Dear Eric: We’ve tried for several years to make a great homemade pizza. I was wondering if you have a good recipe for the dough, temperature recommendations and perhaps some decadent topping suggestions?
Dear Miranda: My wife and I make pizza two or three times a month and have experimented over the years with the dough, pans used and oven temperature.
We’ve tried preheat-in-the-oven-forever pizza stones and perforated pans. We have made the dough — and still occasionally do — with expensive Italian “00” flour, which is quite fine in texture and creates a delicate yet crisp crust.
These days, because we often decide to make pizza on the spur of the moment, we try and keep things as simple as possible. Below is the dough recipe we most often use. It’s pretty easy to make, particularly if you have a stand mixer to do the mixing and kneading.
It uses all-purpose flour, which you’ll likely have on hand. Quick-rise, instant dry yeast, unlike active dry yeast, does not require minutes of soaking and enables you to get the dough rising more quickly.
The dough is a little on the soft side so, after it has risen, it is easily pressed and spread into the pan, no pre-rolling required. The recipe yields enough dough for two (thick-crust) or three (thin-crust) 12-inch pizzas.
I bake pizza on standard, 12-inch pizza pans found for sale at every hardware and kitchenware store, and the result is always fine.
Following the dough recipe are four pizza topping suggestions. I like to ready the toppings while waiting for the dough to rise. I bake the topped pizza in the lower part of a 450 F oven. In about 12 minutes you’ll have a crisp-on-the-bottom, golden-on-the-sides pizza that won’t last long.
The instant dry yeast used in this recipe is sold in the baking aisle of most supermarkets.
Preparation time: 10 minutes, plus rising time
Cooking time: 12 to 13 minutes, per topped pizza
Makes: enough dough for two thick-crust or three thin-crust 12-inch pizzas
11Ú4 cups lukewarm (not hot) water
2 tsp instant dry yeast
1 tsp granulated sugar
3 Tbsp olive oil, plus some for the bowl and pans
3 cups all-purpose flour
1Ú2 tsp salt
Combine the water, yeast, sugar and the 3 Tbsp olive oil in a medium to large bowl, or in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
If using a stand mixer, add the 3 cups flour and salt and mix on medium speed until a smooth dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Continue mixing and kneading the dough about 5 minutes.
If mixing the dough by hand, mix 22Ú3 cup of the flour and salt into the yeast/ water mixture in the bowl. Mix with a heavy spoon until the dough loosely clumps together. Transfer the dough to a work surface, scraping the sides of the bowl if necessary. Use the remaining 1Ú3 cup of flour to lightly flour the work surface and top of the dough. Knead six to eight minutes, until you have a smooth, but still slightly sticky, dough.
Once kneaded, place the dough in a deep, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at warm room temperature until doubled in size, about 75 minutes.
Transfer dough to a work surface. (No need to punch it down as it will gently collapse when you move it.) To make two thicker-crust pizzas, cut dough into two equal pieces. To make three thinner-crust pizzas, cut the dough into three equal pieces.
Place each piece of dough on a very lightly oiled 12-inch round pizza pan. Gently press, push and spread each dough until it reaches the edges of the pan. Let the dough rest in the pan a few minutes. If the dough contracts, press on it again until it reaches the outer edges again.
Sauce and top the pizzas as desired (see below for suggestions). Place the oven rack in the lower third of your oven. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Bake the pizzas, one at a time, for 12 to 13 minutes, or until the pizza is puffed and the crust is crisp and golden on the sides and bottom.
Here are four ways to top a 12-inch pizza crust. In some, you’ll notice “passata di pomodoro,” also known as strained tomatoes. This saucy mixture is sold in bottles at some supermarkets and Italian delis, such also Ottavio Italian Bakery and Delicatessen, and Italian Food Imports in Victoria. Unlike tomato sauce, which might contain sugar and other ingredients, strained tomatoes are just good-tasting tomatoes flavoured with a bit of salt. If you can’t find it, you could, of course use tomato sauce or your favourite pizza sauce.
Deluxe Meat, Vegetable and Olive Pizza
In a bowl, combine 1Ú2 cup passata di pomodoro with 2 Tbsp pesto. Spread mixture on 12-inch pizza dough. Sprinkle with 11Ú2 cups grated mozzarella cheese. Top with 1Ú3 cup coarsely chopped pitted black or green olives, half a medium green bell pepper, cut into small cubes, 1Ú2 cup thinly sliced pepperoni, a cooked, cooled and sliced Italian sausage and four to six thinly sliced mushrooms. Bake pizza as described in the dough recipe above.
Four-Vegetable Pizza with Goat Cheese
Top pizza dough with sauce and mozzarella cheese as described in the deluxe pizza above. Top cheese with eight large fresh spinach leaves, eight quartered cherry tomatoes, one cubed, medium yellow bell pepper, and four canned artichoke hearts, each quartered. Pull 100 grams of soft goat cheese into small pieces and disperse among the vegetables. Bake pizza as described in the dough recipe above.
Italian Sausage and Arugula Pizza with Fennel Seed and Asiago
Remove the casing from two mild or hot Italian sausages. Pull the meat into nuggets, fry in a skillet until cooked through and remove from the heat.
Spread 2Ú3 cup passata di pomodoro on a 12-inch pizza dough. Sprinkle sauce with 11Ú2 cups grated asiago cheese. Disperse two cups of baby arugula on top the cheese. (Baby arugula is sold in tubs at some supermarkets.) Now set the bits of sausage on the pizza. Sprinkle the pizza with 1Ú4 to 1Ú2 tsp of coarsely crushed fennel seed. Bake pizza as described in the dough recipe above.
Roasted Cherry Tomato Pizza with Baby Kale and Parmesan Cream
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Slice 12 cherry tomatoes in half and place in a shallow baking dish. Add 2 crushed garlic cloves, 2 Tbsp olive oil, pinch chili flakes, 1Ú2 tsp dried oregano, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Arrange tomatoes so they are cut-side up. Roast 30 minutes, and then remove from the oven.
Place 1 cup whipping cream in a small pot. Bring to simmer, and simmer until lightly thickened and reduced to about 3Ú4 cup. Mix in 1Ú3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and then cool to room temperature.
Spread the Parmesan cream on a 12-inch pizza dough. Arrange the tomatoes on the pizza. Disperse 11Ú2 cups of baby kale on the pizza. (Baby kale is sold in tubs at some supermarkets.) Sprinkle the pizza with a little freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Bake pizza as described in the dough recipe above.
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