It is not hard to make artisanal-quality pizza at home. Here are a few pointers, and then we will get to the recipes. First, buy a good quality pizza stone, or you can use quarry tiles cut to fit a rack in your oven. You can also use untreated granite tiles. Expect these to crack after a year or two, unless you can find quarry tiles. I’ve been through several pizza stones now and cracked all of my granite. It’s the price you pay for good pizza. Luckily, these items are not expensive.
A raging hot oven is essential to good pizza. Set your oven to the highest possible setting. Mine goes to 550 degrees F.
The dough is the canvas upon which you are going to create your own pizza. If the dough is done right, you are set. Dough made with yeast is a temperamental thing. How much flour versus water you use really depends on the texture, the weather etc. I’ll show you how to adjust it accordingly. It is important to use bread flour for your dough. Bread flour can be found everywhere these days. I use “Better for Bread” flour made by Gold Medal. This will give you a pizza that is crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside.
Don’t go out and buy a bunch of special toppings (other than cheese). This is a great opportunity to use leftover veggies and meats in the fridge. You’ll be surprised at the pizzas you will be able to create.
Ingredients – Dough
1 package of yeast (not quick rising)
1/2 tsp of sugar
1 cup of lukewarm water (not over 110 degrees F)
3 1/2 cups of bread flour
1 tsp sea salt
Toppings for these pizzas
1 pkg crumbled Feta
1 pkg sliced provolone
1 large package shredded mozzarella
1 wedge of Fontina
1 small log of goat cheese (4 oz)
A jar of good quality tomato sauce or make your own (For pizza I don’t make my own, I use Bertolli Organic.)
2 cloves of minced garlic plus 1/2 tsp
1 bunch of fresh, baby spinach
1 ripe tomato
2 cups of fresh basil
1/8 cup toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup parmesan
Fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined, thinly sliced cooked chicken breast, good quality pepperoni (all optional)
Up to 1/8 cup of cornmeal to dust the pizza peel
Preheat oven with the pizza stone in it, to 550 degrees F. In a food processor, add the package of yeast, sugar and 1 cup of lukewarm water. The water should be slightly warmer than you but not too hot. Make sure it is not over 110 degrees F or it will kill the yeast. Be nice to your yeast! Buzz for about 5 seconds. Add bread flour and salt. Turn the processor on and see if it comes together into a ball. If it doesn’t after about 30 seconds, add another 1/8 cup of lukewarm water. Buzz it again and if it doesn’t come into a ball in 30 seconds, add another 1/8 cup of lukewarm water. When it does come together into a ball, remove from the processor and place in a glass bowl. At this point, you can let it rise up to an hour or so, or you can just start making pizza. It’s up to you. I like the dough to develop a bit if I have time, but you don’t have to do that.
This batch makes three 14 inch pizzas or four smaller ones. I usually make three. Take one-third of the dough, dust your cutting board with flour and dust the top of the dough. Roll out into a circle with your rolling pin. Turn the dough in 1/4 turns to make it round. When you have a nice circle, dust the pizza peel with some cornmeal (not self rising, just plain cornmeal) and place the dough on the peel. (You can also use an upside down cookie sheet for this.) Slide it off the peel into the oven. This takes a little practice. Here are some different ideas for the toppings:
I brush the dough with olive oil, then add about a cup of mozzarella. Then drizzle the sauce over the top. (This keeps the dough from getting soggy with the sauce.) Bake for 5 minutes and keep an eye on it. When it is bubbly and the crust is golden, it is done. Slide the pizza peel under it to remove.
I was going to tell you to roast the garlic and incorporate it into a bechamel, but it just takes so long. Try this instead. Brush the dough with olive oil and add 2 cloves of minced garlic spread over the dough. Add four slices of Provolone, a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach, about a half cup of Mozzarella, a couple of ounces of crumbled Feta and three ounces of shredded Fontina. Bake until bubbly and the crust is golden, about five minutes. This one was a wow!
Tomato and goat cheese
Brush the dough with olive oil, add thinly sliced tomato and crumble four ounces of goat cheese over it. Bake in the usual manner, for about five minutes until crust is golden.
In a food processor add basil and toasted pine nuts and half a tsp of minced garlic. Buzz until it becomes a paste. Slowly add olive oil until it looks like a sauce. Add parmesan and buzz for about ten seconds. Check for seasoning. You may want to add a pinch of salt and pepper.
Brush dough with olive oil and spread pesto on it. If you like, add fresh, raw shrimp (sliced in half lengthwise to make thinner shrimp), or thinly sliced, cooked chicken breast. Add about 3/4 cup mozzarella on top. Bake for 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and crust is golden.