How to Prepare and Cook Your Homemade Pizza
In a previous hub, I detailed a recipe for An Excellent Homemade Pizza Dough. This hub assumes you have made your dough (if you used a different recipe, it’s OK to keep reading!) and are ready to put the pizza together. It's time to make homemade pizza.
Take your dough out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 45 - 60 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured large cutting board or the counter. Use your hand to press down the dough down and begin to press and stretch it out into a large circle. A video example may help you refine your technique.
COOKING HOMEMADE PIZZA
The pizza can be cooked on one of several items, such as a pizza stone, a screen or a pan. I have had good luck with the Wilton pan. The most authentic way is to use a pizza peel (a wooden paddle) to transfer the pizza to a pizza stone that’s preheated in the oven (or to a wood-fired oven, which most of us don’t have at home!). Transfer the dough to your pan or screen and quickly finish prepping your pizza. Be sure to prepare your sauce, cheese and toppings before you stretch out the pizza dough.
I’ve used three different approaches for homemade pizza sauce; all are simple and delicious.
Option one is to use fresh Roma (plum) tomatoes or an heirloom tomato variety. Use 4 medium tomatoes. Deseed, roughly chop, and then use an immersion blender until reaching a sauce-like consistency. Lightly season with a pinch of sugar and salt, black pepper and some oregano or basil.
Option two is to use canned Italian plum tomatoes. They should be whole tomatoes, peeled and canned in Italy. Drain the juice (or save for something else) and again use an immersion blender to turn them into sauce.
Option three is to use pesto as your sauce. Use your favorite pesto recipe, but don’t be afraid to experiment. Spinach and/or arugula pesto are interesting alternatives to basil.
When you spread the sauce, it may be quicker, easier and more fun to use your hands. Do it quickly and keep the sauce thickness fairly thin. If it’s too thick, you may end up with a soggy crust.
Use fresh mozzarella; as fresh as possible. The authentic choice is fresh Bufala mozzarella, but it may be difficult to track down. Our household is vegan and we use Daiya vegan "cheese," mozzarella-style. Don’t overdo the cheese. Let a fair amount of the sauce show through.
Choose your own, but remember that less is more. You don’t want to weight down the pizza or hide the flavor of the cheese, sauce and crust. If at all possible, use some fresh basil. Mushrooms and kalamata olives are great topping choices for the pesto pie.
PIZZA COOKING TIME
This is a critical step in producing great pizza. You want to maximize the heat, which will shorten the cooking time. I use a gas grill and crank it up all the way for 20 - 30 minutes ahead of time. If you can get the temp to 600 or higher, you are doing well. I have a pizza stone on the grill (heat it up with the grill) and place the pan on top of the stone. Put the pizza on the grill quickly! Every second the grill top is open, the grill loses a lot of heat. Cooking on the grill takes around 7 - 8 minutes. Some black on the bottom of the crust is fine, but a minute too long can burn the entire crust. I usually turn the pan after 3-4 minutes as the grill heat is sometimes uneven.
Oven cooking will also produce a nice pizza, though the texture of the crust will be a little different. Preheat the oven to maximum (500). Cooking time should be about 12 minutes.
You’re done! I’ve found that each pizza turns out a little different due to different factors such as how long the dough has risen, cooking temperature and time, etc., but every one has been delicious.
© 2011 chet thomas
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