Homemade Pizza – Exceptional EA in the Kitchen

Anyone who thought New Year’s Day marked the end of parties and festive events for a while may have overlooked Robbie Burns’ Day last weekend, and this weekend’s events surrounding the beginning of the Chinese (Lunar) New Year celebrations. For many of my North American readers, this afternoon’s Super Bowl Game affords yet one more occasion for good food and company.  For those who prefer to happily ignore football, there’s today’s Puppy Bowl, an alternative featuring adorable pups from shelters that comes complete with, wait for it, a Kitty Halftime Show; 12.4 million people watched last year’s Puppy Bowl.

I just saw some projections that people will consume 11 million slices of pizza today in the States, along with 1.25 billion chicken wings and 50 million cases of beer; there seems to be a corelation between those counts and the projection that seven million people will call in sick to work tomorrow. On this side of the border, you can count on similar interest in the game and accompanying socialising.

Special event or not, homemade pizza is always a hit and I’ve relied on this dough recipe ever since another parent, Marlene, shared it for publication in a fundraising cookbook some other mums and I pulled together for our kids’ elementary school.  This recipe makes two pizzas. While some may find making their own pizza dough daunting at first, it’s actually very straightforward – and will soon have you wondering why you didn’t try making this sooner.

YeastIngredients – Dough

  • flour, white or whole wheat – four cups/560 g
  • salt – one tablespoon
  • water, lukewarm – .25 cup/60 mL
  • fast rising yeast – either one package or, if you purchase a jar (be sure to use the Quick-Rise version), 2.5 teaspoons
  • sugar – one teaspoon
  • milk, lukewarm – one cup/250 g
  • water, lukewarm – one cup/250 g

Ingredientspizza ingredients 2 Copyright Shelagh Donnelly – Sauce and Toppings

  • tomato sauce – to taste; sufficient to spoon over the pizza dough
  • mozarella cheese, shredded – 12 ounces/350 g
  • onion – depending on the size of the onions and our inclination any given day, we may use up to a third or half onion, very thinly sliced and then chopped into smaller pieces
  • basil – to taste; if in a pinch and you have no fresh basil, try using a bit of pesto
  • oregano – fresh, to taste
  • tomatoes – two to three, depending on size, for two pizzas

Optional Toppings

The sky, and your personal preferences, are the limit. You may wish to slice Yukon Gold potatoes into thin wedges, sprinkle them with a bit of olive oil and rosemary and roast them along with some sliced red peppers in the oven for 20 minutes or so at 375 F before substituting them for tomatoes. You may or may not want to sprinkle a bit of corn in with the potatoes and peppers. Others will enjoy adding cold cuts and other veggies or fruits such as peppers and pineapple.

Mixing pizza Copyright Shelagh Donnelly

Mixing the Dough

  1. Place the four cups of flour in a mixing bowl and stir in the tablespoon of salt. With a mixing spoon, shape a well in the middle of the flour. Set aside.
  2. Pour .25 cup of lukewarm water in a measuring cup or mug, and stir in one teaspoon of sugar.
  3. Add the package of fast rising yeast or 2.5 teaspoons of quick-rise yeast to the mixture of warm water and sugar; gently mix and leave a moment or so to rise. We prep our yeast mixture in a one cup/250 mL measuring cup.
  4. While the yeast mixture is rising, warm the cup/250 mL of milk in the microwave. I find 30 – 60 seconds to be plenty of time; remember that the milk should be warm, but not piping hot.
  5. Check the yeast mixture; once it has risen toward the top of the measuring cup, that’s when we pour the yeast mixture in the well of the flour mixture.
  6. Next, add the cup of warmed milk to the flour and milk mixture.
  7. Measure and add to the mix one cup/250 mL warm water. Stir the mixture together to make a soft dough.

Setting dough to rise Copyright Shelagh DonnellyKnead the Dough Five Minutes, and Set it Aside to Rise for One Hour

When I first made this recipe, I faithfully followed the instructions to knead the dough on a floured surface. I’d pull out a large cutting board, sprinkle flour on it, knead the dough and return it to the bowl.

One day, deciding that there was no need to scatter more flour over a cutting board and, inadvertently, our counter, I decided to sprinkle the flour over the dough in the mixing bowl and knead the dough right there. This works just fine for me; see which approach you prefer.

Whichever approach you choose,  you’ll knead your dough for five minutes. I’ve inserted a link here to help guide first-timers; while your dough will be sticky and unappealing at first, you’ll find it has a nice smooth texture once you’re ready to set it aside to rise. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and, depending on the time of year, your heating system and whether you have curious pets or toddlers, you may wish to set it near a warm heat vent while it’s rising. Otherwise, set the covered bowl in a sunny spot in your kitchen.

While the dough is rising, grate the mozarella cheese and prep whatever vegetable, fruit and/or other toppings you wish to use.

Pizza rising Copyright Shelagh DonnellyHow Do You Know the Dough is Ready to Work?

This part’s easy. The dough will have visibly risen in the bowl, and will have a nicely rounded appearance. The photos on this page are all of the same pizza prep, despite the different tea towels you see in the pics. Pop a clean finger in the centre of the dough and, if the opening remains intact after you extract your finger, you’re good to go.

Take two pizza pans or, if you don’t have any, a couple of cookie sheets. Use olive oil or whichever product you use to prevent sticking, to coat the pan.

Divide the dough in half; place each half on a pizza pan or cookie sheet. Use a rolling pin (I use a child-sized rolling pin we picked up for almost nothing) to, naturally, roll out the dough.

Pizzas into oven Copyright Shelagh DonnellyAssemble and Bake for 15 – 20 Minutes

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F / approximately 218 C
  2. Once you’ve rolled out the pizza dough, spoon tomato sauce over it
  3. Add, to taste, fresh basil and oregano. You’ll see in these photos that, while I add these herbs to the base, I reserve most of the basil for the top of the pizza.
  4. Grate mozarella cheese, and sprinkle it over the pizzas, being sure to include some over the edges of the crust
  5. Add your onions, tomatoes, and/or whatever additional toppings you prefer
  6. Place in the oven and bake. Depending on how crispy you like your crust, bake your pizzas for anywhere from 15 – 20 minutes.

Pizzas fresh from oven 193 Copyright Shelagh DonnellyEnjoy

Let the pizzas cool slightly before you cut them; otherwise, you may find yourself pulling cheese up with every roll of the pizza slicer.

Pat yourself on the back for having made lovely homemade pizza, set out for your family and friends, and enjoy!

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