Pizza

It’s hard to disappoint when it comes to homemade pizza, but it’s also hard to get just right. Dough tends to have a mind of its own, and how much sauce should you really use? In the Good Housekeeping Institute, we learned from years of testing that simple is best, especially when making pizza at home, and fewer [toppings, in this case] is more. While there are some appliances out there, like pizza ovens, that will take your pizza making skills to the next level, here’s how to make pizza at home every time with the tools you have, including tips from pizza pros.

Ingredients

Cornmeal for baking sheet

Flour for surface

1 lb. pizza dough (thawed, if frozen)

3/4 c. marinara sauce

3 oz. mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated

2 tbsp. grated parmesan

Basil, for sprinkling

Directions

If you have one, place a pizza stone in the oven and heat oven to 500ºF (if you can’t heat oven this high without broiling, set to 475ºF). Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal.

On a lightly floured surface, shape pizza dough into a 14- to 16-in oval or circle and place on prepared sheet (make sure that the dough slides easily around the sheet, if not, add a bit more cornmeal).

Spread sauce on dough, leaving a ½-in boarder all the way around and sprinkle with mozzarella and then Parmesan. If using a stone, slide the pizza off the sheet onto the stone. Bake until crust is golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle with basil just before serving, if desired.

Five Steps for Delicious Pizza at Home:

1. Start with a solid pizza dough recipe.

To quote Ina Garten, “store-bought is fine,” but making pizza dough from scratch allows you to control the ingredients and ultimately the results. A lot of recipes call for “00” flour, but remember that “00” only refers to the fine grind of the flour, not a high protein content, which is often insinuated by pizza dough recipes. A finer grind requires less hydration than a typical all-purpose grind, which creates a less chewy dough, while a higher protein percentage provides more structure. When we chatted with Laura Meyer, Administrator and Instructor at the International School of Pizza and one of the presenters on Breville’s “Meet the Makers: A Virtual Pizza Tour,” and she shared that most pizzerias use a blend of flours, which contribute to a unique texture and taste. When shopping for flour, she recommends purchasing from smaller mills that offer more variety, including curated pizza dough mixes, like this one from Central Milling.

2. Make the dough.

Pizza dough can be made by hand, in a food processor, or in a stand mixer. When making a pizza dough by hand, it’s best to start by using a wooden spoon to stir together the liquid ingredients (including proofed yeast) in a large bowl with half of the dry ingredients. From there, add the remaining dry ingredients little by little, until the dough starts to form a shaggy ball and has difficulty incorporating more dry ingredients. Once the ball is firm, transfer to a floured surface and use your hands to knead until it is smooth and springs back when touched.

To make pizza dough in a food processor, add the dry ingredients to the bowl first. Pulse a few times to stir. Then, with the motor running, use the feed tube to slowly add in the liquid ingredients until the dough forms a ball and rotates around the bowl without sticking to the sides. Process for about 30 seconds.

To make pizza dough in a stand mixer, add the liquid ingredients to the bowl first and, while the mixer is running on low, add in the dry ingredients, little by little, until the dough forms a ball and doesn't stick to the sides. Increase the speed to medium-low and allow to knead for about 5 to 6 minutes, adding in more dry ingredients as necessary. The beater or dough hook may be used.

3. Proof the dough.

Once the dough is kneaded, transfer to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap and/or several dish towels so it can proof. As the dough proofs, it will form air bubbles, which increase the size of the dough, and develop flavor. Proofing can take place in a warm area where it will bulk up quickly, or even in the fridge over a couple of days. (If proofing in the fridge, cover loosely with plastic wrap to avoid condensation from forming.) The longer you proof dough, the more flavorful it will become; take care not to overproof because it can become sour. A general rule of thumb is to proof it until it doubles in bulk.

After the dough has proofed, divide into individual balls that can be stretched just before cooking.

4. Prepare the sauce and toppings.

Different styles of pizza use different types of sauce. Since the sauce cooks in the oven, there’s no need to cook it beforehand unless you’re looking for an extra deep tomato flavor. For a Neapolitan style, try whole canned tomatoes that you break up with your hands, or for New York style, try crushed tomatoes seasoned with dried Italian seasoning.

When adding the sauce to the dough, add less than you think you'll need and use the bottom of a ladle to even it out as much as possible. Pools of sauce slow down the cooking process and cause wet spots.

Almost anything can be used as pizza topping, but keep in mind that you want to try to balance the flavors as much as possible. If you like a lot of sauce and it’s very flavorful, stick to simple flavors that won’t compete, like cheese and simply seasoned vegetables. If you have toppings you want to show off, like a creamy burrata or a special meat like prosciutto, let those ingredients be the star by using a scant amount of sauce or other overpowering additions.

Toppings can be added to pizza raw or cooked, before or after cooking the pizza. When deciding how to use, think of the flavors you want to achieve; cooking them before will create deeper flavors, while cooking them during will create more simple ones. Pre-cooking meat, like sausage, on the other hand, will make it drier, while cooking it on the pizza will make it more tender and juicy.

5. Shape the dough.

When ready to form the pizza, Anthony Falco, International Pizza Consultant and the first instructor on Breville’s “Meet the Makers: A Virtual Pizza Series,” recommends doing so on a wooden peel that can be used to transfer the pizza to the oven. Flour the peel generously and often to make sure the dough doesn’t stick. All purpose flour can be used, or some people like semolina or cornmeal; both are granular and don’t clump.

To shape the dough, Meyer recommends using your hands versus a rolling pin, which can deflate the dough and make it less airy. Push it down in the middle first, and then form the crust a little so it can stay intact while the rest of the dough is shaped. When done, Falco uses his fingertips to dimple the center, which he says leaves air in there and is also good for toppings.

6. Bake the pizza.

Now, for the fun part. Pizza can be baked many ways: in the oven, in a toaster oven, in a skillet and then finished under the broiler, in a sheet pan, or on a grill. To bake pizza in an oven, Meyer highly recommends a baking steel, which retains heat even better than a baking stone. She also recommends investing in two, particularly if you plan on making more than one pizza at a time. To use, position the baking steel or stone on the top rack of your oven (instead of the bottom, which is often recommended!) while your oven heats up to 500ºF or the highest temperature. If you don’t have a baking steel or stone, you may also use a sheet pan flipped upside down.

When heated, use a wooden or perforated peel to transfer the pizza to the baking steel or stone on the upper rack. Monitor it until the cheese is melted, the crust is browned and the bottom is fully cooked. The pizza may be transferred to the middle rack toward the end of cooking to finish.

Toaster ovens are a great option to make pizza because they get very hot in a short amount of time. Many are big enough to fit a 12-inch pie and can be used with a stone. Use the highest temperature on convection mode and the bottom rack.

Cast iron skillets are a popular way to make pizza. They can be used to start the cooking process on the stovetop for a very crispy bottom, or completely in the oven for a saucy, deep dish. When using a cast iron, apply a generous amount of oil to the bottom of the pan, and stretch your dough directly in the pan. Top with ingredients, and either heat over medium high until the crust forms and finish in a hot oven, like this method, or under a broiler, or transfer skillet with uncooked pizza to the middle rack of a preheated oven until fully cooked.

Sheet pans may also be used to make Grandma or Sicilian style pizza. Just like when using a cast iron skillet, generously coat the bottom of the pan with oil before spreading out the dough. Bake on the bottom rack of a very hot oven until browned and crispy.

To make pizza on a grill, heat until the temperature reaches about 700ºF. Shape the dough, brush one side with oil and cook, oil-side down, over medium-high with the lid closed until firm. Add more oil to the top, flip and then add the toppings. Reduce the heat to medium, close the lid, and cook until the cheese is melted and bottom is golden brown.

7. Cool the pizza.

Once your pizza is cooked, Falco recommends using a metal pizza peel to remove it from the oven. He also suggests transferring it to a wired rack before serving, where it can stay crisp and not soak up any possible condensation.

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