work surface.  For a few minutes at most I fold it, knead it, and whack it around a bit like I’m trying to get it to 'fess up to something.   Then I divide it in thirds and spread it out evenly by hand on each of my pans, pinching the edges to make a crust.  I also make sure there are no bubbles in the dough.  Next I ladle on some homemade pizza sauce.  (I have been strictly instructed not to share the recipe for this by my husband who thinks perhaps we could sell it someday.  I’ll take that as a compliment, but I’ll keep working on him to give me the green light to share it with you anyway.  It’s pretty tasty.)  How much sauce?  As much as we like.  You should use as much as you like.
Then I cover two and a half of the pizzas in 2 lbs. of shredded whole milk mozzarella.  (I don’t use skim or low fat anything.  It tastes bad.  And that’s that.  There is no such thing as delicious diet pizza.  Not possible.)  The other half-pizza stays cheese-free for my cheese-hating son Daniel.
Another important note on cheese:  I buy the big lumps and grate it myself, as alluded to in my dough monologue.  Those pre-packaged pre-shredded mozzarellas melt poorly, feel grainy, and taste weird.  If you disagree or feel the time they save for you is worth it, go right ahead.  Just don’t ask us to.  We’re cheese purists around here.  (Except for Daniel.)
Occasionally we add pepperoni, but at my husband’s suggestion I cook it a bit before putting it on the pizzas, even if just in the microwave.  It helps it get those curled crispy edges.
Another tip from my pizza-lovin’ husband is to sprinkle the cheese a little closer to the edge of the crust than the sauce.  It’s less likely to slide off in large pieces as you eat it if you do this.
Bake at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until cheese is golden/orangey looking.  Or until the pizza looks like you’d want to eat it.  Or until the smoke detector goes off from olive oil dripping all over the inside of your oven.  The neighbors around here always know when Friday rolls around…
One last tip before we go.  Every so often I empty a sack of flour by filling plastic baggies with six cups of it in each.  As you can see, I label the bags too.  The dough recipe is almost identical to the one I use for homemade bread, which also calls for that amount of flour.  For pizza or bread, I'm able to just grab a baggie from the pantry and dump it right in to the bowl.  Not having to measure the flour each time allows me concentrate on more of my children's retellings of SpongeBob's adventures.
This homemade pizza is a lot more work than throwing some make-up on and heading off to the South's finest pizza establishment (a generous phrase).  But it tastes a lot better too.  And my family is worth it.  Though now I need to figure out how to get a different day off...


  1. "Finest pizza establishment" is a generous phrase! I make homemade too! Our crust recipe is very similar except mine has a little more olive oil. I use half whole wheat flour and half King Arthur Bread Flour (which is wonderful). But, you really have me beat on the sauce. I open a jar of Wegman's Pizza Sauce. :)

    But, maybe you'll have to have a Chinese night out--or something else.

  2. Have you ever tried freezing the dough, or even the whole pizza?