It’s no secret that I love pizza – numerous times a week works for me. Nobody ever asks me to pick the meal or the restaurant because they all know what the answer will be. In fact, I seriously considered serving pizza at my wedding but just couldn’t figure out how to get enough delivered and kept hot . . . so I ended up going traditional but not without a fight!
Finally, after a lot of trial and error, I have figured out how to make pizza that is acceptable to me at home. I at first assumed it is the ovens that restaurants have because the frozen or ready to bake ones are just terrible and I was never satisfied with my homemade pizza until lately. I have to admit that considering how much I love to cook and how much I love pizza, much to my dismay, I was quite a failure the first few tries and had a really hard time getting the pizza right. I tried both the oven and grill, with and without a pizza stone. I tried making them with a thick crust, a thin crust, homemade dough and dough from Trader Joe’s – it looks so easy when you see the pizza guys throwing that dough around but I could just not get the hang of it. When I rolled it, it snapped back like a rubber band, when I finally thought I had it thin enough, it puffed up like a Soufflé – not exactly the cracker like crust I was going for. Also, not counting the totally burned ones, mostly I blame the first couple disasters on not having a pizza peel as they folded and smashed when I tried to put them on the cooking surface.
I have finally perfected my technique and can now make them at home. I’m sure the real pizza makers would be rolling on the floor laughing at my technique but after trial and error, this is the best dough. I can handle it, get it nice and thin and get it to cook without falling apart and it tastes great. One thing I did learn is that if you need to use Trader Joe’s or a refrigerated dough, make sure you leave it out to rest and warm up before you try to shape it!
1 3/4 cups water divided, 1/2 cup warm, remaining at tap temperature
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast (1 envelope)
2 Tbs olive oil , plus extra for brushing dough
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp table salt
vegetable oil (or cooking spray) for oiling bowl
semolina for dusting peel
|1 In a small bowl place 1/4 cup of warm water and sprinkle in yeast; let stand until yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup warm water plus remaining 1 1/4 cups tap water and olive oil. Pulse the flour and salt in a large food processor with the steel blade. Add liquid ingredients (holding back a tablespoon or so) and pulse. If the dough does not form a ball add the remaining liquid. Process until the dough is smooth, about 30 seconds more.|
|2 Turn out the dough on lightly floured area and knead a few strokes to form smooth, round ball. Place the dough into a medium-large, oiled bowl, and cover with damp cloth. Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.|
|3 I prefer to use a cast iron skillet rather than a pizza stone for baking but you can use either. Preheat the oven as high as it will go and place a large cast iron skillet (or pizza stone) inside, letting it heat for at least 30 minutes.4. Turn out the dough again and use chef’s knife or dough scraper to halve, quarter, or cut dough into eighths, depending on the size of the pizzas. Form each piece into ball and cover with damp cloth. Working with one at a time, shape into the size and thickness you prefer, keeping in mind the size of your skillet or pizza stone. Transfer to pizza peel that has been lightly coated with semolina, brush dough very lightly with olive oil before topping with your favorite ingredients. (See recipe for Pizza Sauce)
5. Very carefully take out the iron skillet (it will be really hot so don’t forget to use a good pot holder or even a double up). Add a small amount of oil to the pan, then slide the pizza on. The crust will start baking almost immediately. Place in the oven until the cheese starts to bubble. This makes a really crispy crust.