Homemade pizza

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Making pizza at home can be quite easy, once you have the dough. Actually, you don't even have to make the dough - you can buy it from a local pizzeria, or buy frozen dough. I don't really recommend the ready-mix type of doughs since they are not yeast-rising doughs.

The type of pizza I describe here is a thin-crust pizza, of the kind seen in Italy or for that matter in Switzerland. It's related to New York style pizza in the U.S. The key to good thin-crust pizza is that it has to cook very rapidly to produce a crispy bottom. The best way to achieve this is to bake it on a baking stone or baking tiles. You can get these from kitchen equipment stores, or online (just do a Google search for "baking tiles"). Some ovens come with a pizza stone. We have an oven with a big terracotta pizza stone that can be heated from underneath. You'll never regret getting a pizza stone or baking tiles, especially if you bake other breads too. To use the stone or tiles for making pizza, put it in the oven and heat the oven for at least 30 minutes prior to baking, at the highest possible temperature.

Another very useful tool to have is a wooden peel. The pizza pictured above (which we had for dinner yesterday), is sitting on a peel. A peel is a large paddle of sorts with a beveled edge, and is used to slide risen dough onto a hot baking stone (or, if you're lucky enough to have one, right onto the floor of a brick oven). Flour it quite thickly before assembling the pizza right on it. To slide the pizza onto the stone, put the edge of the peel on the farthest edge of the stone in the back of the oven, tilt the peel, and jerk off the pizza rapidly. You may end up with topping on the stone the first couple of times - with practice it gets easier. If you don't have a peel, you can try using a baking sheet with a lip to slide the pizza onto the stone. You also use the peel to take the pizza out of the oven.

If you don't have a stone, you can bake the pizza in a pan, but it will be soft on the bottom. It will still be quite good though.

The beauty of making your own pizza is that you can put any kind of topping on it that you want, and the pizza will be piping hot and crispy. You don't have to use your own tomato sauce - use a ready-made one if you like (I actually used Dolmio Classico sauce last night). Here's a recipe for a pizza with lots of toppings.

Pizza with lots of toppings

This makes 2 largish or 3 medium pizzas, enough for 2 very hungry people or 4 normal-appetite people, accompanied by a good salad.

  • 1 batch of basic pizza dough
  • About 2 cups of basic tomato sauce
  • 1 cup of grated Parmesano Reggiano or Grana Padano or similar cheese
  • Olive oil
  • About 2 cups of cut up Mozzarella, or more if you can stand it
  • Toppings of your choice: for this pizza we used thinly sliced onion, thinly sliced green pepper, anchovies, canned artichoke hearts, and a couple of slices of raw ham (proscuitto-type ham). Other toppings you could use include pitted black olives, thin slices of pepperoni or salami, sliced and slightly sauteed mushrooms (never, ever canned mushrooms), some arugula leaves...whatever you can imagine. A pizza like this is a good way to use up leftovers too.
  • Dried oregano

If using a baking stone or tiles: put the stone or tiles in the oven and heat at the highest temperature possible (for our oven this is 250° C) for at least 30 minutes. A drop of water on the stone should sizzle and evaporate immediately. If baking on a sheet, heat your oven in the normal way to the highest temperature possible.

For two pizzas about 16 inches / 45 cm in diameter: cut the risen pizza dough in half. Coat the peel with flour. Gently stretch out the dough with your hands, turning it a lot, to make a circle (or rectangle, if that fits your oven better. As you can see from the picture, mine is somewhat in the shape of Australia.) that's more or less even in thickness. Try to make it as thin as you can, for a crispier crust. Place it on the floured peel. If you're baking it in a pan, brush the pan with olive oil, dust with a little cornmeal, and put the dough on that.

Brush the dough with a little olive oil. Sprinkle half of the grated Parmesano or Grana Padano on top. Spoon half of the tomato sauce on top, and spread it out evenly. Put on your toppings - the cheese goes on last, unless you want something on top of that to become crisp. I put the ham on top of the cheese for this reason. Sprinkle with some oregano.

Slide the pizza on the stone or tiles. Bake for 10-12 minutes - but start checking at around 8 minutes. If using a baking sheet, bake for about 15 minutes, until the cheese has melted and is sizzling, and the crust looks brown. If you bake on a stone it will even be blistered.

Eat immediately.

Repeat for the second pizza.

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