I have always loved pizza. We had family night on Friday’s when my sister and I were little and it always included delivery pizza and a movie (in the living room around the coffee table, which was considered very special to us… since food was not allowed outside the kitchen or dining room) I remember I set the table with the plates and napkins and my sister was in charge of getting the glasses and filling them with ice. I definitely think this memory has left a lasting impression and has contributed to my love of pizza… only now, I prefer a different style of pizza; one that has more of a home-made quality.
I first experienced a really good Pizza Margherita at a little place called Olivella’s. It was light and fresh and crisp. Absolutely delicious.
I got a tad obsessed with trying to figure out how I could make this type of pizza at home. It seemed so simple; why not! The dough seemed a little tricky, but it really is not that complicated.
I discovered that the key to a really good pizza is using a pizza stone. I love to watch the dough bubble up, getting nice and crispy. I have Chris to thank for this discovery… He researched pizza stones and then surprised me with one shortly thereafter (along with a pizza paddle: to lift the pizza in and out of the 500 degree oven.) He definitely supports my love of cooking; since he is the one who gets to be my guinea pig :)
I have become addicted to fresh basil ever since I started making pizza at home. I never knew I would like it so much, but it is soo good. And it’s nothing like dried basil (when you buy it, it must be “living basil”, otherwise it has a different taste.)
Simple, fresh ingredients make this pizza so yummy. It has now truly become a staple in our home. Enjoy!
For the dough:
1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoon)
2 1/2 cups bread flour (or all-purpose, but bread flour’s best), plus more for dusting
1 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1 teaspoon salt
For the topping:
1 small can Hunt’s tomato sauce
fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
salt to taste & fresh cracked pepper
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into thin slices
*Optional: I love to add roasted red peppers to this recipe.
FIRST: Preheat your CLEAN oven to 500 degrees (no remaining food or crumbs in the oven, this will cause burning and smoke!! I know from experience) Next, let’s make the dough:
Combine yeast and warm water in a small bowl and let it stand until yeast is dissolved; about 5-6 min. In a large bowl stir together the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture slowly and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Gather together with your hands (I get a little flour on mine first) and form into a ball. Place onto a lightly floured work space (a large wooden cutting board is what I use.)
Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, not sticky; about 10 min… Adding flour as needed. Break the large dough ball into two balls. (You can freeze one dough ball AFTER it rises and make a pizza in no time in a week or two!) Warm two medium size bowls under hot water, dry and then drizzle some olive oil into each bowl. Set each dough ball into its warm bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel. Let it rise, until double in bulk, about 45-50 min. or longer.
Now… That seems hard and time-consuming (to make the dough) but it really isn’t that bad, just be patient and you will get it down in no time.
Once your dough has risen, roll one dough ball out onto the floured work space, getting it to your desired thickness. I think it’s best as thin as possible; it makes for a crispy, light crust. (To achieve a very thin crust, I pick it up and work it with my hands carefully.. it will tear if it gets TOO thin. Just ball it up and try again) It takes practice and getting used to. (*Freeze your other dough ball in a ziplock freezer bag and use within the next month or two.)
Now use your pizza paddle to deliver it into the preheated, VERY hot oven. Be Careful!!! (I’ve singed my arm hairs before so you should probably use a high level of caution with this :)
This is the hardest part to me; it wont make it onto the pizza stone perfectly, so just accept it. Just try to get it on there and spread out the best you can. *Watch it… It will bubble up and cook quickly… my favorite part.
After 2-4 min. remove it with your pizza paddle, flip it quickly onto your work surface and place it back into the oven for a few minutes to brown the other side (it is much easier to work with at this point)
Now, for the toppings. Once both sides are browned, spread out your sauce evenly (NOT too much sauce, I have made this mistake!) Then sprinkle some salt, garlic powder, oregano or whatever else you think may be tasty onto your sauce.. Just remember less is more. Lay the cheese slices on the pizza (not too close to the edge) and NOT too much cheese. Unless you want to smoke out your apartment, then go for it. (This is also the time to add roasted red peppers if you choose.)
Cook it until the sides are browned and the cheese is melted and bubbly; I’d say 5-10 min, watch it closely though!
Once you bring it out of the oven, place your basil leaves on top. Let it cool a minute or two, then slice it. Your hard work will be worth it, trust me. It gets easier every time and the taste will have you coming back for more.
*Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma