Homemade Pizza

It’s pizza night. Amen.

A couple weeks ago, I found a bread machine in one of the closets at my house. This was a life changing event. I felt almost dirty with excitement. Most of you who know me, even just a little bit, know that I have equal parts love and loathing for all things [insert words like ‘technology’ ‘machines’ ‘future’ here].  I like kneading dough until my arms hurt. And I think being covered in flour is sort of attractive. I usually try to pretend that there isn’t a bread machine hiding in my closet. But…

Tonight, the machine won. I let it mix up the dough for my homemade pizza. I simply added the ingredients in the proper order, selected the “dough” cycle, and pushed start. One and a half hours later: perfectly risen, slightly warm pizza dough. 

For those of you who have yet to find a bread machine in your closet, this is how I usually do it:

Dissolve 1 t (generous) of active dry yeast in 1 cup of fairly warm water. While that is sitting and getting bubbly, mix 1 ½ T olive oil with ½ t oregano and ½ t basil in a separate container. Next, grab a mixing bowl and mix together: 1 ½ cups of unbleached flour, 1 ½ cups wheat flour, olive oil/herb mixture, and a generous pinch of salt. Once that is blended together well, add the bubbly yeast mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until it all gathers together. Knead on a lightly floured surface for a bit until the dough becomes smooth and elastic-y. Smear a little olive oil on the top of the dough ball and cover with a dry towel. Let it rise for about an hour. It will have about  double in size.

It is at this point, bread machine or otherwise, that I usually make my pizza sauce. I refuse to give a specific recipe for the sauce because, well, there are too many amazing combinations for me to limit you...

Sometimes I simply warm some ricotta cheese and a can of Italian-style diced tomatoes together in a sauce pan, add a bunch of sautéed garlic and herbs. Other times, I cook a ton of fresh diced Roma tomatoes, a little salt, and a bunch of sautéed onion and garlic over medium-high heat until much of the water has evaporated. I season it generously and let it be.

All I know is that I prefer a chunky, drier “sauce” to a runny smooth sauce. Make what you like. And add a bunch of garlic.

As your sauce simmers, roll the dough out into whatever shape you like. Just make sure the dough is no more than ¼ inch thick. If you want a thicker, chewy crust, then cover the dough once again and let it rise for about a half hour before topping it. If you are like me, and prefer a thinner, crispier crust, then transfer that dough onto a pan and get started with the fun part. 

This is the part that gets tricky. If I were a legitimate foodie, I would own a pizza stone.  But I don’t. (So I guess I’m not? ) I love the perfect crust that a warm stone creates. I am never completely satisfied with the crust on my homemade pizzas due to my lack of a baking stone. That said, I use a regular, old, scarred up jellyroll pan. There, I said it.

Go ahead and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spread the warm sauce over the dough, leaving a ½ inch edge for crust if you like. 

Topping time! There are many schools of thought on pizza toppings, but they all seem to have the same goal in mind: keeping the toppings from sliding off of the crust. I achieve this by layering like this:

Dry stuff like thinly sliced mushrooms and onions
Little bit of mozzarella cheese
Wet stuff like thinly sliced red and green bell peppers
Chopped spinach leaves, broccoli, or other delicate green things
Little bit more mozzarella to prevent charring
I then sprinkle the whole thing with thin slices of tiny-baby tomatoes, feta cheese, and herbs.
Then it is time for the finishing touch. And it is kind of a big deal. 
This is the point at which I crack an egg in the middle of the pizza.
Yep, I do. Why? Because I miss Romania and because I like it. Don’t doubt me on this one. It is epic. 

Before baking I lightly salt the pizza and brush olive oil on the exposed crust. The pizza is baked at 450 degrees until it is done. Sometimes I like the cheese really, really done. Other times I like it good and string-y. Make it how you like it.Tonight I accidentally left the pizza in for a little too long. So it was extra crispy. But we enjoyed it anyhow. Food can be forgiving in a way that sometimes amazes me.

There are number of things about this recipe I could have done differently. I could have prebaked the crust a bit. I could have rolled strips of string cheese up with the dough around the edges for a stuffed crust effect. I could have poked a bunch of holes in the dough with a fork to avoid bubbles. I could have forgone the mozzarella entirely and let the feta speak for itself. I could have made a few little pizzas instead of one big one. Heck, I could have folded it over and called it a calzone. Bottom line: go nuts. Fear not. Do whatever you want. 

I usually give a bit of nutritional information for my recipes. Not today folks! Why not? Because pizza is the holy grail of consumption. And because the nutritional information will vary greatly depending upon what you use for sauce and toppings. Suffice it to say that the universal nutritional value of all well-made, non-grease-based pizza is: 100 grams of epic. 

Trivia: Name someone you know who once wrote 1000 words about pizza making.I won't give you any hints. ;) Love yourself well! ♥hthr

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