I’m a sucker for home-cooked meals, especially ones that are made by someone other than me. Home-cooked pizza is an especially delightful surprise, one sprung on me recently while visiting my friend Adam.
In my experience, pizza can take a fairly long time. After all, I have to make the dough and sauce, grate the cheese and chop up the toppings. OK, not really, since I can buy dough mix, pre-made sauce, pre-grated cheese and most of the toppings can also be found pre-chopped. But doing any or all of that by hand increases the amount of time spent making pizza.
On the other hand, pizza is an endlessly variable and delicious dish. Homemade pizza typically doesn’t look much like the kind you can order at a pizza joint. If you’re like me and have zero ability to throw a pizza in the air without dropping it, making round or oval pizza is a challenge.
Rolling out the dough, or rather, stretching the dough out until equal thickness is achieved throughout the pizza can result in some odd shapes. While in the kitchen, I managed to make a pizza that was roughly shaped like the state of Minnesota.
The ugliness of my pizza didn’t deter me. On went the tomato sauce, the mozzarella cheese and a liberal sprinkling of green peppers and mushrooms.
Adam had a handy pizza stone for his oven, which helps distribute heat evenly and makes the pizza beautifully crusty. For a less equipped kitchen, it was just as easy to use a baking sheet. That works well, especially if the sheet is preheated with the oven.
We made personal sized pizzas, which is a wonderful thing when a group has different eating habits. As a vegetarian, my preference is pizza with cheese, olives, mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes. A lot of my friends, however, like their pizza with ham, sausage and maybe some green peppers. Personal pizzas make both things possible, even if I sometimes have to chase people away from my veggie pizza.
Preheat oven to 400-425
3 1/2-4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 – 3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 packs (4 teaspoons) dry yeast
1/2 cups hot water
1 cups milk
1/4 cups soft or melted butter
Mix together flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl, and set it aside. If using a Kitchen Aid mixer, mix hot water, milk and butter in the work bowl. If not, use another large bowl. Use dough hook to mix in dry ingredients. Add flour mixture slowly until a soft dough pulls away from the bowl. Let it rest in a warm spot for 10-15 minutes or until doubled in size. Punch down and shape.
It tends to stick if you shape it by pressing down on a surface, so try shaping it above the surface, letting gravity help you out. A bit of cornmeal on the surface also helps, especially when sliding the finished product into the oven.
1 small can of tomato sauce or puree
Shake of pepper
Grated parmesan cheese
Sugar to taste
Finely chopped onions
Basil and/or oregano
Mix together in a small bowl. The trick with the pizza sauce is to make it to your liking. If you don’t
like a flavor, leave it out. If you want one flavor to dominate, add more of that. Once you have the taste fixed to your satisfaction, spread over the dough and top with cheese and whatever toppings sound good.
Slide into oven (cornmeal helps with the sliding). Bake until crust is golden brown.
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