Who doesn't enjoy freshly baked, hot off the oven, homemade pizza! This recipe makes 2 medium size pizzas. We decided to make 4 personal pizzas because it's more fun!
I used to make pizza more often, almost once a week when the kids were little. It was a fun thing to do with the kids. Pop the pizza in the oven, and settle with a great movie - weekends were great for this. Now that the kids were home for the long weekend, we decided to recreate the fun. We all love homemade pesto, so pesto pizza it was!
31/4 + 1/4cupsall purpose flourcan substitute with whole wheat; extra flour is for dusting
1packetactive/instant dry yeast
1tbspsugar or honey
1cupwarm waternot hot, not cold, but warm enough for the yeast to develop
1/2cupsun dried tomatoesI use the kind packed in oil, you may experiment with dry ones
1tspgarlic powderoptional; can also use other flavorings such as italian spices, oregano, thyme, dried basil etc. to flavor the crust
1/4cupExtra virgin olive oilto oil the bowl, and to add in the dough
1cuppesto sauceI made pesto with half cup arugula and half cup basil, 1/2 cup pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, salt; can use store bought
Pizza panPizza stone works really wellFor crispier pizza, use a pan that has holes
Take a deep bowl, and stir the sugar or honey into the warm water, and dissolve it completely
Slowly add the yeast, mixing it until the yeast dissolves completely
Set it aside in a warm area, to let the yeast develop; it will be activated and look all bubbly and frothy
Choose a surface to work freely and dump the 3 1/4 cups of flour; I used to always make the dough in a deep, wide bowl, but learned to do this in Florence, and wanted to try it. I must admit, it was messy. But it allowed me to work more comfortably with the flour.
Make a well in the center of the flour, and pour the yeast mixture in it; add salt; as you can see in the video, I started this on my roti stone, and transferred it to the counter top when it became too hard to work on. I also didn't use all the water for proofing the yeast, and used the remaining water as I made the dough.
This is the part that I am not very good at and discarded the photos/videos of it. The pizza chef in Florence taught us to gently fold in the flour into the well, without breaking the dam; I always broke the dam, and the water got everywhere; but if you do it right, the flour and the yeast mixture should come together in a mass of dough fairly quickly
Work on this dough for about 8-10 minutes, kneading it really well (see video); add a bit of the oil in the dough as you work; the technique I learned in Florence was to turn the dough a quarter, push it away with the palm, and fold it in.
Lather, rinse, repeat 😉
Oil a bowl and keep the dough in it in a warm place, covered with a cloth for about an hour. The yeast will do its magic and the dough should double in size.
After an hour, check the dough by making an indent of about 2 inches in it with two fingers. If the intent remains, your dough is doubled and ready!
Now would be a good time to preheat the oven to 425 deg Fahrenheit, before you start working on the dough to make the pies
Break the dough into 4 or 2 depending on how many pizzas you would like. We made 4, one for each. They are the size of personal pizzas
Knead each of the pieces into a smooth ball; the pizza teacher in Florence really made sure we did this, so the pizza is smooth
Stretching the dough: You may hand stretch or roll it out to desired size and shape; the thing I learned from the pizza school in Florence is to keep the edge a little raised for a pro-looking and good pizza; this was easier to do by hand-stretching the pizza more than rolling it out
Get the toppings chopped and ready - we used sun-dried tomatoes, red onions, goat cheese, cherry tomatoes; get creative with toppings
Spread each of the pizza crusts with a base of your choice - we chose pesto for ours, topped with the veggies
Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes; definitely take it out if it starts smoking 😉
There are some schools of thought that bake the crust first for 10 minutes, then add the base and the toppings; I have always done it all together. Sometimes I might hold the cheese and add it for the last 10 minutes of the baking time so it doesn't burn. This depends on the oven mostly.
Pop a movie in, get your beer/soda and enjoy hot pizza!
Pizza making is an art more than a science. A lot depends on the flour, the yeast, the gluten content, and the oven's temperament. So, don't be discouraged if the pizza doesn't turn out looking like a Domino's commercial model. With practice and little tweaks, it always turns out better than any restaurant pizzas.
My pizzas this time took an extra 5 minutes of baking.
In the class in Florence, they used a very hot oven (I believe the temp was 700 something), and the pizzas were done in 3 minutes!
Hope you have fun making pizzas with your family/kids!
I used a couple of techniques I learned in making/kneading the dough, and stretching the dough for the crust, along with my tried and trusted recipe from the following book I have used for ages.
The 50 Best Pizzas In The World by Honey and Larry Zisman
(I have had/used this book since early 2000s, and it's never disappointed me).