(This is an edited re-post from my old ranum.com site)
Most people don’t realize how gosh-darned easy it is to make pizza dough. So they go buy something from the supermarket that’s made of plastic, wrapped in plastic, and intended to be covered in plastic. Let me give you some advice:
Don’t Do It.
Make your own. It’s easy. Take a little bit less than a cup of lukewarm water. It should be just slightly warm to the touch. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar or – if you’re into pretending that “natural” carbohydrates are somehow better than processed ones – 2 tablespoons of honey. Add 1 teaspoon of yeast. Use the red star or Fleischman’s stuff or whatever. Stir. Let the water sit about 5 or 10 minutes until the yeast begins to “bloom” and foam. Pour it into a bowl, add 1/4 cup of virgin olive oil, and then add flour until it gets doughy. Knead it until it becomes smooth and slick. Congratulations! Was that hard?
Now, put the dough in a large bowl, add a little olive oil, and roll it around until it coats the surface of your dough-ball to keep it from drying out. Put a towel over it and leave it someplace warm (oven with pilot light is nice!) to rise for an hour or two. Take it out, moosh it down gently, cut it in half, and wrap half in plastic: put it in your freezer (or make 2 pizzas) (or throw it away) (or make Xmas tree ornaments out of it). You can reconstitute the frozen dough by thawing it in a microwave and letting it rise for 2 hr; it seems to work fine but is a bit crispier the second time around. Or roll it out, paint it with garlic, cheese, oil, and cook it and call it “garlic bread” and serve it with your pizza.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll it into a pizza shape. I use a bottle or a jar or floured rolling pin. Put it on a tray. Heat your oven to max. Prepare to put toppings on your pizza.
I had a long wait for a train in NYC once, and so I got to know the fellow who was throwing pizza dough at a pizzeria across the street (I also sampled the pizza!) I was curious how one learns the art of throwing the dough, and he explained it: “You get hired and your job is to throw the dough. So you watch someone do it, then make a batch of dough and just keep trying until you get it. The trick is to use dough that you’re OK with dropping on the floor a couple times.” Oh. Right. Learn under safe and controlled conditions!
Hand-paint a thin layer of olive oil on the surface of the dough, add toppings, cheese, and put it in the oven. Your oven should be around 500 degrees F(260C) . Some people like to use a pizza stone (leave it in the oven and preheat it to 500, then slide the pizza off using a “peel”) others use a plain baking tray, and others use a pizza tray with little holes in it. I have used all of them and I don’t see/taste much difference through the awesomeness.
The rest should come naturally.
But, since I’ve now saved you from the eternal damnation of corporate pizza, why don’t you take the next step and completely throw off the shackles? Put down those tomatoes or that canned spaghetti sauce you were about to put on your new pizza and get creative!!!
Consider these as possible toppings (they are favorites of mine):
- Instead of “red sauce” coat the pizza with a thin layer of basil pesto, top with black kalamata olives, knobs of garlic, and prosciutto
- Don’t use any sauce at all, top with scallops, knobs of garlic, and thin-cut curls of crispy red pepper, with ground black pepper dusted over it
- Top with spinach, toasted almond slices and balsamic vinegar, garlic, and shiitake mushrooms
- Top with smoked salmon, capers, and garlic
- Top with shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, and slices of red pepper
- Top with fresh basil, black olives, and chorizo sausage
- Try some spicy chili, thinly spread, cooked under cheddar cheese
- Don’t put olive oil on it after you’ve rolled it out; put Nutella; serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, with powdered sugar dusted over it as dessert
Experiment with different cheeses – buffalo mozarella is different from the part-skim stuff you get at the store. So is swiss cheese and ham on a pizza…
I believe pizza is an incredibly sophisticated food.* I used to spend a lot of time planning how I would put chunks of garlic next to individual shrimps. I found myself constructing each bite in advance. You can create symphonies of flavors and arpeggios of textures – consider what a piece of crispy red pepper will feel like in your mouth at the same time as some crunchy crust and a big garlic-soaked chunk of shiitake mushroom!! I used to create pizza for feeling, taste, and scent simultaneously. Compare that to the gooey slab of oil-laden cardboard, red sauce and cheap fatty cheese you get from the carryout joint.
(* Is pizza an “open face sandwich”?)