These days, I find myself making a lot of things from scratch that I might not ordinarily make: ice cream, pasta sauce, bread. Okay, actually, I make bread all the time, but not usually in these quantities! But I realized that if I’m making that much bread dough, I may as well make other fun things out of it, such as pizza. It’s really pretty easy to make at home, especially if you have a pizza stone. If you don’t, no worries. An ordinary baking sheet will do.
The lovely thing is, you can top it with whatever you have handy. You don’t have to use mozzerella. Try goat cheese, blue cheese, or cheddar with cooked ground beef to make a cheeseburger pizza. Find toppings in the back of your pantry, freezer, or fridge: olives, anchovies, spinach, broccoli, butternut squash, breakfast sausage. No tomato sauce? Try alfredo sauce or plain olive oil for a white pizza. Experiment! This is a great opportunity to try new things.
Start with the crust about 2.5 hours before dinnertime.
(This is just a simple white bread recipe. If four crusts is too much for you, you can put half the dough in a loaf pan and make nice white sandwich bread. You can also refrigerate the dough for up to a week. Just let the dough warm up for 20 minutes before rolling it out.)
- 1.5 Tablespoons dry yeast
- 1.5 Tablespoons salt
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 6.5-7.5 cups all-purpose flour
Throw these willy nilly into a mixer bowl and knead using a dough hook or by hand until the dough is smooth, pulls away from the sides of the bowl, and stops sticking to your fingers. You may need to add extra flour on a humid day. Cover loosely and allow to rise for two hours.
About 15 minutes before the dough finishes rising, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven now. If you like a crispy crust, add the bottom of a broiler pan on the lowest rack. If you are using a pizza stone and have a pizza peel, dust the peel with cornmeal. Otherwise, a baking sheet with parchment paper for each pizza you plan to make and dust that lightly with cornmeal.
Punch down the dough and divide it into four grapefruit-sized balls. Flour a board and a rolling pin and roll out to the width of your baking sheet. Bonus points if you pick it up and toss it in the air to stretch it. This will delight your kids. Extra credit if you give one quarter of the dough to your kids to try tossing. Don’t worry if they drop it on the floor. You’ve got three more crusts, remember?
When the dough is nice and stretched out, lay it out on the pizza peel/baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Add your favorite pasta sauce, cheese, and toppings. Place in the oven either on the pizza stone or in the baking sheet. If you like a crispy crust, pour 1 cup of water into the broiler pan at the bottom of the oven. This will fill the oven with steam and paradoxically create a lovely, crispy outer crust. Bake for about 8 minutes or until the crust turns slightly golden brown and all the cheese is melted. Allow to cool for about five minutes before cutting. Enjoy!