18 July 2011

Eats: homemade pizza

Last week I named a few of my sources for picking out recipes for meal planning, but I left out one that’s less accessible to all of you: my kitchen cabinets. Specifically, the recipe books inside them, including a few custom ones just for me! I picked up two at my bridal shower – one full of family recipes, collected by Mr. P’s mother, and one full of my friends’ favorites, collected by my darling shower hostesses:

I’m slowly working my way through the recipes in the binder and often pull it out for inspiration when I’m feeling jaded about recipe reviews - there’s just something comforting about making something that someone you know likes to make. There’s also something comforting about reading my friends’ kind sentiments written in the front of my binder!

One of the meals inside that I’ve been using lately is a pizza/calzone dough recipe provided by my friend lil’ C. (In the photo up there? She is the little one. I told you, literal names.) I’ve always been rather lazy about making my own pizza dough, but as I once wrote, there’s something about making your own bread that is extra rewarding. So I’ve started eschewing the dry store-bought two-packs of pizza crusts in favor of making up a batch of lil’ C’s favorite pizza dough.

When I make it, I make a double batch (compared to lil' C's original recipe) and use it to create three balls of dough for three large pizzas, often in my Sunday night meal prep sessions. It's mostly just waiting for the dough to rise, though without a doubt, the hardest part is kneading the dough. If you aren’t an accomplished dough kneader, this video can help. Then again, I’ve watched it and I am still not so great at kneading the dough, but I am hoping that practice makes perfect.

Here’s lil’ C’s pizza dough recipe, doubled to produce three pizzas’ worth of dough: Mix two packets of dry yeast with two tablespoons of sugar and two cups of warm water. Let it sit until it becomes foamy, about five minutes, then stir in six cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and two teaspoons of olive oil. I also add a lot of garlic powder and other Italian seasonings. Divide the dough into thirds and knead separately (trying to knead all at once is nigh impossible, I have learned the hard way). Once kneaded, let rise an hour, covered in a warm-ish place. At this point you can punch it down, stretch it out, and bake it, or wrap it up in saran wrap and freeze. It’ll try to rise and explode out of the saran wrap so wrap it TIGHTLY. I stick all three in a freezer bag in my freezer and pull them out as needed.

At the same time I simmer a batch of this pizza sauce and portion it into quart-size freezer bags. That recipe, by the by, is the perfect amount of sauce for those three pizzas. Perfect! I hate having too much of one part of a meal. Mr. P likes the hot dogs that come in a package of six but buns always come in a package of eight and yes, that makes me twitch.

So! On the appointed pizza-making weekday, I get a dough ball and sauce square out of the freezer in the morning and let them thaw during the day.

You think I’m kidding about the sauce square? Nope! And a flat square of frozen pizza sauce is ridiculously amusing to me.

That evening, after they are thawed, I stretch out the pizza dough on my mondo-sized pizza pan covered with nonstick cooking spray. This is, I admit, a difficult step for me because I tend to have parts where the dough is more and less dense, even though it seems to be relatively equal thickness. Anyone have any tips?

In exchange I have a tip for you! Since taking these photos, I’ve learned that to get a perfect golden brown crust, I brush the top of the crust with olive oil and dust it with cornmeal after stretching it out. Then I pop it in a 450-degree oven for three to five minutes. After pre-baking it, I flip the crust over and put the toppings on the other side. I realize that’s probably not what the pro pizza bakers do, but it works for me!

Anyway! From here on out you don’t really need a pizza tutorial, do you? Cover it in sauce. (Duh.)

Mr. P and I are pretty basic in our pizza toppings. This particular evening we had cheese and pepperoni.

Then put it back in the oven, for about ten minutes if you pre-baked your crust. Do you guys crouch in front of the oven and watch your things baking? Is that just me?

It’s neat to watch sometimes. No really! This pizza started to grow a pouf.

And finally: homemade pizza!

Is it a more work than a frozen pizza, or picking up the phone and calling for one? Of course it is. It’s a bit more expensive than the cheapest of frozen pizzas, too. But to me, there’s a time for making it all yourself, knowing exactly what’s in it, and there’s a time for takeout. See, the pizza delivery guy doesn’t present me with handwritten well-wishes for a happy marriage from my best friends. That’s an extra bonus with lil’ C’s recipe!


Christal said...

Yay, that's me! :-) Glad to hear you're having some luck with your recipe book! I was so happy we all shared them amongst the hosts, too, because I snagged a lot of them! Your friends (and now MY friends) have tasty recipes!!