Have you ever gotten the urge to try making a new dish in the kitchen? Why not start with an All-American favorite like pizza? And unlike baseball, you don’t need to balk when you are facing the plate. It is just a matter of being prepared and taking things one step at a time.
For starters, do a kitchen gadget check and put a pizza peel (paddle) and pizza stone on your holiday shopping list if you don’t have them. Shop locally or take the easy way out and default to ordering through Amazon to save yourself some time, energy, and gas expense. Once you have the equipment, great! You are ready to go. If by any chance you have a KitchenAid® mixer, it will save a little time and effort, but it really isn’t necessary.
Get your planning checklist together and ensure you have the following ingredients in the pantry:
1 ¾ cups Bread Flour – King Arthur Bread Flour is great by the way!
¼ Cup of Ground Flax Seed
1 Cup of Water
Dry active yeast (1 packet per pizza)
Salt – ½ teaspoon
Granulated Natural Cane Sugar – 1 ½ teaspoon
Olive Oil 1 Tablespoon
Basil – Sprinkle to taste
Garlic Powder – To taste (approximately ½ teaspoon)
Coarsely Ground Fresh Black Pepper – a couple of twists from the pepper grinder, go heavy for more robust flavor.
Cornmeal – Fine/Regular grind (Unless you like crunchy texture under your crust, then go for Bob’s Organic Medium Ground Cornmeal.) A dusting of cornmeal keeps the pizza from sticking.
2 Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls (One for mixing the dough, and one for letting it rise).
PIZZA SAUCE AND CHEESE
Grate 8 Oz Whole Mozzarella Cheese or use part-skim if you are watching the calories. 8 oz. is about half of the 1 lb. packs you can find in the dairy section of your supermarket. If you want more cheese, go for it!
For the sauce, I opted for a time saving step and used Rao’s Marinara Sauce (which was on sale!) I tweaked the marinara sauce with a pinch of sugar, a dash of black pepper and added dried basil and oregano. To thicken it up, you can stir in some tomato paste or cook it down and add a splash of red wine if you have time on your hands. Otherwise, for the committed DIY enthusiast, mix a can of tomato sauce with a small can of paste and season to your liking (said the garlic lovers in the crowd)! I used about a cup to a cup and a half of pizza sauce for a 16” pizza.
I haven’t gotten to this stage yet. However, two simple principles of cooking apply: Slice all vegetables thinly. If you are going to use sausage or any other raw meat cut or crumble it in advance and pre-cook all meat thoroughly.
TECHNIQUES and TIMING:
Let’s step back and look at the big picture before launching into the step-by-step minutia, so you can use your time efficiently in the kitchen. There are 3 basic ingredients for pizza: 1) dough 2) sauce, and 3) cheese. Can’t be too hard right? If you manage to get some prep or clean-up done while other things that take longer are doing their thing, you’ll find it doesn’t take that much effort to serve this delicious hot meal in a relatively short amount of time.
Estimated Timing in the Process (excluding shopping for ingredients!)
3-5 Minutes To get all the equipment and ingredients together. For apartment dwellers who need to use every square inch of their living space, it goes without saying – empty all the pots and pans and trays that you keep stored in the oven from the outset.
3 Minutes To grate your cheese and put it back in the fridge in a bowl
[Add 5-7 minutes for slicing vegetables or sautéing some spinach, sausage, or cubed chicken]
5 Minutes To mix the pizza dough.
1 Minute To turn on your oven with the pizza stone in it. I start the oven at 350 degrees then crank it up to 435 degrees later when starting to roll out the pizza dough.
30 Minutes To let the yeasted pizza dough rise in a covered bowl. If you must run out for a quick errand when the dough is almost ready, punch it down and let it rise again (a second rise is not necessary at all, but it makes the dough easier to handle).
5 -6 Minutes To make pizza sauce. If you are going to whip up a quick and easy pizza sauce, make the pizza sauce while the dough is rising. If you decide to concoct a gourmet, award-winning pizza sauce, make it the day before which allows all the herbs and spices to blossom.
3 -5 Minutes To roll out the pizza dough, transfer it to the pizza peel, and then load the pizza with sauce and cheese (and other toppings as desired).
10 Minutes To cook the pizza using a pizza stone
Total Time: About 1 hour – give or take. Clean up as you go.
AN IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT PIZZA STONES and OVENS
- Do not oil your pizza stone.
- Always – and I mean always – put the pizza stone in the oven, BEFORE turning on the oven.
- Remove the top rack from the oven and place the bottom rack on the lowest level. Using one rack gives you more room to maneuver, unless you are fortunate to have an oven at chest height!
- Leave the Pizza Stone in the oven until everything has cooled off.
Instructions for preparing your pizza dough, assembling the pizza, and suggestions for placing the pizza in the oven:
Making Pizza Dough
Pour 1 cup of very warm water (about 110 Degrees) into your mixing bowl. If your mixing bowl is cool, it will drop the temperature of your water quickly. Add 1 packet of active dry yeast and stir together with 1 ½ teaspoons of cane sugar. Let it sit for 3 minutes to ensure the yeast is active. Then pour in 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil and introduce herbs and spices if desired. Add 1 cup of bread flour and mix. I used the dough hook on the KitchenAid mixer at this stage. Once that has become thoroughly mixed, in a separate large measuring cup, sift 1 teaspoon of salt with ¾ Cups of bread flour and ¼ cup of Ground Flax Seed. Then add those remaining dry ingredients to the existing dough. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly until it becomes one cohesive ball of dough. The dough should form into a ball and no longer stick to the sides of the bowl. Use additional flour or sparingly sprinkling in water if needed. From there, lightly coat the second bowl with olive oil and place your ball of dough into it gently. Twirl the dough around so it becomes completely covered with oil. Cover the bowl holding the dough with a towel or plastic wrap and keep it in a warm area for 30 minutes. The ball of pizza dough should double in size.
Assembling the pizza
After 30 minutes, turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat out or roll out into a 16”- 18” circle. Remember, a thin crust is a good crust! The trick here is to not to use too much flour and less is more. I flipped the dough once as I rolled it out initially and then I sprinkled some cornmeal on the counter to keep it from sticking. After rolling the dough out to the final shape, I fold the edges into to make a lip for the crust. Pour a little olive oil in a small bowl and use a pastry brush to brush the folded edges of the pizza dough with olive oil (I skipped this step and wished I had not!). Before doing anything else, slide the prepared pizza dough onto the pizza peel. Then ladle your pizza sauce over the top of the pizza dough. Spread it out with a spatula until it is even and completely covered. Add or sprinkle your cheese (and desired toppings) evenly over the top of the pizza.
Sliding your pizza onto the pizza stone in the oven
This is the only tricky part. Open the oven door and sprinkle a little cornmeal evenly over the pizza stone. Gracefully slide your pizza off the pizza peel onto the pizza stone. Start at the far end tilting down, anchor it so to speak, then pull the pizza peel out from underneath the pizza. Close the oven door and cook for approximately 10 minutes. The crust will brown lightly, and the cheese will start to bubble. Keep a close eye on it. Remove the “pie” with some dexterity and place the finished pizza on a large plate or wooden cutting board and let it a little cool before cutting.
Cut into slices and enjoy!
OTHER TIME-SAVING SHORTCUTS – OK, so you want to avoid the acrobatics of using a pizza stone and pizza peel; make the pizza in an aluminum tray. If using an aluminum pan, you may need to add a few more minutes of cooking time. And for those who really don’t want to be bothered with making your pizza dough from scratch, buy refrigerated pizza dough. Refrigerated pizza dough can be found in most supermarkets. Be sure to use it right away! But like the saying goes, there is nothing as good as homemade!
Have fun and let us know how your own homemade pizza turns out!