I’ve been making pizza at home for years. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I bought a frozen pizza or ordered take-out. Sure, occasionally I’ll go out for pizza too, I can’t help it…it’s everyone’s favorite food after all! But making your own pizza from scratch is the best—really entertaining and delicious. It’s also a great way to turn a casual dinner party into a killer shindig.
The key to a good pizza is the crust, so here are a few things about making bread to get you started. It’s pretty simple but still requires a bit of practice, so don’t be bummed out if your first attempt isn’t perfect–there’s no such thing. My pies are never uniform or round and they’re always a little bit different each time.
Only practice will let you get the feel for what you like because so much in this type of baking is tactile. It requires you to get your hands in there and touch the dough. If it is wet and sticking to your hands or the work surface, you’ll need more flour.
This recipe isn’t exact, and I’m one of the guys who always says baking generally requires precision. It’s like a science. But making bread is different. The type of flour you use and the humidity of your kitchen will make a difference. I recommend having an extra 1/2 cup of flour at your immediate disposal for the kneading. You might need more or it’s possible that you might need less. On the show I was using all purpose whole wheat flour but I think it’s easiest to start off using all purpose white flour if you are a first timer.
Another thing that really helps me out is the use of a pizza stone. Rather than spending cash and buying one, I hit my local hardware store and made my own. Unglazed quarry tiles are what you are looking for–something with no lead or dye in it. I’ve used Saltillo tiles and think they work really well, but they tend to crack easily.
Whether you invest in a stone or go for quarry tiles, you want to have a flat surface to cook your pies on. Using the racks in the oven isn’t always a great idea, so if I don’t have a stone I usually invert a sheet pan (or use a cookie sheet) and place it on the racks. To slide your pizza on and off its flat cooking surface, you’ll want to invest in a pizza peel–my “paddle” from the video. It’ll help you slide the dough on and off. Using another inverted sheet pan works as a great substitute.
Enjoy the process. Have fun with this recipe, it’s just pizza in the end!
1 packet of active dry yeast (2.25 tsp)
3/4 C warm water (about 100 degrees, not HOT though coz anything over 120 will kill the yeast)
1 tsp honey
1.5 C flour + an extra 1/2 C for kneading and dusting
1 TBS salt
1 TBS olive Oil
Preheat your oven to 450° Fahrenheit for at least 30 minutes prior to baking.
The first thing we’re going to do is proof the yeast, especially when you’re not sure of the age of your yeast. Place the yeast in a bowl and pour warm water on top. Add a tsp of honey to the mixture. I use my fingers for the mixing by rubbing the granules of yeast until they dissolve. Let this sit for ten minutes. If the yeast is alive and active, you’ll get a foamy, bubbly looking surface. If nothing happens, the yeast is dead and you’ll need some new yeast.
If you know that you’ve got good yeast, there’s no need to proof it. Skip the honey and water trick and just add the dry yeast directly into your flour and salt. If you’ve proofed the yeast in water, go ahead and add the wet yeasty water to a bowl and add the flour in 3 or 4 stages by combining with your hands as you go. When all of the flour is incorporated add the salt and olive oil. Bring it all together and get ready to work it.
Spread a little flour on a flat work surface. I use a slab of marble. Then gather up your dough. Push on the dough with the heel of your palm and get a nice rhythm going. Knead it for five minutes, adding flour as you go to keep it from sticking to your hands or the work surface.
After five minutes you’ll need to let the dough rest for a good 1 to 2 hours. Dust the ball of dough with flour or rub it with some olive oil. Then put it in a bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and drop a lightly dampened tea towel on top. Put the bowl in a warm, draft free place and let it sit for at least an hour. It will more than double in size. Punch the dough down to deflate it. Then cut it in half.
Flour your pizza peel or sheet pan and start flattening and pressing the dough into your desired shape. You can use a rolling pin for this, but I prefer to use my hands and fingers because they give the pie more texture. I usually go for some sort of amoeba shaped pizza myself, but occasionally I’ll go rectangular.
When you’ve got the shape you want, drizzle on a little olive oil and top with your favorite ingredients. Less is more is my motto when it comes to pizzas, so don’t go crazy. On the show I did a pizza with fresh pears, arugula, goat cheese, blue cheese, and walnuts. I also made a Margherita of mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, and fresh basil. One classic and one funky, but both are amazing.
Slide the pie on the stone in the oven. If you’re not using a stone, you can just pop in the sheet pan. Definitely check the pie after 7 minutes, but it will probably need about 10 to be fully done. Cook until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly. Cut it up, let it cool, and dive in.