I hope I am well past the soggy pizza crust stage, because when this comes out right, it is very freeing to know a fresh pizza can be made at home. I, often, use a cookie sheet to make a big, rectangular pizza to cut into squares. They are easy to wrap individually in foil and freeze. I pull one out the night before for a lunchbox, and it is defrosted by lunchtime the next day. Alternatively, they are re-heated in the toaster oven for a “fast-food” lunch or dinner at home.
A few key things to share with you are the pre-baked pan, pre-baked crust, and making sure the yeast becomes active. First, pre-baking the pan and then the crust, seem to be essential for a nice, crisp crust under juicy sauce and vegetable toppings. Baking on a pizza stone, and in a wood-fired oven would probably elevate the pizza even more, but I am not quite there, yet. Do I consider these for my Christmas list? Secondly, I started using my husband’s home-brew thermometer to make sure the warm water is in the ideal range for making the yeast active (proofing the yeast). The side of the yeast package lists the temperature range, and following it carefully has made a big difference in getting the yeast to consistently rise properly. Like any homemade food, once you make it a few times, its process becomes less of a mystery, and the rewards are great for you and for those you feed. Cheers!
1 3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 packet dried yeast
6 cups white flour (2 cups may be replaced with whole grain flours & seeds.)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
Optional: 2 cloves minced garlic
Proof the yeast by warming the water and adding the yeast + sugar. Let it sit until the yeast starts to bubble, about five minutes. Add one cup of flour, oil, salt, and optional minced garlic. Mix with a spoon as you add an whole grain or seeds, then more and more flour until you can no longer stir it.
Ditch any rings you are wearing and use your hands to knead the dough until you have added all of the flour and you have a nice, smooth ball of dough.
Place this in a greased bowl, cover with a clean cotton kitchen towel, and let it sit somewhere where there are no drafts. Let it rise until the ball is double in size. The timing will depend on the warmth of the ambient air, but usually takes an hour or so.
Once you have risen dough, flour a flat surface and roll out the dough until it is the size of your pizza pan.
Preheat the pizza pan in a 450 degree oven for about ten minutes. Pull the dough up and stretch it to carefully place the dough on the hot pan. Randomly, poke a few holes in the crust, and put back in the oven to pre-bake until it barely starts to brown.
Remove from the oven, spread pizza sauce (recipe below) and load with toppings of your choice. Return your pizza to the oven until the toppings are warmed and the cheese melted.
Recipe from King Arthur Flour Cookbook
Use 28 oz of canned tomatoes with liquid, 5 garlic cloves, and a few splashes of olive oil. Bring to a boil and simmer for one hour. Transfer to a blender and puree.
Recipe inspired by Gweneth Paltrow My Father’s Daughter