Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Amazing 40 Minute Homemade Pizza

I suffered for many years through takeout and frozen pizzas before learning to make my own.  My early crust recipes were spectacular failures: yeast doughs that refused to rise, wonderbread like "quick bread" creations, and an interim period where I pretended that store bought crusts didn't taste that bad.  But finally the curse ended and I found a yeast based recipe with no rise time.  Nearly every Friday night, I come home from work and 40 minutes later, I'm pulling a fresh hot pizza out of the oven.

Ingredients for one 14" pizza
  • Crust
    • 1 tablespoon (or packet) yeast
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • ¼ cup warm water, 95°-105°
    • 2 cups flour.  Suggest a mixture of 1½ cups all purpose flour, 6 tablespoons corn meal, and 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour.
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • approx ½ cup additional water
    • oil spray (I use olive oil in a Misto sprayer
  • Sauce, 8 oz can tomato sauce, any brand
  • Toppings
    • 4-6 oz cheese (I use a mix of mozzarella and muenster)
    • vegetables and meat as desired
    • red pepper flakes and dried oregano, optional

Proof yeast.  Heat ¼ cup water to 95°-105° (15-20 seconds in the microwave, and yes, that's a thermometer in the picture).  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in the water and stir together.  Let sit for 5 minutes while you gather the rest of the ingredients.

 Put 2 cups flour in the food processor with ½ teaspoon salt.  I use 1½ cups all purpose flour, 6 tablespoons corn meal, and 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour.  Pulse together.

Within 5 minutes, the yeast will get nice n'bubbly.  Just as a quick commentary on yeast shelf life, according to the label on the container, my yeast was packed on September 25, 2006.  It's now April 2011.  As long as you store it in the fridge, yeast will keep indefinitely.  If yours doesn't bubble up, either the water was too hot or the yeast is bad.  Do not proceed until fixed.

Add one tablespoon oil to the flour mixture (don't try to cut back on the amount) and pulse together.  Then add the yeast mixture and pulse again.  With the motor running, drizzle in up to ½ cup water.  I wish I could give you an exact amount, but it varies.  Sometimes I use as little as 6 tablespoons, but with my current batch of flour I need a bit more than the ½ cup.  When it's right, the dough will come together and will "clean" the sides of the processor bowl.  It will be a little sticky to the touch. If you get too much water, just add a dusting of flour.  Once it all comes together, let it spin 25 times in the processor.

Dust your hands with flour and take dough out of processor.  Give it a few hand kneads and spray lightly with oil.  Cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.  At this point, start the oven to 425°.

While waiting for the dough, start the toppings.  In my case, that means rinsing mushrooms, draining canned sliced olives, and chopping a few cloves of garlic.

Spread the dough out in a 14" pizza pan.  You will be able to spread it out quite a bit just by hand.  I don't have a rolling pin small enough to fit the pan, so I use the tomato sauce can for an assist if I need to roll it.

Shape the edges and lightly spray with oil.  Bake for 10 minutes.

While waiting for the crust, assemble all of the toppings and prepare the sauce.  Open the can of tomato sauce and taste.  If needed, add a little salt, a little sugar, a little Italian seasoning, a little garlic, etc.  Mostly I don't add anything to the sauce.

Pull the crust out of the oven.  Smush down any bubbles that have formed.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Spread the sauce over the crust.  Usually I don't use the entire can.

Add toppings.  In my case, that's slivered garlic, mushrooms, and black olives...

...and wall-to-wall pepperoni.  This is as good a time as any to gripe about frozen pizza.  I swear, I've seen just 5-6 pieces of pepperoni on the entire pizza.  And those were the expensive brands.

Now let's add some cheese!  I'm currently in love with ½ mozzarella and ½ muenster.  Mozzie-provolone-parmesan is another favorite.  As long as you don't use all mozzarella or "Italian blend" shredded cheese, you're going to be happy with the results.

And now the question is, how much cheese do you use?  As hard as it is to believe, less is really more.  4 ounces is plenty, 6 ounces is extravagant.  Once you've got the cheese on, bake it for 10-15 minutes, until it reaches desired brownness.  Clean up the kitchen while you're waiting.

Oh yeah, that looks good.

Sprinkle with oregano and red pepper flakes, if you're into that sort of thing...which I am.  And then sit back for about 20 minutes.  Because even though the pizza is ready in 40 minutes, it's too hot to eat right now.  Sorry, there's always a catch!

  • If you happen to plan ahead, you can make the dough the night or morning before and leave covered in the fridge until you're ready to bake.
  • If you happen to have a pizza stone handy, feel free to use it.  The combination of morning before dough and pizza stone baking takes this from really good to magical.
  • I came up with the sauce and toppings combination from many years of experiments.  But where does the dough recipe come from?  I tried many before finding the one...on page 310 of this book

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