Homemade pizza is a lot simpler to make than most people think - if a pathetic cook like me can make delicious deep-dish, obviously you can too! It's also a very fun group activity for friends and family, and is a good way for kids to learn how to cook and bake. So let's grab our circular saws, jackhammers, and get to work! Follow me below the pasta stain below.
(My house has become the sports hang-out lately (for Friday Night Fights Boxing) because of my new-found cooking abilities, so you can take the word of the hordes of drunken weirdos who come over that this is good stuff! )
Of course in order to cook anything, you'll need your kitchen work-space, and basic tools. To make the dough I mix the ingredients in my stand mixer with a dough hook, but it can also all be mixed by hand if you don't have one yourself. You'll also need a measuring cup and spoons, a small brush, a knife, and a rolling pin of some kind.
I don't have a rolling pin, but I use a 'stash' fixie-bike handlebar, and it works great! Another piece of equipment I can't recommend enough is the stoneware pie-pan you see in the photo - it's a great piece of gear, and allows me to cook pizza regular pies with perfect golden crust. And since I'm horrible at getting pizza dough to be round, it makes things a lot easier. This is a 'SuperStone' 11" diameter pan, available at Amazon for about $22.00, which is money well spent. Here's a link if you'd like to see;
One of the greatest things about pizza (especially a pan pizza) is that you can put any crazy layers of ingredients you want on it! This is another fun aspect for a group or family activity, it's endlessly customizable. Going through my pantry, here's a sampling of things I had on hand that would be great pizza toppings - along with the cheese, olive oil, and pasta sauce you'll need as the basics.
After numerous experiments using various pizza dough recipes, I've perfected one that works for me - here are the ingredients;
3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon fast-acting yeast
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup warm water
And that's all! Simple. You can make it a little more complex by adding shredded cheese or herbs to it, but this is a good basic dough.
First, start pre-heating your oven to 475F. Then, put all the dry ingredients in your bowl and mix them thoroughly. Then add the oil, begin mixing at low speed, and SLOWLY pour in the WARM water (it needs to be warm to activate the yeast). You may not need to use the entire cup of water - once the dough turns into a single ball and hangs onto the dough hook, that's all. If you've added too much water, just sprinkle in a bit more flour. It should look similar to this;
Let the mixer beat on it for a couple of more minutes just to show it who's boss. Now we take the dough off the hook, sprinkle some flour on our working surface (to keep the dough from sticking) and vigorously knead it for about 5 minutes. It's a good workout, and it helps to picture punching or strangling who or whatever has been frustrating you recently.
After sufficient kneading, put the dough ball in a bowl, cover it, and set it aside. You should give it about 1-2 hours to rise, depending on how warm it is in your home. It should just about double in size to be ready.
This down time gives you a good opportunity to relax, pour a brewski or two, and enjoy a fine classic film! Here's some suggestions;
Okay, now that Kong has gone back to Skull Island and you've finished that 6 pack, it's time to check on our dough! If all has gone right, it should look like this;
See how it's grown? Just like a baby bird, ready to leave the nest.... oh I'm tearing up a bit here.... anyway, next step is to pour a little olive oil onto the pan, and brush it around - this will keep the pizza from sticking to the pan, and give a little crispyness and additional taste to the dough.
Now sprinkle a litte more flour on the work surface, plop the dough on it, and start rolling it out! Roll it as thin as you'd like, but it should be larger than the pan; large enough for you to 'drape' it over.
Once you've draped it over the pan, press it down so it covers the bottom and snugs up to the sides. Depending on how thin you've rolled it, you can choose to trim it at the base of the sides, or at the top; save the leftover dough and set it aside.
Next you're going to brush a little more olive oil on the top of the dough; once that's done, put the pan into the oven for a couple of minutes. The oil and the pre-heating will create a cooked layer, so the dough doesn't get soggy when you start putting the toppings on. If the dough has started to rise a bit, you can just press it down with your fingertips to allow air to escape (don't push through the dough).
Now comes the fun part - putting your toppings on! There is no real 'right' or 'wrong' way to do this - it's however you prefer. Here, after taking the pan back out of the oven, I started with a layer of Prego 'Pesto Marinara' sauce, then added my first layer of cheese (Kroger 'Pizza' shredded cheese, a mix of provolone and mozzarella).
My next layer was meat, this is delicious Black Forest ham!
Next was Kroger 'Hot Pepper' cheese (jalapeno jack), Banana Pepper rings, and black olives. Oh man it looks so good already! Obviously it's up to everyone's individual tastes and urges to put on as many layers of whatever you'd like. Now it's time to put that pie in the oven - cooking time should be about 20 minutes at 475F, but keep an eye on it. Once the cheese is melted with golden brown tips, it should be ready. BUT YOU'RE NOT DONE COOKING YET!!
Remember that leftover pie dough? There's still tons of ingredients you can use on it, to make either another mini-pizza, stuffed bread, or dozens of other things! Here's what I did with mine; first I rolled it out flat, then covered it with a layer of the 2 cheeses mixed together, and black olives.
Next I put on a layer of the Black Forest ham;
And rolled it up into a log!
I then put it inside a non-stick bread pan, but you can put it on a cooking sheet, or even folded aluminum foil. It won't expand or rise very much.
By the time you're done with that, the pizza should be ready to come out of the oven - and what a pizza it will be! Look how great that is;
Now that the oven is empty again, turn the heat down to 400F and place your ham/cheese/olive loaf in for about 15 minutes. Take it out, and you'll be able to either eat it as a full sammich, or cut it into slices for hot or cold serving;
So the next time you're having a big get-together, DON'T give Papa John or Domino's your money for a sub-par pie - make one yourself and impress your friends!