Pizza is one of my favorite foods. But take out pizza is expensive and hit-or-miss on quality, and frozen pizza tastes like eating the box. What is one to do? Make your own!
For a long time I avoided making anything involving dough because of the long wait times while things rise, then rise again. I didn’t want to spend hours rising dough and all day to make a pizza! I finally found some recipes online with short rise times, and after some experimentation and adapting to my taste, I found a combination that I like. Making a fresh homemade pizza for dinner isn’t a long chore any more, and it’s delicious and made exactly the way you want it.
It starts out with yeast. You can use any kind of quick- or rapid-rise instant yeast, but I’ve had no luck with the yeast that comes in a packet, so I buy the kind that comes in a glass jar and keep it in the freezer until its needed. I use bread machine yeast for this recipe, because it’s usually what I have on hand, and I find it works well for just about any recipe, machine or not. The yeast goes into a bowl with sugar for fuel and warm water to wake it up. I warm the water in the microwave for 30 seconds. Don’t make it too hot, or it will kill the yeast. At this point you should also turn your oven up to 450 degrees to preheat.
Gently mix the yeast so that the sugar dissolves and leave it to sit for 10 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when your yeast mixture is foamy. If it doesn’t foam, throw it away and start again with fresh yeast.
Next up the dry ingredients. While you’re waiting for your yeast to foam up, get a bowl big enough for your final dough and add your dry ingredients. This is where you can get really creative and make the crust your own. The base is flour, garlic powder and salt, but I also add onion powder. I’ve also made it with parsley flakes, but you can add dried basil, oregano, italian seasoning, or any other herb you like to this. Even some grated parmesan if you like. Just be careful with the amounts. You don’t want to add more than a teaspoon or so to the dough of anything you add. You can use any flour here you prefer. I use all-purpose, but you could also use bread flour or whole wheat, or even a gluten-free flour.
We also want to add some oil to this, but I don’t like dumping it into all that flour and then adding the wet yeast mixture, so I just put the oil into the yeast mixture before dumping it into the flour.
Now mix everything together to form a dough. You can use a spoon, and if you have a stand mixer this might be even better. I have one, but I tend to just use my hands to mix everything. I may try the stand mixture and a hook next time. The dough can be sticky, and I find it’s even more so when the weather is very humid, as it has been here lately. My dough this time was pretty sticky, but that won’t hurt anything. Once you have everything mixed together, set the bowl aside and let it rise. I usually rise mine for 10 minutes, then turn the dough over and rise another 10 minutes, to help get rid of some of the stickiness.
While your dough is rising, it’s time to prepare your pizza pan. If you have a pizza stone, awesome! But I don’t, so I use a 16″ aluminum pizza pan. If your pan is smaller you can break the dough up into smaller pieces, or make a thicker crust. You will probably have to cook it a bit longer if it’s thicker. You can probably also set some aside and use it for making bread or rolls. I’m one of those people that usually won’t eat my pizza crust, but give it to my dogs as a treat. But this crust I end up eating. I like to dip it in bleu cheese dressing. Yum! To prepare your pan, grease it with a solid fat of some kind. I use butter. Just run it around the pan, then dust the pan with a little corn meal. This will help keep your crust from sticking to the pan, and help it to cook better on the bottom.
When your dough is finished rising, spread it out on your prepared pan. I put a little oil on my hands to help stop the dough from sticking to them as I’m spreading it. Spread it to the thickness you prefer, and leave a rim around the outside edge.
The next step is to pre-bake the dough. I do this because once the toppings are on it doesn’t take long to cook them, and usually the dough isn’t quite done yet. Bake your crust for 10-15 minutes, until the dough has dried and just begun to brown a bit.
While the dough is baking, time to grate up your cheese. Every pizza has a base of mozarella to start with. I don’t buy that pre-grated dried up stuff that doesn’t taste like cheese. Take the extra time to buy a block or chunk of mozarella and grate it yourself. It will be much fresher and tastier.
Next is the sauce. I admit, I use a jarred sauce for my pizza only because I haven’t yet found a pizza sauce recipe that I like. When I do, I’ll use that. If you know of a good one, feel free to let me know in the comments.
You can use as much or as little sauce as you like, and you can use something other than traditional tomato sauce here. You can use a white sauce, like alfredo, or even no sauce if you prefer. Now add your grated cheese.
At this point you can get creative again! Put anything you like on top of this pizza. Pepperoni, onions, mushrooms, olives, sausage, chicken, whatever you like. I’m making this one a 4-cheese and half pepperoni pizza, because I don’t like pepperoni but my husband does. I added cheddar, asiago, and romano cheese to my mozarella.
I also like to add a drizzle of olive oil over the cheeses. This helps the cheese stay moist as it cooks. I don’t like my cheese dry or browned, and usually it will get that way in the time it takes to cook the pepperoni.
Now cook your pizza. This can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven, the thickness and moisture of your dough, and the toppings on it. Just cook it until the crust and toppings are at your desired level of doneness. I cooked mine for 15 minutes, but it probably could have gone for another couple of minutes. The longer you cook it the crispier your crust will get.
Slice it up any way you like and enjoy. I have leftovers for lunch. Yum!
1 packet or 2 1/4 teaspoons of rapid-rise or instant yeast
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 cup of warm water (105-110 degrees F)
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons of any other dried herb or spice desired
2 tablespoons oil
Butter or other solid fat for greasing pan
Corn meal for dusting pan
1 cup or 1/2 jar of pizza sauce, alfredo sauce, or other sauce as desired
1/2 pound of mozarella cheese
Other cheeses as desired for topping
Other toppings as desired
Add yeast, sugar, and water to a bowl. Mix gently to dissolve sugar, then let stand 10 minutes or until foamy. In another bowl, combine flour, salt, and herbs. When yeast is ready, add olive oil to yeast mixture and pour into dry ingredients. Mix well into a dough. Let stand to rise 20 minutes, turning the dough over half way through.
Grease a pizza pan with a solid fat, then dust lightly with corn meal. Spread the risen dough on the pan and bake for 10 minutes or until crust is dry and lightly browned. Top with sauce, cheese, and other toppings as desired. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-20 minutes or until cheese is melted, toppings done, and crust at desired crispiness. Slice as desired and eat. Makes one 16″ pizza.