It’s a simple fact: everybody loves pizza. Pizza is just delicious, and there’s not much more to say about it.
For some people, fast food pizza suffices- for the Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, and Dominos fans. For others, there’s that local joint that is the only acceptable option and serves the best- albeit simple- pies around. For still others, there is that pizza place that serves flatbreads, or pizzete, using Neapolitan style dough, traditionally prepared, with fancy topping options– fior del latte mozzarella, anyone?? For William and myself, all of these places will do. We don’t discriminate against pizzas, we love them all!
However, making a pizza at home is really something we do for a different reason. There is truly an artistry to making your own pizza, and there is added fun in that creative process.
It all starts with the dough. You baby this dough, let it rest for at least 48 hours to develop a rich, yeasty flavor. When I prepare the dough for pizza, it gets its own special treatment of toppings: brushed with strong olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, sometimes a bit of garlic powder or onion flakes. The crust of the pizza is often the first thing that touches your tongue when you’re eating it- so you’ve gotta make it good.
Then, the sauce. We do two variations: homemade pesto, and homemade tomato sauce. I know, it’s weird that I use the same tomato sauce on pizzas as I do for pastas, but it’s really flavorful and it’s thicker so you do not have the problem of all of your toppings sliding off the side of your pizza. Both options are great, but you’re only limited by your imagination. I know some people who don’t like any sauce at all, some who use olive oil- or even infused olive oil. This is a creative experience, so every person making a pizza can do their own thing with it. That is part of what makes it SO fun!
Next, the toppings!! Oh, the toppings! You have so many options, you can really put anything you want on a homemade pizza as long as you can find it at the store :). My standby is a nice Margherita. It’s traditional, but easy and satisfying. I use buffalo mozzarella, chopped cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil. William loves his salamis. He also enjoys putting minced, fresh garlic on top and placing it under the broiler for a bit.
There are a few tips I can give about toppings: avoid cheeses that are super soft or too creamy (like burrata) as they will melt all over the place and basically liquefy. Don’t put fresh herbs or greenery on the pizza while it is cooking, wait until after and treat it like a garnish, unless you want them wilted and limp. As for fresh tomatoes, if you wanted a roasted char, I suggest cooking them separately, you are unlikely to get that by simply placing them on the pizza in your standard, home oven. Usually, I place them on the pizza after cooking. Other than that, treat your dough like a canvas and place the toppings wherever you want! You can even try to make actual images out of it. This is a really fun meal and activity when you have a group of people (like your kid’s slumber party) and everyone wants something slightly different.
A note on tools: I am IN LOVE with my pizza stone, really. It is definitely one of the best kitchen purchases I have ever made (second to my favorite, rubber spatula). Get a good pizza stone. You know you want to. Just do it. I also have a pizza peel and a nice pizza cutter (we make pizza a lot….). They aren’t necessary but they’re fun to have. Also, make sure you have some parchment paper or wax paper on hand for this, especially if you’re going to be making several pizzas at a time. They are perfect as staging areas for a pizza to be made, and it’s super easy to flip the pizza over onto the pizza stone using the paper without damaging the shape of the crust.
Plan ahead. This dough can be made the day-of, but it isn’t as good. If I want pizza, and I want it now, I am going to go to the store and buy a pre-made dough, or just order take out. This amount of effort is usually reserved for a weekend dinner or special occasion. However, the dough recipe I use makes four servings, so William and I typically make a full recipe and have homemade pizzas two days later, and then enjoy homemade pizzas again in a week or two with the rest of the dough.
makes enough dough for 4, 12″ pizzas
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
5 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Any sauce and toppings you want!
Each pizza will take 2-3 tablespoons of sauce and 1/2 cup shredded cheese (3-4 ounces of sliced, buffalo mozzarella)
Begin by preheating the oven to 200° F. After it has preheated, turn it off and open the oven door.
Combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar in a glass container, stirring them together gently. Place the bowl in the warm oven and leave the oven door cracked. Let the yeast proof for about ten minutes.
While the yeast is proofing, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and proofed yeast to the bowl, folding everything together until it comes together in a large ball.
Next, divide the dough into four even pieces and place them in a large container. Coat them with olive oil and seal the container with plastic wrap. Place them in the refrigerator for 48 hours to finish rising.
After the dough has risen, you can make each individual pizza. Preheat the oven to 425° F, with the stone inside. After the oven has preheated, let the stone “cook” for ten to fifteen more minutes.
On a piece of parchment paper, flatten the dough into any shape you want (I’m into circles, William loves squares). For a thin crust pizza, you really need to get it super flat, so it might be bigger than 12″. The dough should be 1/4″ thick, as it will rise some in the oven. It should not be too sticky and it should be very elastic. Brush your crust with olive oil and sprinkle it with sea salt or kosher salt. If you would like to add crushed garlic or onion to add flavor to the crust, you can do this now.
Use the parchment paper to flip the dough onto the pizza stone. Cook it for five to ten minutes. It’s up to you how crisp you want your crust to be. It will not cook too much more with the sauce and toppings, so don’t worry about it burning!
Take the crust out of the oven. Add your sauce and the toppings you plan to cook.
Put the oven on broil and cook the pizza for another five minutes, watching it closely.
Add salt and pepper to the top along with any additional toppings you prefer. A sprinkle of truffle olive oil is great! Fresh basil and tomatoes are also delicious!
You can easily make these in succession if you’re having a party and everyone is making their own. We are able to do it without any issues with only one oven!