I believe that the process of learning a new kitchen skill is much like learning a new dialect of a language you already speak. In the beginning, you feel awkward and mistake-prone. However, over time you begin to find markers in the landscape and soon enough, your brain builds the pathways necessary for increasing mastery. Eventually, you find that the new knowledge informs your previous understanding and brings greater depth to that which you thought you’d already known intimately.
This is why, despite having at last seven pizza joints within a three block radius of my apartment, I make my own pizza. Because it informs my baking and cooking, deepens my grasp of caramelization, and tastes mighty good, to boot. (I learned a great deal about making pizza from this free Craftsy class taught by baking great Peter Reinhart. If you have the time, I highly recommend it.)
Over the years, I’ve tried a number of different pizza dough recipes. When I have an active sourdough starter and I plan ahead, there’s nothing more delicious than a naturally leaven crust. Other times, I’ll use a recipe with very little yeast and do a long, slow rise.
However, most often, I have neither a sourdough starter at the perfect stage of readiness or the time for an overnight rise. When that happens, I use this recipe. It has a generous amount of instant yeast and gets mixed by hand, for a fast rise and a minimum of fuss.
Now, if you have the time, you can let this dough do a second rise, which increases its tangy flavor and makes it even more delicious. But that’s entirely optional. Once the dough is ready, you divide into two portions and then work them flat. For most of my pizza making life, I stretched my dough out on a sheet of parchment paper, topped it and then carefully transferred it to a hot baking steel.
However, recently the folks at OXO sent me some of their pizza tools to try and I’ve fallen hard for their non-stick pizza pan. Instead of using and trashing a sheet of parchment for every pie (and sometimes setting it to smolder in my very hot oven), I work the dough out into a round on the pan (the trick is to work the dough with damp hands and then let it rest for a minute or two. If you keep working it without a rest, it bounces back into a ball), top it, and bake all on the pan.
When it comes to topping my pizzas, I go simple. A jar of homemade sauce (my favorite small batch recipe is in Preserving by the Pint), a combination of grated mozzarella and cheddar, and some slivered onion and pepper (I’m loving the OXO Grate & Slice Set they sent for this prep). If we have it, Scott likes pepperoni, but it rarely feels necessary to me.
Baked at 475F on a pre-heated baking steel (I love this thing! I’ve owned and cracked several ceramic pizza stones over the years, but the steel is indestructible), the finished pizza is ready after 10 minutes or so (if you’re using a non-stick pan like I am these days, make sure to check out OXO’s non-stick safe pizza wheel).