Sunday, August 22, 2010

Everyone loves pizza! It's cheesy goodness!

One of my menu stand-by items is homemade pizza. I absolutely love to make it, eat it , and even clean up the dishes from it! I really do feel that strongly about it, so I wanted to share the script with you. Here's the recipe, then a few comments.

Homemade pizza, yields 2 pizzas

3 cups flour
4 1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt (I use Kosher)
1 TBSP oil (I use olive, any oil should be fine)
1-1 1/2 cups warm water

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, or the bowl of a food processor with the dough blade in place. If kneading by hand, add oil and most of the water, knead for 10 minutes. Add more water if too dry, or flour if too wet. If using food processor, while it is running pour in the oil and then about 1 cup of water. Add water just until it forms a ball, and then continue to run until the ball has circled the work bowl about 15 times.

Cover the dough with a bit more oil, place in bowl and cover. Allow to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour. If time allows, gently knead back down and allow to rise again; this will make for a chewier crust, but is not necessary.

Heat your oven to 450, and prepare your pizza pans by greasing and dusting with cornmeal. Divide the dough in two pieces, and roll them or stretch them to fit the pan. Top with pizza sauce, then toppings of choice. Don't apply the cheese just yet. Bake at 450 for about 10-12 minutes, until the crust starts to turn golden, then apply the desired cheese and return to the oven for about 5 minutes.

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Okay, so here are my tips, brevity is not my gift.

The dough is super easy, and perfect if you have never made bread or kneaded something before. Here are some reference pictures. I have never had it fail, so don't be scared. I used to try and be neat when kneading by keeping the dough in a bowl; don't do this. You get better leverage if you knead on the counter, so it will get to the smooth/elastic stage quicker. If you have a food processor with a dough blade, this dough will come together in like a nanosecond.

This crust is good if you let it rise once; if you have time to let it rise twice, it's awesome. It becomes chewier, rather than just crispy. I'm sure you could throw it in the fridge if you want to make it a couple days ahead of time. Seriously, it's not fragile, so don't be scared. I like to brush the outer edge of the crust with butter and then sprinkle on some garlic salt for a special touch.

We have no need for 2 pizzas unless we have company, but I use this recipe to make 1 pizza and 1 batch of dough balls as I call them. I love bread sticks, they are the best part of take out pizza in my opinion, so I needed some kind of homemade answer to them in order to be satisfied with homemade pizza night. To make them, cut 1/2 of the above batch of dough into 24 equal sized pieces. Roll them into balls and place them in mini muffin tins that you have greased. Bake them for about 8 minutes in your 450 degree oven; you want them cooked through but really blond, not browned. Pour them into a bowl and toss them with butter, garlic salt, and Parmesan. They are the bomb!

Use pizza tins, cookie sheets, or pizza stones if that's your thing. Personally, I use these, pick them up at Walmart if you want to try them, I paid less than $10 a piece.

Toppings are the funnest part of making pizza. Some of my favorites are deli ham, black olives and canned artichoke hearts (water packed, well drained). I also make cheeseburger pizza, complete with dill pickles. Pizza can be a great way to use up leftovers. I made a BBQ pulled pork pizza with less than a serving of pulled pork, BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese and green peppers; my husband loved it. Salami and sliced green olives is yum. Pepperoni and green peppers is a great combo, I like to slice the green pepper into rings for an attractive presentation (somebody stop me, I'm turning into Martha). Canadian bacon or deli ham and pineapple is another classic. Someday soon, I will make a chicken/broccoli/Alfredo version; I have no doubt it will rock.

Hmm, did I miss anything? I've never really done the math, but homemade pizza is cheap, cheap, cheap! Often, the most expensive component for me is the black olives or artichokes, which are pretty much a must. If you're a Sam's shopper, they have pepperoni there, which freezes well. Mozzarella freezes fine when it's less than $2/lb of course, and I use tomato sauce rather than pizza sauce (what's the dif, really?).

Time wise this is a winner too. 10 minutes to knead the dough, then come back to it and spend the time it takes for your oven to preheat actually laying it out, and you're pretty much golden. Go open a beer!

Oh heavens, I almost forgot. This dough is perfect for making calzones too, I'm still drooling over one that had cubed ham, broccoli, and the motherlode of cheese in it. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes if that's what you're after.

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