So when I first got my pizza dough recipe, the woman who gave it to me also gave me a lesson in the fine art of pizza making. (Here I thought it was pretty straightforward.) Turns out there are lots of tips to make homemade pizza taste much better. And now, I’m going to give you your very own, online version of this lesson.
One of the most important aspects of pizza for me is the dough. Obviously, the recipe here is the best in my opinion but it’s more than just the recipe that makes for a great crust. Using the right recipe (rather than a regular bread dough) improves the texture and flavor but besides that, I like to roll ours very thin. Then, should I decide I’d like it fluffier, I let it rise which keeps it from being too dense or too thick which is a main problem with most homemade pizzas. Usually we like thin and crispy so I don’t let it rise and it ends up being perfect thickness with the time it takes to top and bake it. Initially rolling it thinner cuts down on baking time as well so I can cook it at a higher temperature and don’t have to try to exercise so much patience.
I also pour olive oil directly on the pizza pan, spread it around and then roll the dough out on top. While you could probably use cooking spray, I love the flavor the olive oil adds. Plus, I rub it on with my hands, which are then greased so the dough doesn’t stick to them as I spread it out on the pan. Win!
My next biggest problem with most homemade (or even some boughten) pizza is the sauce. I HATE too much sauce. Ever since I was little and watched an episode of Fear Factor where they ate pizza that had all kinds of nasty stuff (I would tell you but I don’t want to ruin pizza for you forever) I have a hard time with thick sauce. I also hate super strong tasting sauce. It overpowers all the other deliciousness that covers a well made pizza. Solution? Tomato sauce.
One little can of tomato sauce. I open up a can, sprinkle in whatever seasonings I’m feeling for the night, usually oregano, basil, garlic powder, onion powder, etc. and mix it up. I never measure and I’ve never had it turn out gross. Half a can does one pizza perfectly and since I almost always make two pizzas (to freeze one) this method works great. If, however, you decided not to make two pizzas, I have frozen the leftover sauce in a plastic bag and thawed it for the next time I made pizza. Can’t even tell the difference! It just takes a little longer what with the thawing and all.
Next up comes a little lesson in cheese placement. Right? I know. I feel a little crazy saying that. You have to double layer the cheese. Just a very thin, light layer for the bottom, on top of the sauce. The flavor is better and it seems to help hold the toppings on. After you put your meat or veggies or whatever you like, then cover with a real layer of shredded cheese. And don’t be afraid of trying a few different flavors. I like mozzarella and parmesan, but sometimes I even add some cheddar. All of them are delicious.
Obviously the quality of ingredients you use will affect the flavor. I’ve had to try a few different brands of pepperoni to find one we like. Lesson learned – turkey pepperoni is terrible! Everyone is looking for something a little different so don’t be afraid to try a new brand. We started with Hormel, branched out a lot, and ended with Hormel. Your new brands might be gross (I know some of mine were!) but you also might find one that is great! Also, pepperoni and Canadian bacon freeze really well and aren’t always available in stores near me so I tend to stock up when I find them. You might be luckier than I though.
Finally, baking instructions. I understand that ovens vary so you might want to experiment with this but I’ve made this pizza in 3 different ovens and in every one, baking on the bottom rack produced superior pizza. The crust crisped without overcooking the cheese. I also found that rotating the pan half a turn, halfway through cooking works much better but I’ve never had an amazingly even-cooking oven. If you do, lucky! and this is probably unnecessary and has led to more than one burn in my pizza making past.
Oh wait, I had a question about freezing pizza I should address. Here is how I do it:
Make two pizzas all the way through the first cheese layer. Depending on what flavor I want the pizza I’m going to freeze, I’ll either top it or freeze it at this point to decide later. Vegetables don’t really freeze super well but meats do so if I’m wanting supreme, I’ll put my meat on but not the veggies or the second layer of cheese. If I have no idea what I’m going to want, I just stop at first cheese layer. If I want plain pepperoni, I make the whole pizza. Whew! Made that way more complicated than it needed to be! Anyway, I then wrap the whole pizza and pan in plastic wrap and put it straight in the freezer. When I’m ready to eat it, I take it out of the freezer, preheat my oven, unwrap it, finish topping it if necessary and bake it exactly the same but with about 5 extra minutes cook time (which might vary based on your oven). I check the crust by lifting up an edge to see underneath until it looks cooked. I don’t thaw it first but I have and it works if you are that patient or that good at thinking ahead. It thaws a little during the preheat/topping phase and that’s about all the further I ever make it before throwing it in.