June 16, 2009

Inexpensive and Delicious Homemade Pizza

After moving out of the dorms, I have faced many truths, like electricity costing money (who knew?) and having to prepare my own food. I have been trying to avoid takeout food this summer, so here is one recipe that I prepared recently.

Homemade Pizza - I have made this many times before, but I modified the recipe according to The Simple Dollar (Trent's recipe looked a lot better than mine.) Let us start with the dough:

3 Cups of flour
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup wheat beer (That's right, Beer!)

Warm up the beer in the microwave - not boiling, but warmer than room temperature. Combine everything in a large mixing bowl and go to work. Start by mixing it with a firm spatula and then switch to your hands when your frustration takes over. Mixing the dough is a bit tricky, but you'll eventually get the hang of it. If the dough is too sticky, add a pinch more flour. Likewise, if it is not sticky enough, add a spoonful of water. After about 5 minutes, form the dough into a ball and set it aside in a warm(room temperature), dark place - I put it in a bowl and cover it with a towel.

Bonuses on making the dough - Add weird stuff to it. Before you start mixing, throw in some cheese, oregano, red pepper flakes, garlic salt, italian seasoning - whatever tickles your taste buds. Remember that whatever you put in it, you'll be able to taste in the finished product, so I would be cautious before adding half the spice rack.

Moving to the top:
1 can of pizza sauce
3/4 - 1 Cup mozzarella
Toppings Galore!

While the dough is rising, the first thing you want to do is preheat the oven to 450 degrees. It doesn't take long for the dough to rise, so have the oven ready. Take this time to brown hamburger (or even better, turkey) or grill chicken or sausage (see some examples below).

To spice up the sauce, you could add some oregano or garlic salt for a bit of flavor. The ingredients for the top are not specified, so you can get creative with your homemade pizza. Some past examples:
  • Ground Turkey and Artichoke - Bonus if you substitute cream cheese for pizza sauce!
  • Pepperoni and Black Olive
  • Grilled and Chopped Italian Sausage
  • Grilled Chicken with Red Onion and Barbecue Sauce (instead of pizza sauce)
  • Double Pepperoni
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly - Don't use pizza sauce or cheese, just put peanut butter and jelly on the crust
I would be more conservative on toppings until you get the hang of making your own pizza. Once you have decided (and if necessary, grilled/cooked/poached/sauteed/other cooking method) your toppings, the next step is to precook the crust.

This is a very important step. It will ensure a crispy, slightly crunchy crust. Preparing the crust for the oven is the trickiest (but funnest part) of making your own pizza. Getting the dough into the shape of the pizza (rectangle or circle) and giving it a crust takes some love. Punch it, roll it, sit on it, throw it at the wall, drive fast and hold it out the window, toss it into the air (Don't try this yet), verbally abuse it, roll a can over it, drop a book on it - anything to get the dough flat. I am a fan of flat crust pizza because it will focus attention on the toppings. Try to get the dough as flat as possible with out making holes - shoot for about a centimeter thick.

Once the dough is flat and properly shaped, make the crust by rolling the outside edge over itself to make tiny walls on the outside of your crust. Try to emulate the following picture (From Trent's blog - I forgot to take pictures):

To evenly cook the crust, make some fork holes in the dough. Don't be shy with the holes.

Pop the crust (and only the crust) in oven for 7 - 8 minutes. Take this time to Drink the remaining beer (plus a few insurance beers) or finish preparing toppings.

Once the crust is golden, pull it out and pop any air bubbles that form in the dough. Drizzle a tablespoon or two of olive oil on the crust (especially if you're making pepperoni pizza). Add the sauce (or sauce substitute) first, making sure it covers the entire pizza evenly. You can add more depending on your sauce preference.

Add a thin layer of cheese then cover the pizza with toppings. You can't really go wrong here, just make sure that toppings that need to be cooked are fully cooked before going in the oven. Spread on the rest of the cheese and pop it back in the oven. Since we precooked the crust, it should take about 10 minutes for the pizza to cook.

When the cheese is browned, pull the pizza, slice it up, and be sure to thoroughly enjoy your homemade pizza. Don't worry if your pizza doesn't look right, it should taste great.

Pizza is a great meal because it is fun to make and is a cross between cooking (where you could throw in anything) and baking (where precision counts). After a few pies, you should be quite comfortable with it.

Making your own pizza is definitely cheaper than ordering out. The yeast is expensive, but can be used to make bread or beer in the future. The toppings should run you about $7 or $8 per pie, and you will hopefully find that homemade is worth the work.

Big thanks to Trent at the Simple Dollar who inspired me to use beer in the crust. It was delicious!