I occasionally post pictures of our homemade pizza dinners on Facebook (as I did last night) and without fail, I have people ask, "Do you have a good dough recipe?" When we moved to Tennessee we quickly (and sadly) realized that our pizza options were very limited where we live, the closest being about 20 miles away, and we had absolutely zero options when it came to delivery. Ryan and I fell in love over pizza and wine, literally. Every time we got together we ordered pizza and picked up a bottle of wine, and when we discovered that this staple, this symbol of our love was nowhere to be found in our new homeland, we were devastated. So I figured out how to make a decent pizza that's actually pretty darn good if I do say so myself.
A good pizza, I believe, involves a few things.
1. Fresh ingredients.
2. The flour makes a difference! I love a chewy crust. Bread flour gives this consistency.
3. A good pizza stone, set on the bottom rack of the oven, and preheated at 450 degrees for at least an hour before the first pizza goes in is essential.
4. And again, FRESH INGREDIENTS! If you use cheap, crappy ingredients, you'll get a cheap, crappy pizza. If you use fresh vegetables, tomatoes in the sauce, fresh cheese if possible, you'll get an outstanding pizza.
Final takeaway, the Italians are on to something with all the pizza and pasta they feed their big families. It is an economical way to make a great, nutritious meal that everyone loves.
Here is my go to recipe for dough and sauce. Both were concocted over the past two years through trial and error, taking bits and pieces of one recipe and adding it to another until I discovered something that worked for my family.
Saute a few garlic cloves in olive oil. DO NOT BURN THE GARLIC. Add 1 cup of crushed tomatoes to 1 TB of tomato paste. Combine. Add oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, sugar, and balsamic vinegar to taste. Blend together with a hand mixer if desired.
Dough- makes one large pizza
2 1/4 tea active dry yeast
3/4 cup plus one TB water, 100 to 115 Degrees F
1 tea salt
2 TB olive oil
1 TB honey or sugar
2 cups bread flour.
Stir the first five ingredients together in a large bowl. Let stand a few minutes until the yeast is bubbly. Add the flour, mix well, and then knead (a kitchen aid mixer is a lifesaver for this process!) for 5-10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. If it's too wet, add a little flour, it should not stick all over your fingers when you touch it, but you don't want too add too much flour because it will create a dry, hard crust. Be careful with the flour. After kneading, place in a well oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size. When doubled, punch down and place in the fridge until ready to use. At least one hour before use, remove from fridge so that the dough can begin to rewarm. I don't know scientifically why this step works, but it makes the best chewy pizza crust. If you like more of a soft, non chewy crust, skip the fridge part and move right into making and baking pizzas.