Homemade pizza is one of my favorite meals to make – it’s very easy, if you can get over making the dough ahead of time. And done well, it will impress your friends. With the right toppings, is there anyone who doesn‘t like pizza? I make it almost once a week for my family, my mom insists I make it whenever she visits, and I’ve even made it for a party appetizer, cut up into small, irregular shapes.
Here is the technique I’ve settled on – this post is longer than normal due to the doughy details I’ve included.
There is some special equipment that isn’t absolutely necessary, but does help:
a pizza stone – when pre-heated, this helps give you an exceptionally crispy crust. If you don’t have one, use a cookie sheet that has sides, flipped over.
a pizza peel – this is a wooden paddle that you use to slip your pizza in and out of your screaming hot oven. Use another cookie sheet flipped over if you are lacking.
a wood-fired pizza oven – just kidding, but I dream of owning one someday. (Check out these incredibly cool beehive ovens)
Here’s my recipe, technique to follow. Of course, any fixins’ you love will make a great pizza. Here are additional topping combos that are also delicious. I typically use mozzarella, mixed with another cheese with more flavor, like fontina or asiago, and I rarely use tomato sauce:
caramelized onions, pancetta
roasted red peppers, green olives
spinach, mushrooms, artichokes
onions, kale, potatos (saute first)
caramelized onions, figs, goat cheese
roasted chicken, red/yellow peppers, onion, cilantro, barbecue sauce
Basic Pizza Dough
1 cup warm water
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 T honey
3 T olive oil
1 tsp salt
3 cups unbleached flour
Truffled Onion Topping
olive oil for sauteing
2 red onions, chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp thyme
8 good-sized cremini or baby bella mushrooms
drizzle of balsamic vinegar or squeeze of lemon juice
big handful chopped spinach
salt to taste
8 oz truffle cheese, grated
4 oz mozzarella cheese, grated
olive oil and salt for crust
1) Dissolve yeast and honey in 1 cup warm water, let sit until foamy. Ideal temperature is about 110 degrees. It should feel like a nice bath – not too hot, not too cool.
2) Whisk together salt and flour, add yeast liquid and olive oil. Knead by hand or in stand mixer with dough hook until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Add more flour as necessary until dough is tacky, but pulls away from sides of bowl and forms a nice ball.
3) Cover and let rise in warm place for about an hour. You can make this the night before and store in the fridge, just bring it to room temperature before rolling, otherwise it won’t cooperate.
4) Preheat your oven to 500 degrees, with your pizza stone inside. Preheat for a minimum of 20 minutes. If you’re using a cookie sheet, you may not want to use this high of a temperature, unless you have a really heavy duty one that will not warp. I would only put the cookie sheet in to preheat for a few minutes, just long enough to get it hot.
5) Prep your toppings. For this particular pizza, saute the onions in olive oil along with the sugar, thyme, and a little salt until they are soft and translucent (about 10 minutes). If you have the time, let them cook on low for a longer period of time to caramelize. Add chopped mushrooms, and cook for 3-5 minutes until they release their liquid. Turn heat to high and add chopped spinach, cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar or lemon juice, and salt to taste.
6) Rolling out the dough: I’m a proponent of hand-stretching, but if you can’t manage without a rolling pin, don’t sweat it. I typically coat my hands and my surface with olive oil instead of flour to prevent sticking. If you want to try stretching it out (and if you kneaded your dough well, it should stretch readily), an easy way to get it started is to flip over a large mixing bowl, and use that as a form to stretch it out. This will get it about 3/4 of the way, then you can lay it out and pat it the rest of the way there with your fingers. Stretch it as thin as you can, leaving it slightly thicker along the edge. If you like a thin, cracker crisp crust, roll it out when you are ready to top it and cook. If you like a thicker, softer crust, still roll it out thin, but do it before you prep your toppings. Let the rolled out pie sit on the pizza peel on top of your oven while it preheats – it will rise again and give you a light, soft crust with crisp bottom.
7) Lay the rolled out crust on top of parchment paper, on top of your pizza peel. Brush on some olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of kosher or sea salt. Sprinkle on 3/4 of your cheese. Distribute onion mushroom topping, and then finish with your remaining cheese.
8) I never had luck getting my loaded pizza into the oven just using a bit of cornmeal on my pizza peel, so this parchment paper trick is invaluable to me. Pick up your peel, slide out your oven rack with your stone, and then simply slide the pizza and the parchment paper onto the stone. Your toppings don’t get jostled and dumped onto the bottom of your oven. After five minutes, use your peel to tip of the partially baked pizza and slide out the parchment paper so that the pizza finished cooking directly on the stone. Bake for 10-12 minutes total, until your cheese begins to brown.
9) Remove from oven, and let sit for a few minutes before cutting.
Note: If you don’t have Trader Joe’s and cannot find truffle cheese, a drizzle of truffle oil after cooking would give you the same flavor. I realize truffle oil is also expensive and hard to come by (definitely pricier than truffle cheese), so if you are truffle-less, I promise this will still taste good. You could use a wilder mix of mushrooms to add some fungal complexity.