Perfect Homemade Pizza

Homemade PizzaI have always been a little afraid of making homemade pizza – I have an aversion to undercooked dough, and couldn’t stand the disappointment of spending time making my own dough, topping it and baking it only to come out with something mushy I would refuse to eat.  Not sure what inspired me this weekend to give it a try from top to bottom (no Boboli) – maybe it was our four hour brunch with Desiree at Little Dom’s in Silverlake – seeing all those wonderful Italian delicacies go by.  Whatever the reason, I turned to my most trusted cooking blog for a dough recipe I could handle – Smitten Kitchen – combined some of my favorite toppings, and ended up with four delicious pizzas (that have lasted us meals and meals).  Below is the recipe for the dough, and some inspirational ideas for the toppings, but feel free to use whatever you like.  Also note I did this with a pizza stone (my first time using our wedding present from nearly two years ago), and while I have seen that you can do this without one (like with a metal pan), I can’t promise the same level of cooked crust perfection.

Here’s what you need

to make the pizza crust, enough for two thin-crust, larger than personal-sized pizzas (topping ideas to follow in the “here’s what you do” section):

3 cups flour (all-purpose)

2 teaspoons table salt

1 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 cup lukewarm water

2 tablespoons olive oil

STUFF FOR TOPPINGS (SEE BELOW)

Here’s what you do:

TO MAKE THE DOUGH // CRUST:

1.  Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir together.  Add the wet ingredients (water and olive oil) and stir until you have as much of a ball as possible.

2.  On a lightly floured surface, dump the “ball” of dough and all the little bits.  Place your bowl upside-down over the dough pile and allow to sit for a couple of minutes.

3.  Come back and knead the dough into a ball (this time it will actually make a ball, unlike at the stirring step).

4.  Spray your bowl with cooking spray, flip the dough ball around in the bowl to make sure it’s all lightly coated, and cover the bowl with saran wrap.  Allow to rise for 2 hours.  (Don’t clean your floured surface, you will use it again.)

5.  When two hours have passed, remove the dough ball from the bowl and replace on your lightly floured surface.  Cut or break it into two equal pieces, squish the air out of both pieces, and then create two balls.  Put them back into the bowl, re-cover with saran wrap, and allow to sit for at least another 20 minutes.

6.  When it’s time to bake, preheat your oven, with the pizza stone inside, as high as it will go (around 500/515 degrees).  Allow it a good 15 minutes to preheat (unless you have a fancy-schmancy oven that actually tells you its temperature, in which case, just wait until it alerts you it has reached the desired temperature).

7.  While your oven is preheating, roll out your first ball of dough into a nice circle that’s pretty thin.  Place a sprinkling of cornmeal on the pizza stone, then put your rolled dough on top.  Bake for about 3 minutes.

8.  Remove the stone from the oven, flip the crust over (yes, we are slightly cooking the underside to avoid sogginess), top with your favorite toppings, and bake on the stone for another 8-10 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and brown and the edges are slightly browned.

Homemade PizzaTOPPING IDEAS:

Patrick and I actually decided to double the recipe above and made four pizzas.  While there wasn’t a ton of variety between three of the four, here are the two basic ideas that we made which were delicious:

First, we made Patrick’s favorite, fig jam, prosciutto, mozzarella, all topped with arugula dressed in balsamic vinaigrette.  That recipe is actually on my blog here: FIG PIZZA.  Only difference is we made our own crust this time, and it was delicious.

Second, we made three variations on margherita pizza, which all turned out great.  Here is the basic gist:

For the sauce, combine half a can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes, one minced garlic clove, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper.  Spoon a thin layer of this over the pizza crust (after the three minutes of cooking).

Top the sauce with a handful of ribbons of freshly cut basil.  (At this point, we also added some turkey pepperoni and Hilshire Farms smoked chipotle beef sausage.  It was really good.)

Top the basil with some circles of fresh mozzarella, some shredded regular mozzarella, and some Parmesan cheese.

Bake to perfection (about 8-10 minutes), and to be really decadent, add a little splash of olive oil to the top after you remove it from the oven.  (For some of the pizzas, we also sauteed half a sliced brown onion with a package of sliced white mushrooms in some olive oil.  We added these after baking so as not to weigh down the crust or make it mushy for leftover purposes.)

Enjoy!

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