Pizza Power! Cheaper than Take-Out in Just About 30 Minutes
Like my favourite reptilian ninjas (sorry Reptile from Mortal Kombat), I’m a pretty big fan of pizza. But ordering take-out gets expensive, especially when you want to get experimental with your topping combinations. And I’ve yet to find a take-out place with crust as good as my dad’s thick crust with cheese baked right into it. Fortunately, making pizza yourself is almost as easy as calling out for it — and delivery is always guaranteed to be on time.
The real trick to getting amazing homemade pizza every time is finding a crust recipe that you love. My dad altered a simple french bread recipe to come up with his basic dough, and is always tweaking it in small ways to find new and wonderful flavours. The recipe I use is a slight variation on his: mine only makes enough for one pizza, while his makes 3 at a time (which was useful when all us kids were still living at home, and all of us wanted different toppings). This is a thick-crust pizza dough; to make a thin-crust, it’s better to go with something resembling a pita bread recipe
Making the Dough
Combine 1/3 cup warm water, a teaspoon of sugar, and a packet (2 and a quarter teaspoons) of active dry yeast. Let this sit for a few minutes while you collect and combine the other ingredients.
In a bowl, mix together 2 cups flour (all-purpose, or half all-purpose and half whole wheat if you want wheat crust), a teaspoon of salt, and any other herbs, spices, etc that you’d like to add for extra flavour. My standby is just simple Italian herbs, but you can go wild with whatever flavours you like, or even add finely shredded cheese to get that cheese-baked-in-the-crust awesomeness. Sprinkle your dry mixture with about 2 tbsp of olive oil or vegetable oil, and then add your yeast mixture. Add more water (or another liquid if you prefer — beer makes an even puffier crust, while milk adds some extra nutrition) until there is no dry flour left. Knead the dough briefly, then cover and set aside for a few minutes while you chop up your toppings. This is a good time to get your oven pre-heating; set it to about 425 -450 degrees Fahrenheit. High temperatures are important for getting a nice, crusty bottom and keeping your pizza from being saggy.
For today’s pizza I used some leftover sausage (already cooked; never use raw meat because it’s hard to make sure it cooks all the way through), roasted garlic, fresh tomatoes, green olives, and three kinds of cheese (cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan). For the sauce I used a simple tomato sauce flavoured with Italian herbs and garlic powder, but you can choose other sauces instead — barbeque sauce is a favourite of mine. Chop your toppings up into bite-sized pieces and shred your cheese while you wait for the dough to rise; this makes the actual topping application go quite fast.
Once your dough has sat for 5-10 minutes, roll it out to fit your pan. The dough will be somewhat stretchy, so it will likely spring back a bit: just keep stretching it out until it’s the right size. Add your toppings, and then into the oven for about 15 minutes, until the crust begins to turn golden.
Let your pizza sit for about 5 minutes before cutting into it. This allows the cheese to set up a bit, and prevents too much topping-slide. It also gives you a chance to appreciate the beauty of your creation before you inhale it.
Okay, enough appreciating. NOM, PIZZA!