Sunday, January 1, 2012

Homemade Pizza

Growing up in Chicago, land of deep dish wonders and terrific Italian food, I'm finicky about pizza.  After moving to Oregon, I never could find a pizza parlor coming close to serving fond memories of Chicago's taste.


Pizzas were either too thick or thin, too much sauce or not enough, and never all the right combination of ingredients. I've always doctored-up frozen brands from grocery stores. In recent years, a few take-and-bake places have come close, but extra toppings were still needed. 


With the right machines and tools, making pizza at home is nearly effortless and so much less expensive.  Now I make double batches of dough, then freeze extra to have on hand.
Owning nifty gadgets for quickly chopping and dicing ingredients evenly is handy, otherwise slice and dice with a chef knife.

My toppings of choice for Chicago flavor: Tomato sauce, Italian sausage, green peppers, onions, black olives, mushrooms, mozzarella & parmesan cheese and an Italian herb mixture. 

Pizza Dough
1 pkg. yeast 2 tsps.
1 tsp. honey
1 cup warm water 105-115 degrees
3 cups all purpose flour, or wheat flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tab. olive oil or  seasoned oil, chili or garlic, plus more for brushing
Preheat oven to 500. 

Dissolve yeast & honey in 1/4 cup of the water, set aside. In mixer with dough hook use slow speed mixing flour, salt and then oil; add rest of water slowly until dough comes together - about 5 minutes.  (May also do in a bread machine on dough cycle, remove dough and shape for use.) 

Remove and knead by hand a few minutes and let rest covered for 30 minutes. Divide into 2 balls for 2,  12- inch pizzas, or 4 balls for 4,  6-inch pizzas. Form into smooth balls rolling in palms of hand.  Cover and let rest 20 minutes.  Can then use at once, or wrap dough balls loosely in plastic and refrigerate up to 2 days, (dough expands) or freeze extra dough then defrost at room temperature before using.  Yeast is dormant when frozen, then comes alive again when defrosted.

Shape for use on floured board with a rolling pin to desired thickness, then place on pan sprinkled with corn meal, or use non-stick pan, using oiled hands to spread and shape to fit pan. Crimp edges up slightly. I use either a non-stick pizza pan, a silicone baking board, or removable-bottom tart pan. Spread dough about 1/4 of an inch to a 1/2 inch thick, and thicker at outer crimped edges.

Pre-Bake shaped dough for 5 minutes and remove to finish assembling. This helps prevent a "soggy" crust when remaining ingredients are added for baking.

Brush dough crust with oil, add sauce spreading it around with back of a spoon, (don't over sauce it!) then sprinkle or layer cheese, spread *prepped toppings, add more cheese then sprinkle herbs, salt and pepper. There's no rule that a pizza has to be round, so shape in a rectangle if desired, if using a baking sheet.

For Chicago Deep Dish style use a 10-12 inch cash iron fry pan, and shape dough so it comes up the sides.

Bake 10-12 minutes more until crust is golden brown and crispy and cheese bubbling. Let rest 5-10 minutes before cutting.

*Prep toppings by sauteing sausage and veggies with minced garlic ahead of time, drain, then add prior to baking. Suggested toppings: bulk pork or Italian beef sausage, onion, canned or fresh mushrooms, green peppers, black or green olives, pepperoni, herbs, spinach, sliced tomatoes, cheeses of choice.  Sauce suggestions:  Alfredo white sauce or classic tomato sauce: canned, jarred or homemade.

Have a pizza party - making dough for 6-inch pizzas and let everyone assemble their own, having it their way!

Now days, toppings can be almost anything!  BBQ chicken, pork, all veggies, plain cheese, Mexican cheeses, Cheddar  — possibilities are endless. Dough can also be used for making Calzone, or Stromboli (stuffed baked Italian sandwiches).

Estimated Cost: Dough for two 12-inch pizzas .75 cents; toppings $3 to $5; cost per serving .50 cents or under.