Delicious {and easy} Homemade Pizza

Pizza is definitly one of my favorite foods.  Infact, I have blogged about eating and making pizza on several other occassions!
Mmmm Pizza
Chicago Style Pizza
Sourdough Pizza Crust

Pizza is comfort food but pizza can vary incredibly and different styles and toppings are as diverse and clothing style and music genres.  Thin crust, thick crust, pan, deep-dish, hand tossed, Neoplolitan-style, Chigago-style, brick oven, wood-fired or grilled.  Round or square, extra-cheese, extra sauce, veggie or meat, fruit pizza, dessert pizza, and pizza that barely resembles pizza.

If you cook, chances are that you have attempted homemade pizza {or at least thought about trying it} on some occassion.  If your like me, some of these adventures have been more successful than others and have often left you wondering why you just didn’t order take out.

My quest for finidng a delicious homemade pizza recipe stems from the fact that the closest pizza place to our farm is 20 miles away and the closest {GOOD} pizza place is over an hour away.

After much trial and error I have developed a crust recipe along with a few tried and true tricks that help us to enjoy delicious pizza at home.

The Crust (makes 2)

3 Teaspoons Yeast (I keep a jar in the fridge rather than the single use packets.)
1 1/2 Cups Warm Water
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoon fresh herbs, chopped (I use a combination of thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil and parsley.)
4 – 5 cups flour

In the bowl of your mixer dissolve the yeast in warm water.  Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes.  Add the oil, salt and herbs.  Slowly add in the flour 1 cup at a time mixing with the dough hook.  When the dough becomes elastic and pulls away from the edges of the bowl you have added enough flour.  Let the dough rise 30 to 4o minutes. Divide the dough into two equal pieces for 2 – 12 inch pizzas.

Once the dough has risen you can immediatly use it for pizza.  The yeast will still be active and the dough will be very elastic resulting in a slightly thicker crust.  We prefer a thinner crust and I have found that freezing the dough at this point gives us the type of crust we are looking for.  I usually whip up a few batches of the dough and divide them into individual freezer bags.  The night before we plan to make pizza I pull one out and allow it to thaw, in the bag, on the counter.  This seems to allow me to stretch the crust much thinner.

The Sauce

We do occasionally use jarred sauce but most of the time I prefer to make my own sauce.  My basic sauce recipe is here.  You can omit the sausage if you plan to use it for pizza.  Freeze it in small freezer bags and pull one out to thaw when you get your dough out of the freezer.

The Cheese

I think I like pizza mainly for the cheese.  I usually use a combination of cheeses to get the best flavor.

1.  Sliced non-smoked provolone – This gives you that stretch that we all want to see with pizza cheese.
2.  Finely shredded mozzeralla cheese – Mozzerella flavor without all the moisture.
3.  Fresh Mozzerella – Just a little bit to top it off.  Use too much and you will have a soggy pizza.
4.  Parmeseana Cheese – Freshly grated please or not at all!
5.  Goat Cheese – I love it, Richie hates it!

The Toppings

The possibilities are endless.  Richie tends towards more traditional toppings where as I like mine a little more exotic.  Here is a list of our favorites:

Pepperoni
Canadian Bacon
Carmalized Red Onion
Pineapple (Always FRESH)
Mushrooms
Italian Sausage
Artichoke Hearts
Greek Olives
Sliced Vine Ripe Tomatoes or Cherry Tomatoes
Jalepenos
Arugula (adding during last 3 minutes of cooking)

The Cooking Process

I cook my pizza on a stone.  I always preheat my oven and my stone to the HIGHEST temperature setting on my oven.  I prepare my pizza on a peel (a wooden paddle) and slide it onto the hot stone.  I also cook my pizza at the HIGHEST temperature setting on my oven.  Pizza does not take long to cook.  Cook the pizza for 5-7 minutes until the crust firms up and the cheese is fully melted and just starting to brown along the edges.  Use your pizza peel to help you carefully slide the pizza off of the stone and directly onto the oven rack.  Cook 2-3 minutes more, watching carefully.  This is what helps you get a crispy bottom crust.  When you remove your pizza from the oven, to avoid a soggy crust, transfer the pizza to a cooling rack. Do not leave it on a hot pizza stone!  Always allow your pizza to rest a few minutes before slicing it and this will help prevent a soggy crust as well.

Enjoy!

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