Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Homemade Pizza

I mentioned how much we like to make homemade pizza in an earlier blog. In fact, I am probably as crazy about pizza as I am about cookies. A good pizza makes me a happy camper indeed. I would take it over a steak any day(it's that whole no carb left behind thing again...) !I am from NY, upstate, but still...the pizza there is no slouch. Family-owned Joe's Pizza in tiny Rotterdam , NY makes some of the best pizza I have yet to eat anywhere. Growing up we would even argue over which style to get. My mom and I preferred the round pies with the very thin center and pillowy crust (which we would then fight over), while my dad and brother seemed to like the tray pizza, which was rectangular and evenly thick everywhere. The ratio of bread to toppings is then way off in my opinion. I am not sure which my sister preferred. After moving to California I developed even more reverence for well made pizza, because when I first moved there in the mid 80's there wasn't much good pizza to be found there. That was about the time Wolfgang Puck started the whole California pizza craze, but it didn't really impact the mainstream pizzerias, of which there were far too many non-descript chains. However, over the years I was able to find a couple worthy makers, including Peppino's in Mission Viejo and The Pizza Bakery in Newport Beach. In the meantime I started trying to perfect my own homemade pizza. Up until then I wasn't a fan of homemade pizza at all. It was usually very bread-y with over-cooked toppings and undercooked dough. Gross! One thingI learned is that the dough has to hit something very hot when it goes into the oven (in the summer I put my pizza stones on my grill grates and heat them up. The very shallow space inside really mimics a pizza oven nicely...more on that another time). So I gradually began playing around and came up with a dough I love:

Pizza Dough
1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp honey
1 1/4 c. warmish water
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1.Combine yeast, honey and water in a measuring cup and stir to mix. After about 5 minutes mixture should look foamy.
2. In bowl of food processor fitted with metal blade, place flour and salt. Pulse to mix.
3. While pulsing the processor pour water- yeast mixture and 2 Tbsp. olive oil into flour mixture. Pulse in short bursts until you get a smooth soft dough that is moist but not sticky. You may need to add a little more flour, about 1 Tbsp at a time, pulsing machine between additions until proper consistency is reached.
4. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and knead briefly (it really isn't very important here in my experience). Divide dough into 4 or 5 even pieces. Form each piece into a smooth ball and place on a parchment -lined baking sheet brushed with olive oil (turn balls to coat evenly). Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge. I like my dough to develop slowly so I let it rise 24 hours in the fridge. You can leave it out on the counter and let it rise in an hour or 2 depending on how warm it is, if you prefer.
5. I let it rise only once. Once it is risen I make sure my oven is preheated to 475 for at least 30 minutes. I alternate using pizza stones (place in oven while pre-heating) or upside down heavy duty half sheet pans (place in oven 5 minutes prior to baking pizzas).

From here it is no longer a recipe per se. At this point I have all my toppings ready and I dip each dough ball into flour and place them on a piece of parchment paper. They are very easy to stretch and manipulate now. Even my kids and their friends have gotten quite adept at it. I like mine thin in the center and pillowy on the outside. When it comes to sauce less is more. Too much sauce just makes the crust soggy in my opinion. A restrained amount adds the flavor but allows the bottom crust to crisp up. My favorite topping is either fresh tomatoes and onions or no sauce, spinach leaves, mozzarella and blobs of ricotta bianca! Your own imagination is the limit. Just use a light touch. The great part here is that because of the parchment (which I trim to be the size of the individual pies), I don't need to be adept with a pizza peel. I use a rimless baking sheet to slide my little pizzas right onto the stone in the oven and can remove them about 10 minutes later with a pair of tongs! It is really fun to watch the dough blister up and turn golden brown. Everyone loves creating their own magical combination of ingredients, too. It takes a little time to prepare everything, but the actual work is rather minimal. The reward, however, is extremely high. I was thinking I had nearly mastered the art of homemade pizza. However, I recently came across the A16 cookbook and they wax poetic about imported "00" flour from Italy and this really simple no cook tomato sauce that I now think I will have some more experimenting to do in the near future!


  1. yummy. I love the Greek pizza we made at work and then cooked on the grill!! olive oil and garlic sauce, fresh onions, thinly sliced (or diced!) tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta cheese and oregano...and of course the mozz....placed directly on the grill! I miss working and playing with you! infact, I just miss you!-(

  2. I love artisan pizzas with that blistery look from the wood oven, not to mention the little ashy taste they have. Homemade pizza is wonderful and grilled pizza scrumptious!