Photo by Bob VanSlooten
Pizza! Just about everybody’s favourite food. Fun to do, too. And yes, it’s reasonably healthy for you, as long as you make it yourself. Pizza doesn’t need to be loaded up with fat, salt, sugar, or anything else for that matter, to taste good. When I want to do pizzeria type pizza at home, I have a few secrets. Some are easy, some are cheap, and some are expensive. Let me tell you how, and you can best decide how you want to do your pizza. With the exception of one really expensive item, it’s much cheaper to make your own pizza, and tastes better too. Accessories are optional. You can always add peels, stones, an assortment of pans, etc.
First, you need a crust. No, not a pre-fab one from the supermarket, but a homemade one, which has no preservatives in it. You also get to control the amount of salt here, and you can also add about a teaspoon of Italian herb mixture to the dough if you wish. I think it gives it a little more flavor. Here’s where I take a shortcut, (but not always): a bread machine. Gasp! Heavens to mergatroid! Did I use the “M” word? ;You don’t have to, especially if you don’t own one, as I’m not about to encourage people to rush out to buy one. One of these days, maybe for the next blog, I’ll do a blog on bread machines, the pros, cons, and my experiences with them, which haven’t always been great. Let’s just say I’ve gone through a few. At any rate, if you do own one, throw the ingredients in and use it for the dough cycle. Or, do the kneading by hand, whichever you prefer. Of course, if you want an excuse to go and buy one, well, now you have one. I will provide a dough recipe to get you started. And no, this isn’t the really expensive item. We’ll get to that in a minute.
While your waiting for the first and only rise, get your toppings ready. Once you’ve got your dough made and rolled out into your pans, (rolling really is easier by the way), toppings are purely a matter of personal choice. You will need some tomato sauce, homemade preferably, but canned will do, for the base. Aside from the great anchovy debate (I happen to like them, others in the family consider them poisonous), almost anything can go on a pizza. I like onion, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, ham, beef, and a variety of other goodies, but feel free to load on the peppers, olives, pepperoni, or whatever. Your next need will be a large one: The mozzarella. Pizza requires a huge amount of cheese, grated. The dough recipe I will give you makes three pies, so plan accordingly (I will give guidelines). Sprinkle that over your topped pies, and then a sprinkle of the above mentioned Italian herb (or whatever herbs you like) blend, a slight dusting of garlic powder if you like garlic, and a splash or sprinkle of olive oil, and you’re ready to bake. Now it gets interesting. You certainly can use your oven, which is what I suspect most people will do. Or your BBQ, but I can’t advise you there, admittedly never having done that. Or, you can use your Egg. Your what??? This is the really expensive toy I treated myself to last year in lieu of the 18 ton, $15,000 to $20,000 behemoth in the back (or front) yard. It’s a Big Green Egg, and yes, users are known as Egg Heads. Guilty as charged. The Egg is based on a kamado style Japanese oven, often promoted by the Egg people down in Georgia as a BBQ and smoker. Ahh, but it’s also an oven. I actually use mine more as an oven than a BBQ, but then, I’m into bread, what can you expect. So far I’ve made baguettes, cakes, brownies, bread, cinnamon buns, and of course, pizzas, on it. And what pizza! The crusts are crisp, the cheese gooey, in fourteen or less minutes per pie. What more can you ask? Except to justify that one to the hubby. Oh, and yes, I also want to teach people wood fired baking on it. Uh, Huh, said he. After a rousing recommendation from our local butcher (the same one I recently blogged about) who had one, we went for it. I got a large, although I lustily eyed the extra large. Common sense and the pocket book prevailed.
So that’s the basic story on pizza for this time. Now for the dough, which makes enough for three 12-14 inch pies. I’m assuming a 3 lb. bread machine capability here, one that can handle about 6 cups of flour. You can also try the new Fleischmann’s yeast for pizza, I have, and it works well, but certainly the old-fashioned Traditional works just fine.
- 1-2/3 cups water
- 2 tbl. olive oil
- 2 -1/2 tsp salt
- 5 to 5 1/3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp. Italian blend herbs, optional
- 2-1/2 tsp. Pizza or Traditional yeast
- Cornmeal for sprinkling on your pizza pans
- If doing this in a bread machine with a dough cycle, follow the basic guidelines for your machine. If doing this by hand, put the water and olive oil in a large bowl. Then add your salt, and about half of the flour, the herbs, and yeast. Mix until a batter forms, then add the rest of the flour to get the consistency of dough required. It shouldn’t be real stiff; you want it on the soft side. Knead for about 5 minutes.
- When finished kneading, let rise in a greased bowl until doubled, and your dough is ready to use. Divide into thirds, one for each pie. If you don’t want to make pizza right away, the dough can be refrigerated for a couple of days, or frozen. Just thaw in the fridge overnight before using. When ready to use, roll out with your rolling pin and place on your cornmealed pizza pan.
- Spread the sauce over the dough, add your toppings, and distribute the mozzarella over all the pies. You will need at least a half pound. Then take some more of the Italian herb blend, sprinkle that around, some garlic powder if desired, and a splash of olive oil. Don’t add salt: it will have plenty of salt from the cheese. Bake, on your Egg if using, or the oven at 425 for about 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden and cheese melted.