Forget what the ads say: the BEST pizza is homemade. It’s easy and healthier than the store bought alternatives, to say nothing of fun to put together as a family. The next time you’re in the mood for a pie, pull out these tips for a perfect pizza made at home!
These steps will help you avoid a soggy pizza crust covered with toppings where some are barely warm and others that are charbroiled. Read on, my foodie friend…
The Best Base You Can Manage
Just like the foundation of a house which, if badly built, will crack and break down, the foundation of a great pizza needs to be solid to achieve maximum eatability.
Ideally, whether you make your pizza dough from scratch or buy it pre-made, you want to make sure you are stretching and rolling it out at room temperature. If it was in the refrigerator, let it rest on the counter while you prep the rest of the ingredients, before attempting to roll.
When the dough has dropped its chill, you can flour your rolling surface—more is better here: you don’t want the dough to stick!
Press your dough ball flat with your knuckles from the centre out towards the edges. If it’s still too cold, it will spring back and refuse to stay flat, like an out of control cowlick, so if that happens, just let it rest a few minutes more before continuing.
Whether you use the recipe below, or a store bought dough, it’s better to stretch the dough, rather than roll it. Ideally, you will be tossing it in the air, like you’ve seen at your pizzeria so that it pulls evenly and doesn’t tear. You’ll find it easier to get the round shape, but since we all can’t toss pizza dough in the air without making a mess, a rolling pin is fine to make sure that you get a consistent ¼ inch thickness and VOILA! You’re ready for toppings!
The best ‘from scratch’ recipe is so easy, it will take less time than walking to the store to buy pre-made, though it needs to be put together the day before, so a little planning is required!
This recipe makes four balls of dough—great for making individual pizzas:
3 and ¾ cups of bread or all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon of active dry yeast
2 teaspoons of salt
1 ½ cups of water
- In a bowl, blend all your dry ingredients (flour, salt, yeast).
- Add the water to the mixture and mix, preferably with your hands.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it to sit on the counter overnight, at room temperature. It will rise to more than double the initial size!
- Generously flour your work surface where you will be rolling out the dough and scrape it out of the bowl. Now you can divide it into four and shape each dough ball. Dust with more flour if they get tacky or sticky.
- You don’t need to knead this dough extensively as the gluten needed is activated by the rising process. Just get stretching!
Here’s the fun part for the rest of the family! Quality matters when it comes to toppings. Homemade or high quality crushed tomato sauce, hand shredded cheese and anything your heart, and stomach, desires. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with pre-shredded cheese but like a fine wine, the secret is in the quality of the source ingredients!
Whatever toppings you like on your pizza, just remember to spread them as evenly as possible to avoid clumps that won’t cook through properly.
- Just like the pie from your favourite take out place, leave a half an inch around the edge to avoid the toppings dripping or bubbling over. Pinch it a little so that it’s raised up to create a sauce barrier!
- Try and limit your toppings, beyond sauce and cheese, to two or three. Anything more starts to get heavy and thick and might not cook through as evenly. Simple is best!
- Don’t forget fresh herbs! Basil is the best when handily torn up and thrown over your toppings, right after the pizza has come out of the oven. Chives give that onion-y flavour without overdoing it and are also best popped on post-bake.
Cook It Low And Hot
Whether you have a pizza stone, pan or a perforated pizza sheet, make sure you put your oven rack to the lowest level before pre-heating. This will brown the crust nicely, leaving no soggy pockets.
What you’re looking for is a flat surface to ensure that the crust cooks evenly. If you’re worried about the pizza sticking, just spread a little cornmeal on the pan or sheet before adding the rolled out crust.
The key to home cooking a pizza is high heat—as high as your oven can go! Why? The air bubbles in your pizza dough will expand when they hit the blast of heat, causing a light, soft dough on the inside, which also crisps up nicely on the outside. Win-win!
Better yet, invest in a wood burning outdoor pizza oven. These easy to assemble, and even easier to use, ovens mimic the cooking process from your favourite pizzeria, right in the comfort of your own backyard.
Invest In A Pizza Wheel
Cutting your perfectly cooked pie is in itself an artform! You don’t want your toppings to come off the crust to tear in weird ways by trying to cut your pizza with a standard knife. A super sharp pizza wheel is an inexpensive kitchen tool that you will get value back again and again.
Prepping some dough and having it at the ready means you can have homemade pizza in a flash, so say goodbye to your delivery guy and hello to easy dinners that everyone will enjoy!