I always want to make pizza at home, with my own crust, my own toppings, just how I like it. But I never decide this until I'm hungry, and I don't want to make the dough, wait for it to rise, and then make the pizza. And because of this, I always have it in my head that homemade pizza is an ordeal, that it's tough to make. But it is SO easy. If you just give your self some time to let the dough rise it is so.easy. So this week, I planned ahead! I made one batch of pizza dough, which makes 3 medium pizzas, so three nights this week I got to make a quick, delicious homemade pizza. And it was glorious, absolutely glorious.
As you can guess, in my quest for a no nonsense recipe that is absolutely delicious, I went straight to my Cook's Illustrated cook book "The New Best Recipes". I don't know what I would do without it. I made up the dough, let it rise while I went to an art reception with a friend, came back home to find it bursting through the saran wrap, over the edges of the bowl, and happily rolled it out into a pizza. A few toppings later and my boyfriend and I were enjoying a delicious, cheap and healthy dinner. There are few things I love more than making my own dinner, and this was grand.
For the first night we went for a simple margarita pizza using fresh mozzarella, nice vine tomatoes, basil from my windowsill garden and a nice pizza sauce (which, yes, was store bought...ah well). I encourage you to make one straightforward delicious pizza, and then experiment with the rest.
Pizza Dough from The New Best Recipes
Makes 3 medium pizzas
Ingredients: 1/2 cup warm water, 1 envelope (about 2 1/4 t) instant yeast, 1 1/4 cups water at room temp, 2 T extra virgin olive oil, 4 cups bread flour*, plus more for dusting the work surface, 1 1/2 t salt, olive oil for oiling the bowl.
* I like to substitute about one cup with corn flour (very fine corn meal), to add a bit to the crust.
Directions: Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room temp water and oil and stir to combine.
Process the flour and salt in a large food processor (or with a whisk, by hand, in a medium bowl). Pour in most of the liquid ingredients. If using a food processor - pulse as you pour and continue to pulse until a ball forms. If it does not, add more of the liquid, slowly until a ball forms. If working dough by hand, stir with a rubber spatula while you pour. Once all the liquid is in, use your hands to combine the dough and work into a ball, again, adding more liquid as needed. The dough will be a bit tacky. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface (using the rubber spatula if needed) and knead by hand for a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball.
Put the dough in a deep oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate, and break up for the size pizzas you would like, 3 for medium, 2 pieces for large, 4 or 5 for more personal size pizzas. Wrap whatever pieces you're not using in plastic wrap and stick in the fridge - it will be good for a while in there, at least 4 days (in my opinion).
Cooking the Pizza
Preheat the oven to 450/500 degrees for at least 20 minutes before you're ready to stick the pizza in. If you're using a pizza stone, stick that in there too for the heating. If you're not very good at sliding the rolled out pizza onto the cooking surface - keep this in mind when deciding if you want to preheat or not. Preheating will certainly make the crust crispier though.
Roll the pizza crust out on a floured work surface. Sprinkle corn meal on the cooking surface (pizza stone, baking sheet, etc) if you've got it. Lay the dough on the baking surface, brush with olive oil, poke with the tines of a fork to prevent ballooning, and pre-cook for 5 minutes. While the crust is cooking, finish getting the toppings together. Pull out the dough after 5 minutes and quick top the pizza to your liking. If you're using any meat or big toppings, consider pre-cooking them in a saute pan before adding them to the pizza. Also try to remove as much moisture as you can from things before putting them on the pizza. De-seed tomatoes, press fresh mozzarella with a dish cloth, etc.
Cook for 5-10 more minutes, checking every few minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven when the crust is beginning to turn golden and the toppings look done. Slice, serve and enjoy!