Pizzamania: Prepare your own pie



Most of us don’t have access to an 800-degree pizza oven, but I’m guessing that most people reading this article are not in possession of a wood-burning pizza oven. The ability to be able to crank it up to 800° to crisp your crust in mere minutes is sure nice…we should all be so lucky. It is pretty easy to make great pizza at home in your regular oven!

Along with the right tools, you need some recipes.

First, a bit about the process:

Play with your food! Work out the method of making and shaping dough that works best for you. Whether you are a hands-on cook who likes to knead the dough by hand or one that leans towards the machine (a food processor makes great dough in no time), you have to make it fun or, odds are, you won’t make it at all. Practice twirling the dough in your own kitchen (if it falls to the floor, the only one who will see it is you), or use a rolling pin to achieve the perfect thickness. You can even buy dough from your favorite pizzeria and roll it out at home.

I adapted this dough recipe from one created by the proprietor of Phoenix’s popular Pizzeria Bianco, Chris Bianco. Many pizza cooks swear by Italian ‘00’ flour because of its silky texture and high TK. Bianco, however, uses regular all-purpose flour, which is much easier to find. Be sure to plan ahead to allow time for the dough to rise twice.

Pizza Your Way

Makes enough dough for 4 12-inch pizzas

  • 1 1/4-ounce envelope active dry yeast
  • 2  cups warm water (105 degrees to 115 degrees)
  • 5 – 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2  teaspoons fine sea salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for bowl
  • Desired toppings

1. This step can be done by hand or in the bowl of a stand mixer: Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in 3 cups flour and the salt, stirring until smooth. Stir in an additional 2 cups flour; continue adding flour (up to 1/2 cup), 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until dough comes away from bowl but is still sticky.

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead with floured hands, using a bench scraper or a large metal spatula to scrape the dough from the work surface. Knead until the dough is smooth, elastic and soft, but still a little tacky, about 10 minutes.

3. Shape dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat the ball with the oil. Cover with plastic, and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 2 hours.

4. Place a pizza stone on floor of gas oven or on the bottom rack of electric oven. Preheat oven to 500° for 1 hour.

5. Meanwhile, scrape dough out of the bowl onto floured surface, and cut it into 4 pieces. Shape into balls. Dust with flour, and cover with plastic. Let rest, 20 to 30 minutes, allowing dough to relax and almost double.

6. Holding top edge of 1 dough ball in both hands, let bottom edge touch work surface (refrigerate remaining balls as you work). Carefully move hands around edge to form a circle, as if turning a wheel. Hold dough on back of your hand, letting its weight stretch it into a 12-inch round. Don’t worry if the pizzas aren’t perfectly round—in fact, they will look much more appealing if they are not. Transfer dough to a lightly floured pizza peel (or an inverted baking sheet). Press out edges using your fingers. Jerk peel; if dough sticks, lift, and dust more flour underneath.

7. Arrange desired toppings on dough.

8. Heat oven to broil. Align edge of peel with edge of stone. Tilt peel, jerking it gently to move pizza. When edge of pizza touches stone, quickly pull back peel to transfer pizza to stone. (Do not move pizza.) Broil until bubbles begin to form in crust, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce temperature to 500 degrees, and bake until crust is crisp and golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes more. (If not using broiler, bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes total.) Remove pizza from oven using peel, and top with additional toppings if using. Slice and serve. Repeat with remaining dough and assorted toppings (each variation can be multiplied, depending on the number of pizzas you're making).

A few topping suggestions. Bake as directed above.

Pizza Margherita
The quintessential pizza named for Italy’s Queen Margherita, sports the colors of the Italian flag – simple tomato sauce, thinly sliced fresh mozzarella and fresh basil leaves. Drizzle the pizza with extra-virgin olive oil before baking.

Italian Sausage and Garlic
For each pizza, remove meat from one link of Italian sausage and crumble over a layer of tomato sauce. Scatter with 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves, crushed red pepper flakes and thinly sliced fresh mozzarella. 

Mushroom and Fontina
For each pizza, sauté 12-ounces coarsely chopped mushrooms of any kind in a bit of olive oil. Scatter mushrooms over a thin layer of tomato sauce, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon each of chopped thyme and scallions and top with 6 to 8 ounces grated Fontina cheese.

Fig, Proscuitto and Gorgonzola
Smear dough with olive oil and sprinkle with a handful of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese. Bake until almost cooked through. Drape with a few slices prosciutto and a handful of fresh figs cut into thin wedges and bake until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from oven and top with fresh arugula and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

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