Homemade pizza and why you should be making it

I brought leftover pizza that I made last night for lunch today and on this day last year, I posted on Facebook that you should be making your own...from scratch. Yes, even the dough. So I thought this would be an interesting topic for me to talk about and to share some of my limited wisdom.

Our household loves pizza....LOVES pizza...and while I'm not always the one making it (there a few places in town that make a decent pie), it's something we eat at least once a week. I can understand why people would think making pizza from scratch would be difficult. First you have to make the dough, which is probably the most daunting aspect of it all. Then you need to stretch the dough out in order to put on the toppings. Once you've got all of that done, you need an oven that'll actually do a decent job of cooking it. That last one is a problem for almost everyone because many stoves, especially electric ones, have hot spots which forces more care to be taken to ensure it cooks properly. But I assure you, once you've done it a few times, you'll wonder why you haven't been doing it all along.

Let's start with the dough. There are thousands of pizza dough recipes out there but I'm going to share the two I use most often. I tend to play with the rising times of each of them to try and develop different flavors or textures but that'll be a post for another time. The first is a quick dough recipe when you don't have the time or don't want to wait for a traditional rise: Quick Pizza Dough - New York Times. The second is another quick dough that takes a little bit longer to make but is well worth it and it makes three pizzas instead of two: The Definitive 45-Minute Dough - Food Republic. Now since both of these are quick doughs, you're not going to get as much flavor as say a dough that's been allowed to slow rise in the fridge overnight. However, I haven't found there to be that much of a difference flavor wise so start with these until you're comfortable making and shaping the dough.

Some notes about actually making the pizza:

I don't always follow the instructions that you'll read in those recipes. Feel free to do so but eventually you'll find a style that works for you. If you have a food processor or a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, it makes things a lot easier. I have both and like to switch it up. You don't need either of those things because you likely have two working hands which will work just as well. If you get stressed easily, kneading dough by hand is a great way to relieve stress; or at least I find it does.

You're not supposed to use a rolling pin to shape the dough because you're pressing all of the air bubbles out of the dough that give it a great texture. But more often than not I end up using one as lightly as possible because Grace (our 3 year old daughter) loves to roll the dough; and who am I to deny her interest? I tried having her shape it traditionally but her little fingers poke through the dough so the rolling pin is a better medium for now. If you don't have a little one who insists on rolling the dough, shaping it by hand is a skill that can be fun to learn. I'm able to toss and catch the dough as I stretch it out like you might see at a pizzeria or in the movies.

Baking vessel
Most recipes call for you to use a pizza stone, and they do work great if you have one, but even though I have two of them, I find myself using standard sheet pans instead most of the time. You won't get that really great crispy crust by not using a stone but a hot enough oven with metal pans can produce similar results.

Preparing and Par-baking the dough
Since I use pans most of the time, I par-bake the crusts for a few minutes before adding the sauce or toppings. This allows the dough to cook some and start to develop a crispy crust. The main reason I do this is to avoid under-cooked dough, which can happen very easily, especially if you're heavy handed with the toppings. But before I put the dough into the oven to par-bake, I take two forks and poke the dough lightly all over to prevent any bubbles from forming, this also helps an even cook all the way through.

My not so secret ingredient 
After a few minutes of par-baking, take the dough out and starting putting on your sauce, cheese, and desired toppings. Because the dough has cooked some, you should feel free to pile stuff on without worrying about the dough not cooking. The final step I take before finishing the pizzas off in the oven is brushing a mixture of spices and either oil or melted butter on the exposed crust. I started doing this because many people don't like the plain crust that you use to hold the slice from. So by giving it some flavor, the whole slice gets eaten. Now I don't have an exact recipe for this because I just eyeball it but here are some rough measurements:
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil or Butter (melted)
1/2 teaspoon each of Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Dried Basil, Dried Oregano
1/4 teaspoon coarse grain Salt

That seems like an awful lot of work when you could just buy something frozen from the store or make a call to your favorite pizza joint and then do something else while you wait for it to be delivered....BUT it really isn't. If you eat as much pizza as we do, it's healthier and more economical than buying or ordering out because you control everything that goes in it and on it. So put in a little time and effort, you'll be glad you did.

Now doesn't that look good?

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