That's right. I said it. My pizza is way better than any chain's--even with fancy shmancy new crusts and whatnot. And it's so, so easy (and cheap!). Plus, it doesn't take much longer than delivery.
This was my first attempt at pizza making at home. Once upon a time, I had a stint on a pizza line, but I was never super fast or even kind of good at making the pies. When I stretched the dough, it usually turned into someone telling me to move my toosh over to the cheese and sauce department, where I couldn't screw things up too badly. Despite my incompetency on the line, I always had a soft spot for the place I used to work and their insanely delish pizzas. And yesterday being the anniversary of what it was, I was feeling a little nostalgic. So I decided to revisit my youth and see what I could do.
I have this fancy dancy new bread machine, which I use on the regular. But I wanted to branch out past ryes and wheats and see if I could use it to make pizza dough. As it happens, you absolutely can.
2/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cups bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons yeast
If you're using a bread maker, throw the ingredients IN THAT ORDER into the machine. Otherwise, warm the water and activate the yeast first. Then mix everything together and get to kneading. Be sure to let the dough rise, too. I gave it about 45 minutes, which seemed to work well. This made one pound of dough, or enough to feed two adults.
I also decided to use my pizza stone, so once the dough was ready to be stretched, I heated up the (convection) oven to 375 F. If you use a traditional oven, bump it up to 400 F. Once it was hot enough, I stuck in the pizza stone for 15 minutes.
Now for the all-important, and kinda complicated, act of stretching dough. Back in my "professional" pizza days, we had a machine that started the process for you. But without the dough roller, I just started by beating the dough on a floured surface. This flattened things out, but didn't give me a super smooth edge. Perfectionists, this is your most important focus--keeping the crust free from tears and in a round shape. To do that, you've got to work from the center, pushing out with your finger tips. If you get some spots where the dough is getting thicker than others, you can pull it like you'd stretch fabric, with your thumbs flat on the top of the dough, and your other fingers doing the real work on the bottom. Once things are an even consistency, toss the dough between your hands. You don't need to throw it in the air. You don't need to spin it on your finger tip like a Globetrotter. Just pass it back and forth, spinning it slightly each time. This will stretch it into a thin, even crust.
Next, I did what I always do: Use what's in the pantry. I had a can of whole peeled tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil from my garden, which translates into a margherita pizza. I sliced and drained the tomatoes first. And second. And third. Those things have so much liquid in them you could probably make a sauce without even using the fruit. And since I like a crispy crust, the liquid had to go. Next I sliced the mozz into thin circles, and julienned the basil. I topped it off with a twist of pepper and a spray of extra virgin olive oil.
Onto the pizza stone and into the oven it went for nine minutes. I peeked in around minute three to see if there were any bubbles brewing, but all checked out well. If you do have any rogue spheres of crust, just use a fork to deflate 'em. Clearly, this should be accompanied with you making a "pop" noise. The louder the better.
This glorious pizza is what I was left with. And my perfectly impartial opinion was that it was delish. The crust was crispy, but not burnt. The cheese was gooey and melty. And the topping of EVOO kept things moist. The only thing I would have done differently was stretch the dough a little thinner. Not bad for my first attempt in more than a decade!
Here's my total cost:
flour, salt, water, sugar, basil, EVOO, yeast: free (already had all of these from other baking projects)
can of tomatoes: $2.99
Beat that, chain pizza shops!