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Homemade pizza

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Okay, I've been making pizza at home for a long time. I've only recently discovered the perfect homemade dough, which I will share with you in this instructable (it also happens to be my first instructable ever). Fair warning: this is New York or New Haven style thin crust pizza, not thick-crust (I'm not hating, just saying). Since I live near New Haven, CT in the US, most homemade pizza doesn't come close to what I can get in my backyard, but this is darn close!

UPDATE  (03/28/2010): Thanks to all who commented for some nice ideas!
 
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Step 1: Prepare

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I used to buy raw dough in bags that my supermarket sold in the deli section. Unfortunately, they stopped carrying the brand that I liked, and the replacement was no good. So I tried to find a substitute that at least came close to what you can find at a good pizza place: a chewy crust with tangy flavor. What I didn't want was fluffy "white bread" pizza crust, or a tough, bland crust. Those seemed my only option until recently. Be warned: for the best flavor and texture, this dough should be made at least a day before you use it, and making it a week ahead is even better!

If you don't want to make dough at home, see if your grocery sells fresh dough (usually in bags, usually near the deli). It may not be easy to find a good brand, even if it's made in-store or locally. I've never tried the frozen bread dough, nor the stuff that comes in a tube. Call me old-fashioned, but good pizza does not start in a tube! If you're at a loss, try your local pizza shop. A dough ball will probably cost only a couple of dollars.

Here's a general rundown of what you need:

1. Dough (a.k.a.: flour, water, yeast, and salt) Also see step 2
2. A pizza pan, or baking stone and pizza peel (if you're using a peel, you need fine corn meal or dried bread crumbs), plus an oven to put it in.
3. Toppings: crushed tomatoes, cheese, veggies, meats, etc.

Step 2: Make the dough (skip if you buy your dough, read if you're curious)


I won't take credit for this dough recipe. Google "5 minute artisan bread" for the recipe that inspired this instructable. Again, this dough needs a little time in the fridge to "age." I find that after a week, the dough takes on a wonderful sourdough quality and the texture at least equals some of the best pies I've had. Anyway, on to the dough:

Dough Recipe

1. 6 cups flour

2. 3 cups warm water (temp. about 115 degrees F) Add some olive oil or other vegetable oil to the water (2-3 Tablespoons). Standard vegetable oil is fine. Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for a little more flavor. Optional: Replace a half-cup or so of the water with milk. It makes for a more tender crust without sacrificing texture

3. 1 tbsp kosher salt (coarse sea salt is good too. If you're using table salt, reduce by half (not positive, but it sounds about right).

4. 1 1/2 tbsp instant dry yeast (I buy yeast in a big bag, so I don't know how many of those packets this translates to)

5. In a large bowl, mix water, oil (optional: milk), yeast, and salt. Add flour and stir. You may find that mixing it with wet hands is easier than stirring. I don't recommend breaking out the mixer for this, as it doesn't have to be kneaded. You'll be making a mess for only a few minutes' work.

This is a very wet dough, so it will not form into a ball. It should not be liquid, though. It should be sticky, but able to stand in lump without slumping into the sides of the bowl. If it's too dry (forms a tight ball), add a little water and massage it into the dough with wet hands until it loosens up. It is not necessary to knead the dough if you can leave it in the fridge overnite or for a few days.

6. Cover lightly (not airtight: use plastic wrap). Stick it in the fridge for 2 hours before using. For best results, make this a day ahead and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Or let it sit in the fridge for a few days. It will keep for more than a week, and the longer it sits, the more flavor and chewiness (gluten) it develops. The slower rise in the fridge prevents the gluten from breaking down as the action of the yeast expands it. I have had very good success with this: it has a less "fluffy" texture than rising at room temp.

Step 3: Prep

While you're waiting, chop veggies, cook meat (like bacon), or grate cheese. Or slice pineapple. Whatever your trip is.

Step 4: Let the dough sit for a bit

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1. Heat the oven to 500 degrees F (yes, very hot). If it's hotter, you may scorch the dough a little, but that's actually a good thing in my book. Most professional pizza ovens run at over 700 deg F and some of the wood-fired ovens hit 900 deg F!

2. Flour the work surface liberally. Scrape the dough out onto the work surface. Remember, this dough is very sticky, it will almost pour out of its bowl.

3. Divide the dough evenly. For 18" pizzas, I cut the dough into three lumps. They are about 1lb. each.

4. Flour the dough and your hands and form the dough into balls. Forming a ball is a challenge because the dough is so sticky and the lumps are usually misshapen. Put a little flour on your hands, take two opposite sides of a lump and stretch them out, then fold them back over the center of the lump and push them together with your fingers. Rotate the lump 90 degrees and repeat for the two sides perpendicular to the first stretch. You'll now have a vaguely square lump. Pick up the dough, flip it over, and and curl the edges underneath and into the center until it makes a fairly even ball. It will "tighten" a little. Flip the ball over and squeeze together the loose edges that you had tucked under. Flour the work surface and let the dough rest. Let it sit until the oven is preheated. It will do a little rising again. To keep the dough from getting a dry crust, you can rub a little oil on it, or let it rest under a damp towel.

Step 5: Stretch - don't toss

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1. If you're using a pan, coat the bottom and sides with oil (olive oil will do, but it's cheaper to use veggie or canola or similar). If you're using a pizza peel and a stone, liberally cover the peel with corn meal or dried bread crumbs. This will allow the dough to come off the peel as if on "ball bearings."

2. Flour a dough ball and put it on a floured work surface with a little room to work with. Flatten the dough with your fingers, trying to leave a little bit at the edge for a crust. Try to push from the middle out to the edges, all around. Every so often, flour the top, scrape up the edge, flip it over, flour it some more, and keep stretching.

3. With your fingers together, carefully pat the dough, stretching it as you go. It may be necessary to flip it over now and then. It helps to have a dough scraper to help to keep it from getting stuck to the work surface (did I mention this dough is wet and sticky?). Use flour liberally. If the dough is cold, it will be easier to pick it up by the edges, stretching very gently.

Step 6: Top it off

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1. When it's close to the size of your peel or pan, flour your hands and pick up the dough by working your hands underneath it (again, gently). Try to get the dough to drape over the back of your hand, so that your fingers don't poke through. Quickly lift the dough and place it on the peel/pan. You can finish some of the stretching here, if you need to. If rips develop, try stretching dough over from thicker parts toward the problem spot. Squeeze together the edges of the rips to mend them.

2. Top as you like. Personally, I don't do "gourmet." I try to make it as if it came from the pizza place down the street: I use good crushed tomatoes (see note below), basil & oregano (fresh is best, dried will do), a dash of salt, a whisper of Parmigiano Reggiano, grated mozzarella, and toppings like mushrooms, meatballs, onions, or pepperoni.

For my wife, who's not much into meat and can't have cow's milk, I use olives, marinated artichoke, red onion, feta cheese (goat or sheep's milk), and a bit of soy-based Parmesan. She's also fond of a white pizza with sliced potatoes (microwaved to soften), feta, garlic, rosemary, and olive oil.

Experiment, go nuts. The only people to complain will be whoever you serve it to.

A note on sauce: I avoid using any canned spaghetti or pizza sauce, as I feel that the sauce winds up dominating the toppings and the flavor of the dough. And although I really like the Pastene brand crushed tomatoes, I have a hard time finding them in my local supermarket. Lately, I've been using the Angela Mia brand, which is a ConAgra product and might be more universally available (I get mine at Sam's Wholesale Club). The quality of the tomatoes really makes a difference in the finished product.

In a pinch, stewed tomatoes (whole tomatoes cooked with celery and onion) ground up with my submersible blender or crushed by hand will serve nicely. Hint: Don't get "Italian style" stewed tomatoes. Yechhhh!

Step 7: Bake it

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1. For a pan, just slide it into your oven.

2. For peel and stone, pick it up and shake it a few times to try to loosen up the pie. If you were very liberal with the cornmeal, it should start moving around very easily. Put the end of the peel near the back end of the stone, tilted slightly downward. Very gently shake the pie off of the peel, moving the peel back as the pie slides off. If it comes off in a total mess, have pizza delivered and try a pan the next time.

3. Check it after 6 minutes, but it can take 8-10 minutes for it to get nicely browned. You may want to rotate the pan halfway through.

4. If using a peel, slide it under the pie and transfer to a cutting surface. If using a pan, take it out and use a spatula or something to slide the pie out of the pan onto the cutting surface. If it's stuck (to the pan or to the stone), work around the stuck area gently and get it loose. It may tear a bit, but it will still be edible.

Step 8: Eat it

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Slice and serve. Enjoy! I know I did.
Its my first time making pizza and this instructable was a good start except, I've never baked anything in my life so when you said turn the heat up to 500, I did. I ended up with burned cheese and some uncooked dough. Other recommendations I've had were to heat to 350.
I am positively bursting to make it.
SpagoPizza3 years ago
It looks very good for a homemade pizza ! Keep up the good work and thank you for sharing it with us. It looks very tasty.
ivandanmer3 years ago
I think that every pizza should include mushrooms!
tomatthews3 years ago
I AM DA KING
Chimex144 years ago
I did enjoy :)
jgfish4 years ago
just made this 10 mins ago, very impressed with how it came out, I just used pepperoni, mozarella, parmesan and barbecue sauce for the topping, and for the sauce I used canned diced tomato with a bit of water drained and blended with a pulse blender, will definately be doing this again. thankyou for the awesome instructable
nomeoslo5 years ago
We don't have the option of buying pizza dough - so I've been making my own, looking for the "perfect" recipe.  I used your "updated" recipe a few days ago - making it with half white and half whole wheat flour - I found your instructions very readable with great hints.  This was the easiest recipe I've ever made AND  it turned out absolutely perfect.  Your recipe is definitely a keeper!

Many Thanks for posting this!
cphillips5 years ago
Oh no! You just put canned tomatoes on for sauce? That's a bummer. You should make a good spicy marinara from scratch. It'll take your pizza to a whole new level. It's not hard: diced tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, a little cayenne, time, and lots of taste testing and adjustment (sometimes a little sugar or shredded carrots to cut the acidity...sshhh).
careman71 (author)  cphillips5 years ago
Hi again! Well, really I don't use "just" crushed tomatoes. I personally dislike any kind of cooked sauce on pizza. Generally, the sauce is: tomatoes (obviously), fresh basil and oregano, fresh garlic (lots), and a little salt (adjust for how salty the tomatoes are). That's how we used to do it at the ol' pizza shop. But I might spice it up a bit; good idea. Thanks.
careman71 (author) 5 years ago
@cphillips: The original recipe I based this on was really for bread, but lately I have been using olive oil when I make the dough. It definitely changes the character of the crust. I keep meaning to try a sourdough starter but it requires more planning <sigh>.

@picklet: Actually, I do sometimes leave a smidge in the bottom of the bowl and put together a new batch. The end product is somewhat more... fragrant (in a good way), and the texture is a bit different (also in a good way).

Thanks for the comments.
cphillips5 years ago
Seems like this recipe is missing the olive oil required to be a real honest-to-goodness pizza dough. You could sub out some of the water for a few Tbsp olive oil.

Have you ever tried using a sourdough starter (or even a one-off sponge) to get a good ferment in a shorter time?
Or maybe keeping some of the well-matured dough to put in with the next lot? That should start it off nicely. And - yes - I would consider some olive oil too.
Nice recipe - thanks for posting!
Sir Crapton6 years ago
Dad was always finding it difficult to make a good pizza dough, thank you so much for posting this. Now we can have pizza more often! :)
yum6 years ago
All I have to say is "YUMMY"
not4u2no6 years ago
Every weekend my husband wants pizza. That can get pricey, so we started looking for how to make it ourselves. After seeing the picture of your pepp. pizza our mouths were watering! We had to try it. Were so impressed with how good it came out!!! THANK YOU...YOU ROCK
i have always had a hard time making good homemade pizza. I want to thank you, as I tried this and it came out AWESOME!!! My love to you forever!!
Goodhart6 years ago
Fantastic, great detail !
flio1916 years ago
awesome! i use some honey with the warm water and yeast, to help the yeast become active again. it's ironic that i found this now because i just finished making pizza an hour ago haha.
piks6 years ago
Hi, great instructable. But could you try to shorten the Transatlantic gulf, what the hell is pizza peel?
careman71 (author)  piks6 years ago
A pizza peel is a long-handled, wooden or metal paddle used to slide pizza (bread, etc) onto the stone floor of an oven. Mine is meant to be used with a stone in a home oven, so its quite short. I added a photo to step 1 to illustrate. And thanks for letting me know that it wasn't a universal term!
Another FANTASTIC take on the crust (which is very similar to the one I make), is to add 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil. If you get some of that infused oil, it's even better. It takes on such a rich, velvety texture. When you're working with the dough, you can just feel that it's going to be good. I prefer using a floured rolling pin to flatten the dough, as I'm terrible with stretching by hand. Also, a pizza stone is a MUST. I've made pizza on both pans and stones, and nothing beats the flavor of a well-used pizza stone. Be sure that you liberally coat the peel with cornmeal before you put the dough on, though, or is very well may stick! I learned that the hard way with a partially folded pizza. One last thing: If making thicker pizza, I recommend turning the heat down to between 450 and 475. It takes longer for thicker stuff to cook, but you don't want the blackened crust and gooey center you're likely to get if you cook it at 500-550 (550 makes the most awesome thin-crust). Great instructable. Yummy pizza!
cheezstake6 years ago
I'm always looking for new takes on homemade pizza. It's amazing how much pizza joints charge when a pizza is actually quite cheap to make. I don't have a pizza pan, but do bake on a stone. I place an old 8" round pan filled with water in the bottom of the oven. I find that the steam does a good job of getting the cheese to melt better while not causing the crust to get too crunchy. Thanks!