Mine came from a long line of pizza makers. My dad was one of those quintessential pizza boys tossing dough in the air back when such pizzerias existed. He taught me a thing or two on how to take simple ingredients and make it into a really good pizza. Making your own pizza has plenty of benefits, and the best one is this pizza is actually healthier than anything you can possibly order or even get frozen from the grocery store. Even more so if you use whole wheat flour to make your dough with, but this is pizza… Who’s counting calories anyway!? With that said, I thought I’d share what I know about making good pizza
First let me start off by saying I am no chef by any means. I have never been formally trained in cooking, however I do know how to make a few dishes well, and this is one of them. I use jiffy pizza crust mix because it is a cheap, easy and quick method for pizza crust. If you prepare it right, Its actually pretty good! There are many good recipes for home made pizza dough, but I’m a mom and for simplicity’s sake I just use what’s easy. Besides, the home made pizza sauce is the most important ingredient anyway. Then there’s the toppings.. Traditionally, really good pizza is not suposed to have alot of stuff all over it. This weighs the crust down and makes it all limp and soggy when you pick it up to eat. I like to keep mine simple with pepperoni or just plain cheese.
First, I start with making the pizza crust because you have to allow extra time for the dough to rise. I empty the contents of the package into a bowl by passing it through a pasta strainer (or you can use a sieve – (I just don’t own one). This is an important step because the jiffy mix tends to clump up if you don’t make it fine.
This is what it should look like once it’s all sifted.
Then I add the 1/2 cup of warm water that the instructions call for. I measure out filtered water in a bowl and microwave it for about 20 seconds. The water needs to feel like warm bathwater that is comfortable to the touch – If it makes you say ouch, then it’s probably too hot.
Mix it all up until you get a sticky, pasty ball like this. You might be wondering at this point how this sticky soft bowl of goop will turn into pizza dough. Keep mixing…
Add a good handful of flour and get your hands in it. Cover it, set aside and allow 20-30 min for it to rise.
This is the time to begin pre-heating the oven. I bake mine at 500F, so it takes awhile for the oven to get to that temperature, so I start early. Another reason to make sure to have the oven well heated before the pizza is assembled is because the dough will get soggy if it sits with the sauce on it for too long. Why so hot you ask? Because the secret to crispy, delicious pizzeria style pizza is to cook it hot and fast – like they do at the pizzeria in those giant wide ovens or wood burning ovens that are built into the wall. To be quite honest, 500 degrees is probably not hot enough, but most people only have conventional ovens.
This is usually found in the ethnic section of the grocery store and they are made by Cento or Pastene. If you can’t find it at your grocery store, try either a higher end grocer or an italian grocery shop and they will surely have it. Bonus points for finding ones that specifically say ‘product of italy’ on the front of the can like the above, but its fine if you don’t. These tomatoes are naturally sweeter, and it will help you make a more authentic pizza unlike anything you will get from your local pizza hut or dominos. 1 large can can cost up to 4 or 5$, but it yields alot and can be frozen in containers for later use. Here’s the ancient
chinese italian secret: Blend up the entire contents of the can in the blender or use a handheld immersion blender. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp of oregano, a dash of pepper and break up 2 fresh basil leaves. Mix it all up and Ta-Da! Simple, delicious preservative free pizza sauce. I always freeze these in small containers for one time uses, so my can of expensive italian tomatoes don’t go to waste!
Next, I slice the cheese – I used fresh mozzarella just to be fancy for the sake of this post, but most of the time I just use regular store brand mozzarella cheese and I shred it myself.
And I got my pepperoni ready too..
Now its time to check on that rising dough…
And it seems to have puffed up nicely! Next I prepare the pan I will cook the dough in. I use a large black pan, and trow a light dusting of cornmeal across it. Not too much, or you will have a grainy, unpleasant texture when eating it!
Now it’s time to shape that dough into a pizza crust. Start by throwing a small handful of all purpose flour down on your workspace and work the ball into a small dough ball. It will be sticky, so add a few small handfuls of flour as needed.
After you shaped the dough it into a more solid small dough ball, start off by pressing in the middle with your fingers and pushing outwards to shape it into a pizza crust. Be careful not to make holes, and try to be as even as possible all around. It is best to try and make your dough thin, so it cooks crispy.
Now we are at the tricky part! Once you are done shaping it as thin as you can without making holes, you must quickly get it over to the cooking pan. I say quickly because the longer you hold the dough in your hands, it will tear and make giant gaping holes. Get your hand under the crust by flipping one side over and then back again. It’s always best to make a fist or use the sides of your forearms as opposed to your fingers for picking up uncooked dough.
Whew. I managed to get it over without any holes. The hard part is done! Cover and let it rise again for 5 minutes. This is the secret to a flakier crust.
Now it’s time to assemble with your favorite toppings!
Now pop it in the oven at 500F for about 8 min. Watch closely!
See JP’s reflection? He was so excited to get to make pizza with his mama!
After 8 minutes, pull it out. The cheese on top may be a little white still, so It’s time to broil it. Switch your oven over to broil and pop it back under there
Ahh. That’s more like it! Let it cool and drizzle a little olive oil over the top..
Now relax and enjoy…