There is something exquisite about making your own pizza. It’s therapeutic (all the kneading and pulling), it’s tactile (the warm feel of stretchy dough), it’s artistic and creative (choosing toppings and discovering new combinations), and it’s fun (plus a great activity to do with kids).
But I gotta say, I get pretty picky about pizza. Ever since my first trip to Italy, years ago, it’s like I don’t even consider the thick, squashy, greasy stuff that comes in a box to be pizza anymore. Real Italian pizza is a revelation. Thin, crispy, slightly chewy, and with a minimalist’s approach to sauce, cheese, and toppings. Also: it’s far healthier than the fast food version.
There are increasing numbers of places in North America that you can get really good, thin crust or Italian-style pizza. But what’s even better than that? Making it yourself.
Here’s the recipe I use, adapted from–if you can believe it–America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (which is, incidentally, one of the best cookbooks I’ve evah encountered). This recipe makes enough dough for three pizzas:
1. In a large bowl combine yeast, salt, and 4 cups of flour. Blend together.
2. Add the oil and water to the dry ingredients and stir. A rubber spatula works best for this job, and will bring the dough together into a rough ball.
3. Lightly flour a clean counter (okay, maybe here I should have put “clean countertop” as your #1 step)…and turn the dough ball onto it. Knead the dough by hand for about 10-15 minutes, until you have a smooth, stretchy ball. You may need to add a little extra flour (the extra 1/4 cup if necessary) to stop the dough sticking.
4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Let the dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a nice warm place for 60-90 minutes (it should roughly double in this time).
5. Place a pizza stone (a definite kitchen must-have!) on the lower-middle rack of your oven, and preheat to 500 degrees. Give the pizza stone a good long time to warm up (30 minutes or so).
6. Meanwhile, cut the risen dough into three equal portions. Shape each portion into a nice, smooth ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for a further 30 minutes.
7. Now comes the fun part. Working with one ball at a time, stretch it out by hand into a pizza shape, approximately 12 inches in diameter. (If you stretch it out on a piece of parchment paper, it makes transferring the pizza onto the stone much easier.) Spread with a dollop of your favorite pizza sauce (leaving an edge for the crust), and then decorate with cheese and toppings of your choice. I like to brush the crust with olive oil, and sometimes sprinkle with herbs.
8. Slide the pizza onto the hot stone, bake for 8-13 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
So, what are your favorite toppings? And…most importantly, do you like anchovies? Ours is definitely a pro-anchovy household–everyone loves them (including two otherwise picky boys).
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