There are many benefits to making pizza at home. Homemade pizza can provide a healthy meal option, and the variety of pizzas is limited only by the availability of ingredients and the imagination of the cook. There is no delivery time or crowded restaurant to contend with, and it is reassuring to know every ingredient in the meal that is prepared. With very little effort and minimal time, anyone can look like a seasoned professional pizza chef.
Homemade pizza starts with the dough. Dough should be pliable enough to stretch easily over the chosen surface, but also be soft enough to provide the pizza eater with a satisfying chew and mouth feel. Dough can be made using any type of flour. Flour choice affects the texture of the dough and can add interesting variations.
Dough can be prepared by hand or by using a bread machine. A bread machine is a time saver, as you can prepare toppings while the dough is cycling in the machine. On the other hand, making dough by hand is therapeutic. The flavor and texture of dough can be enhanced with the addition of seasonings, fresh herbs, cheeses and other ingredients.
Pizzas are normally baked on a stone or on a metal pizza pan. A pizza stone is a porous surface usually made of stone or ceramic. Because they wick away moisture, pizza stones create a crispy crust. A light dusting of cornmeal on the stone before working the dough is typically enough to ensure a pizza crust will not adhere to the stone. Pizza stones require pre-heating and should be handled carefully, as they can break, otherwise. Don’t wash them with soap and water, as the pores will soak up the soap and add that flavor back into crust; hot water and a scraper do the best job to keep the stone clean.
Metal pans do not require pre-heating, create a softer crust and are typically less expensive than pizza stones. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to get a very elastic dough to stay in the shape of a metal pan, especially as the pan is usually treated with olive oil.
Last, but not least, are the toppings. Sauce can be a traditional red sauce, a white sauce or another chosen sauce. The best sauces are smooth in texture, easily spreadable and not overly watery. Meats, vegetables, cheeses, seasonings and fresh herbs, or even something surprising like fruit or tofu, can be added. One good possibility uses alfredo sauce with chicken, spinach and mozzarella.
A basic recipe for pizza dough:
- 3 cups of flour
- 2-1/4 tsp. of yeast
- 2 tblsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tblsp. white sugar
- 1 cup of warm water
- Herbs, garlic powder or onion powder to taste
Mix the ingredients together and knead to form a soft, pliable dough. Allow dough to rise in a warm area for 15 minutes. Press the dough into place on the chosen baking surface and allow to rest for 10 minutes before adding sauce and toppings. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes.