Whether you aim to craft the perfect pie or just want to enjoy the experience of creating your own, homemade pizza is an art form of the heart. It may seem simple, just a crust with some stuff on top. Any pizza lover will tell you, though, that a pizza is far more than the sum of its components.
What type of at home pizza maker will you be? A recipe tweaking all-star seeking to build the best of the best? Or a lover of all pies, here for the simple joy of making something from scratch? This guide will help you discover the type of chef you are – and the pizzas that fit your style.
Home base. Where all pizzas begin. The foundation of the type of pie it will become. The dough you choose is important and can quite literally shape your end product. Deciding on the right platform to build your pizza upon requires knowledge of what dough options are out there.
If you are committed to creating your own crust from scratch, the most important factor to consider is time. A flavorful crust comes from a dough that was given enough time to rise. Otherwise, a delicious crust is as easy as 1-2-3:
A high-quality crust is not easy to perfect – which makes it even more fun for the perfection seeking chef! The journey of discovering your perfect dough is an exciting ride. A personal pan pizza, think Pizza Hut but better, is an excellent starting point.
Feel like a crust that’s a little outside the pizza box – and doesn’t take a whole day to rise? Try an English muffin or french bread base. Craving something even more creative? Build your pizza on top of some naan! A pie made on a store bought crust is best for pizza makers who want to focus heavily on their sauce and toppings.
The results are in, and all of the top pizza chefs agree – keep the sauce simple! A traditional red sauce only takes a few tomatoes blended in a food processor. A few extra flavors – olive oil, garlic, herbs – can be added in and quickly pulsed. Even if you’re not adding anything else to your sauce, always make sure you toss in a dash of salt to balance the sweetness of the tomatoes.
If a red sauce is too traditional to tickle your fancy, you can always try your hand at a white pizza. Skip the sauce entirely and start your pizza with cheese directly on the dough. A traditional pie in Italy, a white pizza is a fun break from the norm for any pizza maker.
Pizza without cheese is like life without oxygen – impossible! The cheese you use can influence the texture and appearance of your pizza, so be careful when deciding which to use. A pre-shredded packaged cheese from a supermarket will create a golden brown melt similar to a New York style pie. A fresh and wet mozzarella, on the other hand, will ooze into the traditional white gooey mess seen on Italian pizzas.
One factor to keep in mind when smothering your pizza in cheese is that it will spread when it melts. This means that for the first time ever, less cheese is actually more! Whether you sprinkle, grate, cube, or tear your cheese apart by hand is up to you, but be sure to choose the variety that suits your pizza needs.
A grated parmesan brings a delightful nutty umami flavor to any pie. The pizza pros recommend sprinkling it on immediately after the pie is removed from heat. A creamy ricotta works well on a white pie, adding visual and textural appeal to the pizza. A bold fontina, or any other flavorful cheese, blends perfectly on a four cheese, or quattro formaggi, pizza.
Stretching and Assembly
If you chose a pre-made dough, you get to skip this step of the process and move straight to your toppings! For those of you who took on the challenge of crafting your own dough, this step is essential for your perfect pizza.
Unless specifically directed otherwise by a recipe, stretching the dough from a ball to a sheet with your hands is the recommended method. Like most doughs, though, you want to keep contact with the dough to a minimum. Don’t worry about making the perfect circle – the weirder the shape, the better!
If your dough becomes tough and disagreeable, give it a time out. Cover it with a damp towel, set a ten minute timer, and come back to it when it is ready to behave. Your dough will shape up quickly.
It’s your pie – put whatever you want on it! You can go gourmet with prosciutto and greens or keep it simple with pepperoni and sausage. However you choose to top your pizza, keep the same rule we used for the cheese in mind. If it looks like a little too little, it’s probably the perfect amount.
Oven or grill – which will you choose? Any oven will work, but you will want to crank up the heat. You want your oven above 500 degrees to cook your pizza to perfection. Using a stone or steel to bake your pizza on can also improve its quality. Preheating these tools and transferring your pizza onto them with a paddle helps the pie cook from all directions, avoiding a cold or gooey center.
A grill is an excellent tool for not only the aesthetic appeal of grill marks, but also for its ability to get hotter than an oven. With temperatures closer to 700 degrees, though, you have to work fast to assemble your pizza. Once you stretch your dough onto the grill top, flip it after a few minutes and quickly top it. Remove it from direct heat and let it sit to melt the cheese further.
The Finishing Touches
When your pizza comes out of the oven or off of the grill, it needs to rest for 3-5 minutes before you dig in. You can use these agonizing minutes to pile even more flavor onto your pie, though. Try sprinkling that parmesan on top, or drizzle your pizza lightly with some olive oil. If you have fresh herbs on hand, this is their time to shine. Add some basil or rosemary to amp up the artisanal appeal of your pie.
Now you can finally enjoy the fruits of your labor! If you chose to create your own dough, this process could have taken you over 24 hours to complete. As you savor your delicious homemade pizza, consider how you will adapt your next pie. Will you perfect this recipe or try something bold and new??