Every now and then, we crave for a certain food. In the area we live in, we could not find the food we want elsewhere, because they are not prepared the way we wanted or just plain and simple – we are in the middle of nowhere. Pizza parlors in our locality serve pizzas which are very salty and greasy compared to what we like – the gourmet type – well balanced flavor, so we decided to make our own. My husband and I made our very first homemade pizza with our own bare hands with only the basic kitchen tools we already have.
The pizza dough recipe we used was taken from the book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhart (Pizza Napolitana). The end product is a lean, rustic pizza dough. It takes a total of 2 days to make it, but is worth all the hard work. For the rest of the toppings, we just used our old time favorites. Feel free to unleash your creative palate.
Pizza Dough Ingredients:
*Makes 6-oz pizza crusts (9″ – 12″ diameter)
4 ½ cups unbleached high-gluten, bread or all-purpose flour, chilled
1 ¾ tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil (optional)
1 ¾ cups water, ice cold (400F)
Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting
The directions here are modified from what the book has described. We did what we could to do exactly what was required. But with what available materials we had, it was necessary to improvise, hence this simplified version:
1. Mix the flour, salt and instant yeast together in a 4 – quart bowl. Stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is “all absorbed”. In circular motion, mix the dough by hand (or with an electric mixer) for 5 to 7 minutes. Reverse the circular motion a few times. This will help develop the gluten further.
2. Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough. At this point, you may make a jelly roll for the dough and evenly divide them into six sections with a metal dough scraper. Take one section at a time and roll in a ball. Coat some vegetable oil (Crisco) all over the dough balls. You may store the dough balls individually in a food grade plastic bag or together in a sheet pan covered with a food grade plastic seal.
3. Keep the dough balls in the refrigerator overnight to let the dough rest and seal in more flavor. You may store the dough in the refrigerator for 3 days or up to 3 months in the freezer.
Ready to make the pizza:
- Two hours before making the pizza, thaw your frozen dough or remove from the refrigerator, depending on the number you want to make.
- Mist the counter with spray oil and then dust with flour. Dust your hands with flour as well. Press the dough gently into a flat disk (½-inch thick, 5 inches in diameter). Loosely cover the dough with cling wrap and let rest for 2 hours*.
- Preheat your oven at the hottest possible temperature it could. Most home ovens would only go up to 5500F, some would go higher. If using a baking stone, preheat the stone with the stove. In this attempt (of ours), we used the back of a sheet pan without preheating it.
- Dust the back of your sheet pan with semolina flour, corn meal or ordinary flour generously (we used the latter).
- Make the pizza one at a time. Dip your hands including the back of your hands and knuckles in flour. Lift a piece of dough with a scraper carefully. If you are confident, you may toss the pizza dough or you may use a rolling pin (like we did since we are not confident in tossing the dough).
- Lay the dough on the back of the pan, making sure that the pan has enough semolina flour or cornmeal. Top the dough with pizza sauce – we used Classico Spicy Tomato and Basil for the red sauce. Keeping in mind that ‘less is more’, top the sauce with a combination of the following cheese, grated: mozzarella, cheddar, parmesan and feta (optional). You may follow with any of your favorite toppings such as mushroom, olives, pepperoni and/or beef.
- Put the pan in the oven on the lowest rack. If you are using a baking stone, slide the pizza on it. Close the door. Bake for about 5 to 8 minutes. Rotate the pizza 1800 as needed.
- Once your pizza is ready, remove from the oven and transfer it to a cutting board. Allow the cheese to set slightly (3-5 minutes). Use a pizza slicer. If you do not have one like us, you may substitute it with a sharp knife. (We bought a proper slicer the next day.)
The finished product:
This is a wonderful pizza dough recipe. It’s the best pizza crust I’ve had from homemade versions. My cousins used to make their own pizza as well, but it’s not the same as this one.
I apologize as it appears that I have grangerized the procedure. If you want the full copy, you should buy the book. It’s available in bookstores near you or online. The book would give you a comprehensive discussion and description of every step and nuisances there are in bread making. I give this book 5/5 stars.
*We did not let our pizza dough rest for 2 more hours as stated. We were so excited that we missed that last phrase, but the pizza still turned out good.