How to Make Pizza at Home
Why Would You Ever Want to Make Your Own Pizza?
The idea of making pizza at home might strike some people as bizarre. Why, when a pizza is only a phone call away, would you spend time in the kitchen kneading dough and cooking sauces?
I hadn't actually made it myself for years. Lately, however, my organic vegetable box farmer made me do it again. I don't know whether it is the season for it, but almost every week I receive an overwhelming amount of fresh spinach from him. I got bored of cannelloni, and suddenly craved goat cheese and spinach pizza! The only solution was to make it myself!
Pizza Dough, the No-Knead Method
There is nothing particularly hard about making pizza. It originated in Italy, as food for the poor. Probably it started life as cheese and tomato on bread. This is not a recipe that requires complicated culinary techniques.
Having said that, if you've never baked bread, making the base can seem daunting at first. I have recently become an enthusiastic convert to the no knead technique for making bread. I don't take the dough out of the bowl until I am ready to roll it out!
Until recently the general belief was that you needed to knead the bread for about 10 minutes to activate the gluten. However, it turns out that gluten is activated when flour is hydrated with water, it just takes a bit longer. Now my method for making bread, or pizza dough, is to mix the flour, water and yeast, and leave it to do its own thing. It is amazingly effective.
If you don't believe it can be so simple, just watch the video below. Of course if you have a bread machine, you might want to use it to do the kneading and rising for you.
My Pizza Dough Method
I have to admit that lately I have bought onion bread mix for my pizzas. I really like the extra onion flavour with spinach and goat cheese. Ciabatta mix is also reported to make excellent base.
I actually use a fork to mix in the water. I also find that mixing is a lot easier if I do it in two goes. Initially I add the water to the dry ingredients and roughly mix everything together. I then leave it for about 15 minutes, and then mix again until all the water is incorporated.
Once you have a homogeneous dough, cover the bowl and leave it to proof for 8-12 hours. The long proofing time results in really good, yeasty, elastic dough. When rolling the dough out I use olive oil just as shown in the video. It really helps to roll out a thin base.
Below are the ingredients for basic yeast dough, if you'd rather make it from scratch.
Ingredients for the Dough
- 2 cups bread flour, strong high gluten
- 3/4 cups water, warm but not hot
- 1 tsp dry yeast
- 1-1.5 tsp salt
Freezing Pizza Dough
Pizza dough freezes very well. This is a real advantage to the home made pizza aficionado. Whenever I mix a 1 pound batch of bread mix, once the dough has risen, I divide it into three balls, and freeze two of them in ziploc bags. The next time I want to eat pizza, it is very easy and quick.
I just defrost the dough, roll it out, cover it with toppings and stick it in the oven. Two times out of three I can eat home made pizza with minimum fuss.
I have also tried freezing the rolled out base, which also works well and cuts down on the defrosting time, however it is more difficult to store it in the freezer.
Home Made Pizza Toppings
Lately I've been eating my pizzas "white" without a tomato base. I just wilt spinach with some olive oil and garlic for a few minutes. i then use it top the dough, season it well with salt and pepper and cover it with slices of goat cheese or mozzarella (the goat cheese is nicer in my opinion). I might add a few other ingredients, like onion slices or pine nuts if the mood strikes me.
Last week I didn't find spinach in my vegetable box. Instead there was a big bag of swiss chard. I've never eaten this before, but I prepared a pizza with it, treating it exactly the way I treat spinach, and it worked very well.
To make a tomato based sauce, you can cook canned tomatoes with some garlic and herbs. Or you can be really lazy and spread some passata, an Italian ingredient that is raw blended and sieved tomatoes.
A very simple topping consists of just tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil. This gives you the classical Pizza Margherita, in the colours of the Italian flag.
You can of course add other ingredients, grilled chicken, pepperoni, anchovies and olives, the possiblities are endless. But use the sauce sparingly, don't drown the dough in buckets of the red stuff. Equally it is important not to pile a whole variety of toppings on your pizza, choose a few good products that go well together.
If you want to cook like the pros put more sauce towards the edges of the pie, since they cook faster than the centre.
I always preheat the oven to its highest setting (probably 500F), and bake the pizza for around 12 minutes, until I can see the cheese happily bubbling.