Making Pizza From Scratch: The Complete Guide
Pizza is hugely popular around the world. Unfortunately, an overwhelming majority of people buy pizza ready-to-eat from fast food outlets or premade from supermarkets.
Many people seem to believe that pizza is difficult to make from scratch, particularly when it comes to the dough for making the base. In actual fact, pizza dough, pizza sauce and pizza toppings are all fairly straightforward to prepare at home. In this guide, I'll explain the process in the simplest terms.
The first step is making the sauce, as it must cool down before it is used on the pizza. Note that this can be done a day or two in advance, and the sauce may be refrigerated until it is needed.
Easy Pizza Sauce Recipe
Pizza sauce is tomato based and ideally should contain only the fewest of ingredients. If the pizza sauce is made to be too powerful in taste, it will overwhelm the flavours of the toppings and principal pizza ingredients. This is a quick and easy pizza sauce recipe, perfect for a wide variety of toppings. These quantities will provide sufficient sauce for 2 (12") pizzas.
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 25 min
Ready in: 30 min
Yields: 2 medium to large pizza topping quantities
- 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
- 2 medium cloves garlic
- Generous pinch dried basil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Pour the tomatoes in to a large saucepan. Peel the garlic cloves and use a hand grater to grate them in to the tomatoes. Season with the basil, salt and pepper.
- Put the pan on to a medium heat and stir well. Once the mix starts to simmer, reduce the heat to as low as possible and allow the tomatoes to simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until a deliciously thick and luscious sauce is formed.
- Remove from the heat, taste for seasoning, cover and allow to cool completely.
- It is possible to either blend the sauce or pass it through a fine sieve to remove the tomato skins. Simply leaving it as it is, however, adds a little bit of extra bite and substance to the sauce.
- The cooled sauce can either be used immediately, refrigerated for 2 to 3 days, or even put in the deep freeze if it is made in bulk.
Pizza Pans and Baking Stones
It is possible to make homemade pizza dough and cook it on an ordinary baking sheet. For best results, however, a purpose designed pizza pan or stone should be employed. They are not overly expensive and come in three main types. There is the conventional, non-stick metal pizza pan (the one used in this instance), the pan with the perforated base and the pizza baking stone, which is how pizzas were traditionally cooked.
Easy Pizza Dough Recipe
Pizza dough recipes come in many different forms and are, unfortunately, often made to be unnecessarily complex in nature. This simple pizza dough recipe contains very few ingredients and is ready to use in little more than an hour. The quantity is designed to make a 12-inch diameter pizza.
Prep time: 1 hour 15 min
Cook time: n/a
Ready in: 1 hour 15 min
Yields: Dough for 1 (12-inch) pizza
- 6 ounces plain/all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon active dried yeast (check pack for specific activation instructions)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 4 fluid ounces lukewarm water (¼ US pint)
- Add the flour, yeast and salt to a large mixing bowl. Stir well to combine before making a small well in the centre of the bowl. Pour in the olive oil and the warm water and begin drawing the dry ingredients in from the sides with a wooden spoon.
- As the dough starts to form, set the wooden spoon aside and use your hands to finish the job of forming a ball of dough.
- Lightly flour a clean and dry work-top area and your hands. Begin kneading the dough on the surface to fully activate the yeast. This should take 5 to 7 minutes.
- When the dough is sufficiently kneaded, transfer it to a lightly oiled, clean bowl and cover with plastic film. Leave in a warm place for at least an hour to allow the dough to approximately double in size.
- When the dough has risen, transfer it back to the again lightly floured surface and knead lightly to knock out the air. Roll carefully with a floured rolling pin before transferring to the cooking pan (lightly greased with olive oil) or stone. If using a pizza pan, gently stretch the dough outwards from the centre to reach the edges of the pan all the way around with an even thickness.
How to Top and Cook a Pizza
When attempting to learn any new procedure, whatever it may be, it is important to both short and long term success to get the basics right before attempting to become too adventurous or elaborate. In relation to pizza making, this means that your initial focus should be upon learning how to mix and knead the dough, how to spread it in your pizza pan and determining how long it is likely to take to cook in your domestic oven, all before becoming too focused on creating fanciful toppings.
Start off, therefore, with toppings which are simple and inexpensive, while still being tasty. This pizza is topped with sliced tomato and mushroom, followed by cheddar and mozzarella cheese.
- Use a small ladle or large spoon to scoop the cooled tomato sauce in to the centre of the pizza dough. Spread it slowly outwards using a gentle, circular motion until it reaches to within half an inch of the edge, all the way around.
- Place the tomato and mushroom slices alternately on top in a circle.
- The cheese for a pizza this size is 2 ounces of cheddar and 4 small slices from a block of pizza mozzarella (equivalent also to approximately 2 ounces). It is best to use proper pizza mozzarella and not the soft balls of mozzarella which are sold in brine.
- The cheddar cheese is grated/shredded and the mozzarella is cut in small strips. Scatter both evenly over the top of the pizza.
- The pizza should be placed in to an oven preheated to 450F/230C/Gas Mark 9 for 12 to 15 minutes. When the cheese has fully melted and the crust has risen and turned golden around the edges, the pizza is ready.
- Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to sit for a few minutes to rest before using a plastic spatula to transfer it to a wooden chopping board for slicing.
- The pizza slices should be plated, served and enjoyed immediately.
Important: You should never attempt to slice your pizza while it is still in the cooking pan. Metal implements of any description can damage its protective coating and affect its future performance.
How to Make Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Pizza dough can very effectively be made with whole wheat flour. This could either be where you prefer a healthier option pizza, or where you simply wish to try to serve something a little bit different. The ingredients and procedures are exactly the same as described above with the exception that whole wheat flour is substituted for plain. It is also, however, worth reducing the amount of salt from half a teaspoon to a generous pinch, at least on the first occasion you prepare this recipe, as whole wheat flour can have a stronger flavour and therefore not require the same level of seasoning. It is better to add salt to the cooked pizza where you feel it is still required.
The whole wheat flour pizza featured below is topped with spicy beef. You will require approximately ¼ pound of ground/minced beef per pizza. The beef should be browned in a dry pan before being seasoned with salt, pepper and a pinch of dried chilli flakes per portion. Add boiling water to almost but not quite cover the beef. Simmer for 15 minutes, cover and allow to cool completely before using it to top the tomato sauce on the pizza before the cheese is added. Note that the beef should be added to the pizza with a slotted spoon to ensure that excessive water/stock is not included, which would seep in to and spoil the pizza dough.
Let Your Kids Build Their Own Pizza!
When making pizza at home for your family, there are a couple of principal obstacles which may be encountered. The first is that not everyone will like the same toppings and the second is that children may claim to prefer "real pizza" rather than that which they perceive to be a low grade substitute.
Everyone's domestic circumstances will vary, dependent upon time/oven space available and even the number of pizza pans in the house, but you may wish to consider offering your family a choice of pizza toppings. Getting kids involved in this way helps them to see that what they are to be eating is indeed the absolute "real" pizza. It also allows individual tastes to be considered.
This option can even permit a number of different pizzas to be served simultaneously and perhaps everyone to have a taste of each other's artistic, culinary creations as part of a fun, family meal.
Hopefully, this page has shown that making pizza at home is a fairly straightforward procedure and that homemade pizzas can be not only every bit as tasty as their fast food or store bought counterparts but considerably healthier in nature. Simply remember that it can take a couple of attempts to get particularly the dough making technique just right and you too can soon be enjoying all the benefits of homemade pizza with your family.
© 2011 Gordon Hamilton