Sunday, December 27, 2009

When the Moon Hits Your Eye: Easy & Delicious Homemade Pizza

I know it's been a while since I've posted much of anything on here. That's why I'm pulling out the big guns. I'm finally doing the pizza post.

Homemade pizza can be kind of iffy. When I was a kid, money was tight and pizza was a rare treat. So, from time to time, my mom would try her hand at making it herself. It just wasn't the same. My husband's experiences with homemade pizza have been similar in that it was always disappointing. Homemade pizza just couldn't come close to the pizzeria variety. That is, until I gave it a go.

I take no credit for this (I got the recipes from others - the dough from my neighbor, Lisa, and the sauce from America's Test Kitchen). My husband and I were both dubious, but it actually worked! Now, he says that this is his favorite pizza. Period. And I just so happened to win a family pizza-off (my sister-in-law had a friendly competition) a couple weeks ago. In fact, one of my brothers-in-law asked me that night how much I would charge if he wanted to order a pizza from me. I know I may seem like I'm tooting my own horn and all, but I'm just including all this to convince you that making delicious, cheap, better-than-delivery pizza is totally possible for any home cook!

One of the best parts of this recipe (besides the yummy end result, of course): it hardly costs anything to make. The dough is a simple combination of sugar, salt, yeast, flour, and water - basically pennies to make. The sauce costs about $1.50 for me to make (and that's a double-batch, so really it's like 75 cents per pizza. I know, I'm getting down to the nitty-gritty). The cheese is the most expensive part, but I buy mozzarella in bulk at Costco, so the cheese I use for the pizza is about a dollar's worth. The toppings add another two or so dollars. So, really, this pizza is even cheaper to make than those $5 Little Caesar's ones. And I'm totally convinced that my homemade pizza is healthier. Much healthier.

And just in case you're not convinced: this whole recipe (including baking time) only takes about 40-45 minutes to make.

Okay, okay. Enough with all the reasons to make this pizza. Here's the recipe and my method...

First, I start making the dough. In a medium bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Add 1 cup lukewarm water. After much practice and trial and error, I've learned that it is really important that the water not be too hot. Think a little cooler than bathwater. This will improve the stretchiness and consistency of the dough - whenever I use too-hot water, my dough is crappy and breaks when I stretch it out. Next, mix in 1 tablespoon of yeast. Let it sit for ten minutes.
While you're letting your yeast mixture get all bubbly, start making your pizza sauce. All you need is a 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes (I like the kind with basil), a few cloves of garlic (I always use at least three or four - I like my sauce garlicky!), extra-virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper. In a saucepan, heat a couple tablespoons or so of EVOO (I just eyeball it - just a few glugs around the pan) and add minced garlic. Cook until garlic sizzles (this will only take a minute). Add the entire can of crushed tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let it simmer and thicken for about 15 minutes. You'll only be using about half of this sauce - just freeze the rest for a future pizza.

Once the ten minute rest period is up, mix in three cups of all-purpose flour. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for five minutes, then let it sit for 15 minutes. While the dough is resting or rising or whatever it's doing, that's when I get my toppings ready. I shred the cheese in my food processor and I chop up my veggies. My favorite pizza toppings are from my garden in the summer - I make margherita pizzas with homegrown tomatoes and basil. Ridiculously good. When I don't have my garden produce, I usually stick with green bell pepper, onions, olives, and pepperoni (one thing I learned recently: buy your pepperoni fresh from the store deli instead of the prepackaged, shelf-stable bags. It's cheaper and there aren't all the nitrites and other preservatives). In the end, the best part is that you can do whatever you want! During this prep time, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Once the dough has rested for fifteen minutes, stretch it out into the size you want your pizza to be. Grease a pizza pan with cooking spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. If you're going to make homemade pizza regularly, I highly recommend using a pizza stone instead of a metal pan. They're not expensive and they really improve your pizza crust - here's the one I use. Once your dough is all stretched out and ready, top with sauce, cheese, and other toppings. Bake for 15 minutes (or until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly). Let the pizza rest for five minutes or so before cutting. Che buono!

What is your favorite kind of pizza? Do you like any weird toppings?


Lisa said...

I'm glad my recipe could help you in enjoying homemade pizza! I need to start doing it again. My pizza stone broke in two awhile back and I haven't had the heart to try pizza since. Guess it's time to start doing it again. BTW, I love all your blogs. It's so fun to read them.

Unknown said...

Instead of using a 28-oz can of Tomatoes, and freezing half, wouldn't it make more sense to just use a 14-oz can?

Heather said...

@E Colson -- The 28 oz. cans are a better deal usually than the 14 oz. ones when you look at the unit price. I just figured with as much as I use this recipe, why not have extra in the freezer? But, yeah, you could opt for a 14 oz. can, too. :)

Unknown said...

Would you be able to double the dough recipe to make 2 pizzas? And would it be possible to make a pizza ahead of time and bake it the next day?

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