Thursday, January 21, 2010

What I've learned about homemade pizza crust...

We enjoy homemade pizza around here about once a week. It's been a long time and lots of frustration, but I think I've finally learned the secret to a good homemade pizza crust. I've tried so many different things, but here's a thing or two I've learned.

I have a breadmaker (a Zojirushi with two paddles that I love), and I would get frustrated trying to plan enough ahead to do a 1 hour and 50 minute dough cycle with 20-30 minutes of rising time in there. And then, after I'd do all that, it would be too puffy, too doughy, not crispy enough, etc. Grrrr. This frustrated me enough that I just quit making my own crust for awhile.

No more. I learned that I could do it on the quick cycle (45 minutes) with no extra rising time, and it would taste soooo much better. Why was I following the bread machine recipe directions again? =)

Also, I was making enough pizza dough for two pizzas. Most of the recipes out there call for enough dough to make two medium sized, hand tossed thickness crust pizzas. Well, frozen pizza dough doesn't rise well, and we didn't need to make that much extra pizza. So I cut the recipe in half. Another problem solved...

Frustrated about how my crust wouldn't bake before my cheese would burn, I tried pre-baking it before adding cheese. Dumb idea. Never worked that great. The trick is to bake the pizza- crust, sauce, toppings, cheese and all, at high heat from the beginning. Preheat your baking pan of choice at 450 for about 20 minutes or so, add the pizza, and then bake for 10-15 minutes. Better, much better.

Don't use an Air Bake cookie sheet or pizza pan. You'll get bready, non crusty pizza. It's better to use a regular old cookie sheet or a pizza stone. I've heard you can get an unglazed tile to use if you don't have a pizza stone. I had a pizza stone languishing in my parents' attic, so Mom brought it here for me to try. It makes a pizza crust that tastes much more like restaurant pizza than anything I'd gotten from my other attempts. I think I'm sold. And since we have room for it in this kitchen...

Also, if you're not good at stuff like this, don't try to press out your pizza crust with your hands. Just use a rolling pin coated with a little flour and roll it nice and thin. It's much more uniform this way.

The experts use something called a pizza peel to transfer the pizza to the hot baking stone in the oven. Well, I don't have one of those, and I'm not so sure that I'm down with using corn meal under the pizza to make it slide better. I've had it burn before. So I put my dough on parchment paper, rolled it out, topped it, and then slid it onto a cookie sheet. Then I used that to transfer the pizza, parchment paper and all, to the hot pizza stone. Baked like a dream!

Here's my homemade pizza sauce recipe. Don't oversauce your pizza. It makes it soggy. Ask me how I know. =)

And I highly recommend a breadmaker for dough of all kinds. It doesn't have to be all fancy. You can get one at a thrift store or on Craigslist. It just needs to have a dough cycle. You won't be baking anything in it, most likely. I never do 'cause the loaves turn out dry and misshapen. =) But my breadmaker turns out wonderful bread and homemade roll dough. It's been the best birthday present I've probably gotten since I've been married.

So there you have it, you Three Who Are Still Reading. This is the collected wisdom of many years of pizza baking mistakes. Enjoy!

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