All about Pizza

One of the main tools for making pizza is a pizza stone.  It is partly what makes your crust crisp.  Don’t put it in a hot oven as it will break.  Put it into a cold oven and allow it to warm up with the oven.  Don’t wash it in the dishwasher unless you want your next pizza to taste like dishwashing soap.  Wipe it with a damp cloth.  If it gets brown and ugly, who cares? If you don't have one, ask for it for Christmas because it really makes a difference on how your pizza turns out.  Also, invest in a pizza peel - the thing that looks like a flat snow shovel to load the pizza onto the hot stone.  It saves you from burning yourself. I know these things are available in kitchen shops.  Use the yellow pages and shop around for the best buy.  Also important is the pizza cutter which most families probably already own.  If not it is a good thing to have.

Here are several recipes, but the hints are what you really want to read carefully.  The dough recipes are pretty much the same with the only variation being the amount you are making and if you want to add seasonings to it.  I use Best for Bread flour, but all-purpose is probably ok.  I also noticed that one recipe said to bake it on the lowest rack position in your oven, but I think it was because it had some "wet" ingredients.  I usually place it just below the oven center.

Pizza Crust and Sauce

Serving Size: 8     

Pizza Crust  

1     cup  warm water, about 110 degrees
     ¼ teaspoon  sugar
  1     package  dry yeast
  2 ¾ cups  bread flour, up to 3¼ cups
  1     teaspoon  salt
  1 ½ tablespoons  olive oil
12     ounces  mozzarella cheese -- fresh
         More olive oil for oiling the bowl
         Cornmeal for dusting
                 

Pizza Sauce

  2     tablespoons olive oil
  2     cans plum tomatoes, whole peeled 16 oz.
     ¼ teaspoon dried oregano or 1 teaspoon fresh

     ½ teaspoon dried basil or 1½ teaspoon fresh
  1 ½ teaspoons salt
     ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Pizza Crust

1.  Heat oven to 500 degrees, with a 16-inch pizza stone placed on lowest shelf position for at least 30 minutes.

 2.  Pour the warm water into a small bowl.  Add the sugar and sprinkle in the yeast.  Using a fork, stir the mixture until the yeast is dissolved and water has turned a tan color.  Let yeast stand until creamy and foamy, about 5 minutes.  In a food processor, use blade to combine the flour and salt and pulse 3 to 4 times.  Add yeast mixture and 1½ tablespoons olive oil.  Pulse until the dough comes together, adding more flour as needed until dough is smooth, not tacky when squeezed.  Transfer to clean surface, knead four or five turns into a ball.

3.  Brush the inside of a medium bowl with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl, smooth-side up.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.  Remove plastic wrap and place your fist in the center of the dough to punch it down.  Fold the dough back onto itself four or five times.  Turn dough over, folded-side down, cover with plastic wrap and return to the warm spot to rise again until the dough has doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

4.  Punch down the dough and transfer to a clean surface.  Using a bench scraper or a sharp knife, divide the dough in half and knead each half four or five turns into a ball.  Place one of the dough balls back in the oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Lightly flour a clean surface, place the remaining dough ball on top, pat into a flattened circle, cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rest for 5 minutes.  Using your fingers, begin to flatten and push the dough evenly out from the center until it measures about 7 to 8 inches in diameter.  Do not press the dough all the way to the edges.  Leave a slightly raised border, about a half-inch wide, around entire circumference of pizza dough.

 5.  Sprinkle cornmeal all over the surface of a pizza peel and set aside.  Lift the dough off the surface and center it on top of your fists.  Hold your fists about 1 to 2 inches apart.  Begin to rotate and stretch the dough, opening your fists until they are 6 to 8 inches apart and the dough is several inches larger.  Then place your fists under the inside of the outer edge and continue to stretch the dough a little at a time until it reaches about 12 inches in diameter.  The dough will drape down over your forearms.  At this stage, it is important to keep your fists along the inside of the outer edge and watch that the dough does not get too thin or tear in the center.  At the same time, make sure to maintain the slightly raised border on the edges.  The dough is surprisingly resilient and will not tear if this step is done carefully and slowly.

6.  Arrange the pizza dough into a circle on top of the cornmeal dusted peel.  Leaving the raised edge uncovered, pour 9 tablespoons of the pizza sauce onto the dough.  Using the back of a tablespoon evenly spread the sauce, leaving a half-inch border of dough uncovered.  Arrange half of the mozzarella slices on top of the sauce.

7.  Lift the pizza peel and, using a slight jerking motion, slide the pizza about one inch back and forth on the peel to loosen it.  Slightly tilt the peel and place the front tip of the pizza off the peel, centering it on the stone.  Bake until the crust is golden brown and crisp on the edges and the bottom - 10 to 12 minutes, turning the pizza halfway through baking.  Using tongs, lift the edge of the pizza and slide the peel all the way under to remove it from the oven.  Using a pizza wheel, slice the pizza into eight pieces and serve immediately.

8.  While the first pizza is baking, shape and assemble a second pizza, using remaining dough.

The Sauce:

1.  Pour the olive oil into a large skillet and place over medium heat.  Using your hands, squeeze the tomatoes to crush them.  Add to the warm olive oil, along with the remaining ingredients.  Cook over medium-low heat, breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon, until the sauce is thick, 40 to 50 minutes.

2.  Press sauce through a food mill, discard the seeds and let cool.

3.  Prepare toppings of your choice.  Suggestions:  sliced salami, sliced pepperoni, sliced mozzarella cheese, chopped green onion, chopped green (or red or yellow) peppers, browned bulk Italian sausage, browned ground beef, browned bulk pork sausage, thinly sliced ham, drained canned pineapple chunks, chopped seeded tomatoes (or thin slices of tomatoes), bacon bits, tiny shrimp, mushrooms, artichokes, prosciutto, anchovies, black olives, pimento stuffed olives.

                   
Basic Pizza Dough for Bread Machine

(1-Pound Recipe)

taco se  Serving Size: 8     

     2/3 cup  water
  4        teaspoons  olive or vegetable oil
     1/2 teaspoon  salt
  2        cups  bread flour
  1-1/2 teaspoons  Fleischmann's® Bread Machine Yeast
  1        tablespoon  cornmeal

1.  Add water, oil, salt, bread flour, and yeast to bread machine pan in the order suggested by manufacturer. Select dough/manual cycle. When cycle is complete, remove dough from machine to a lightly floured surface. If necessary, knead in enough flour to make dough easy to handle.

2.  For each pizza, grease pan and sprinkle with cornmeal. Roll out dough and place on pan or pat dough in pan. Top each pizza with ½ to ¾ cup sauce, ½ to ¾ pound cooked meat or 3½ to 5 ounces pepperoni, ½ to 1 cup sliced or chopped onion or green bell pepper and/or other vegetable, and 1 to 1½ cups shredded cheese. Bake at 425ºF for 15 to 25 minutes or until pizza is done. It is done when edges of crust are golden and cheese is bubbly.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough: Prepare as above, except use 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup bread flour instead of all bread flour. Do not cook the crust on a pizza stone when using whole-wheat crust. It can get too hard.

Basil-Parmesan Pizza Dough: Prepare as above, except add 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese and ¾ teaspoon sweet basil to machine pan with flour.

Taco Pizza Dough: Prepare as above, except add 2 tablespoons cornmeal and 1 tablespoon seasoning mix with the flour; omit the salt.

Master Pizza Dough

 Serving Size: 12 

  3     cups  bread flour (3 to 3½ cups)
  1     package  Fleischmann's® Rapid Rise Yeast
     ¾ teaspoon  salt
  1     cup  very warm water (125º to 130ºF)
  2     tablespoons  olive or vegetable oil

1.  In large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, undissolved yeast and salt. Stir very warm water and olive oil into dry ingredients. Stir in enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead dough on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 4 to 6 minutes. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

2.  On lightly floured surface, form dough into smooth ball. (If desired, freeze dough as directed below.) Divide and roll to fit desired pan or pans. Top as desired.

 3.  Bake each pizza in preheated 400ºF oven for 20 minutes or until done. Time depends on size and thickness of crust and selected toppings; deep dish pizzas can take up to 50 minutes.
 

Dough Variations:


Herb Pizza: Add 2 teaspoons Italian herb seasoning, basil, oregano or rosemary leaves and 1 clove finely minced garlic along with dry ingredients.

Cornmeal Pizza: Replace ½ cup all-purpose flour with cornmeal.

Whole Wheat Pizza: Replace 1 cup bread flour with whole wheat flour.

Cheese Pizza: Add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese along with dry ingredients.
 

Toppings:
Use your favorite toppings or select new combinations from the following suggestions.

Sauces: homemade or prepared pizza, tomato or spaghetti sauce, pesto, salsa, barbecue sauce, hoisin sauce.

Quick Tomato Sauce: Combine 1 can (8-ounce) tomato sauce and 1 can (6-ounce) tomato paste. Stir in 2 teaspoons oregano or basil leaves and 1 clove garlic, minced. Makes 1½ cups.

Cheeses: Mozzarella, Cheddar, Swiss, Jack, Parmesan, Brie, Feta, Muenster, blue, Fontina

Meat/Seafood: pepperoni, salami, ham, cooked bacon or sausage, smoked turkey, roasted chicken, anchovies, clams, shrimp, smoked salmon

Vegetables: tomatoes, red, yellow or green bell peppers, summer squash, onions, mushrooms, olives, carrots, broccoli, artichoke hearts, jalapeño peppers

Note: To prevent a soggy pizza, slice raw vegetables thinly and do not overload your pizza. Or, use lightly sautéed or cooked, drained vegetables.

Seasonings: garlic, basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme, fresh parsley or cilantro, crushed red peppers

Fruit: pineapple, apples, pears
 

Brown and Serve Pizza:

1.  Pre-bake crust without sauce or toppings in 450ºF oven for 8 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

 2.  After pre-baking, wrap crust airtight and refrigerate for 2 days or freeze for 4 to 6 weeks.

 3.  To bake, thaw frozen crust at room temperature for 30 minutes.

 4.  Spread with sauce and toppings and bake at 450ºF for 12 minutes or until cheese is melted and lightly browned.

Notes:  Master Pizza Dough can be divided and/or shaped to fit the following pans
THIN - 2 (12-inch) round pizza pans
THICK - 1 (14-inch) round pizza pan (could try 2 very thin)
THIN - 1 (10- × 15-inch) baking pan
THICK - 1 (13- × 9-inch) baking pan
THIN - 2 baking sheets (make six 7-inch round individual pizzas)
THIN - 1 (14-inch) or 2 (9-inch) deep-dish pizza pans

To Freeze Pizza Dough:
Flatten dough to 8-inch disk. Wrap airtight in double thickness plastic freezer bags or foil. Freeze up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature, in microwave oven or in refrigerator: At room temperature, thaw 2 to 4 hours. In microwave oven, micro cook 10 minutes on LOW (10% power), turn over and rotate 1/4 turn. Let rest 10 minutes. Repeat 1 to 2 times, until dough is thawed. In refrigerator, thaw 8 to 16 hours or overnight. Thawing times will be shorter if dough is divided in half and frozen.

To Use Fleischmann's® Active Dry Yeast:
Combine yeast and warm water (105º to 115ºF) in large bowl; stir until dissolved. Stir in salt, oil and 2 cups flour to yeast mixture; blend well. Stir in enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead as directed. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Punch dough down; prepare according to selected recipe or freeze.

Pizza dough can be made in a bread machine with a large (about 1 lb.) capacity. Process in the "dough" cycle.

Classic Pizza Dough

Serving Size: 16    

  5     cups  bread flour (5 to 5 ½  cups)
  1½ teaspoons  salt
  1     package  Fleischmann's® Quick-Rise Instant Yeast *see notes
  2     cups  water
     ¼ cup  olive oil or vegetable oil

Set aside 1 cup flour from total amount. Mix remaining flour, salt and yeast in large bowl. Heat water and olive oil to 125º to 130ºF.  Add to dry ingredients; blend well. Stir in enough additional flour to make soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 4 to 6 minutes. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Divide dough in half; prepare according to selected recipe or freeze.**

Makes 2 thin-crust 14-inch pizzas, 8 individual 8-inch pizzas or 2 thick-crusts 13 × 9-inch pizzas.
 

Variations
Herb Dough: Follow above recipe adding 2 teaspoons sweet basil, oregano or rosemary to dry ingredients.

Cheese Dough:  Follow above recipe adding ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese to dry ingredients.

Notes: *To use Fleischmann's® Fast Rising Active Dry Yeast, combine yeast and warm water (105º to 115ºF) in large bowl; stir until dissolved. Stir in salt, oil and 2 cups flour to yeast mixture; blend well. Stir in enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead as directed. Cover; let rest 20 minutes. Or if desired, place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Punch dough down; prepare according to selected recipe or freeze.

To freeze pizza dough: Flatten each dough half into an 8-inch disk. Wrap airtight in double thickness plastic freezer bags or aluminum foil. Freeze up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature or in refrigerator.

Mexicali Pizza Wheel

 Serving Size: 12    

Filling

  1    pound  ground beef -- browned and drained
  1    8¾ ounce can  kidney beans -- drained
  1    8-ounce can  tomato sauce
  2    teaspoons  chili powder
  1    4-ounce jar  diced pimientos
  1    cup  grated cheese
  2    tablespoons  chopped mild green chiles
                       
Dough
  2¾ cups  all-purpose flour
     ½ cup  cornmeal
  1    package  Fleischmann's® Rapid Rise Yeast
  1    tablespoon  sugar
  1    teaspoon  salt
  1    cup  very warm water (125º to 130ºF)
  2    tablespoons  butter or margarine -- softened

Filling

Combine ground beef, browned and drained; kidney beans, tomato sauce; chili powder. Cook, stirring occasionally, until dry. Cool. Stir in diced pimientos, grated cheese, and chopped mild green chilies. Set aside.

Dough

1.  Combine 1 cup flour, cornmeal, undissolved yeast, sugar and salt. Add water and butter; beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat 2 minutes at high speed. With spoon, stir in enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead on floured surface until smooth, about 4 minutes. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

2.  Roll dough to 15-inch circle. Place in greased 14-inch pizza pan. Form a standing rim of dough around edge. Cut a 7-inch "X" in center of circle. Cut another "X" to form 8 pie-shaped wedges in center. Spread a 3-inch border of Mexicali Filling evenly around edge of dough. Pull cut points of dough over filling, tuck under rim and press to seal.

3.  Bake at 425ºF on lowest oven rack for 15 to 20 minutes or until done.