Making homemade pizza from scratch is a process that requires planning, preparation, patience and a good deal of counter space. The outcome of this process is a savory meal that you can customize to your tastes and a house that smells like a pizzeria for 10 or 12 hours.
The most important element of the homemade pizza is the dough. The dough is also the thing that yields that pizzeria smell. Making the dough is easy if you have the right ingredients. For the recipe, see the earlier post titled The Best Pizza Dough. The two key ingredients are the Farina 00 flour and the yeast. The dough is mixed and kneaded and placed in a bowl coated with cooking spray about 1 – 2 hours before the first pizza goes into the oven. You can mix the dough by hand (a very sticky proposition) or use a KitchenAid tabletop mixer (my preferred method). Leave the dough in a warm spot to rise until ready.
While the dough is rising I prepare my ingredients like Italian sausage, caramelized onions, and roasted red peppers. I also chop any uncooked toppings such as raw onion, green olives, garlic, spinach and basil. I gather any spices I plan to use such as oregano, cracked red pepper, fennel seed and black pepper. I then grate or slice any cheeses I plan to use for toppings. Finally, I pour some extra-virgin olive oil into a bowl. This oil will be used to brush the dough edges to produce brown and crisp outer crust.
About 30 minutes before I plan to start baking my first pizza I set a rack at the very bottom of the oven, place a pizza stone on the rack, and preheat the oven to 550F. As the oven heats up, I cover a large cutting board with a thin coating of all-purpose flour. This will be the surface used for rolling the dough pieces flat. I also prepare my pizza peel, a large flat wooden paddle used for transferring the prepared pizzas to the pizza stone, by dusting it with a thin coating of yellow cornmeal. The cornmeal will allow the pizzas to slide smoothly into the oven without sticking.
I then divide the dough into pieces and cover them with a dry towel to keep them warm until they are rolled. The first dough is moved to the flour-coated board. Using a pastry brush, I coat the dough thinly with olive oil. Then, I use a large spoon to ladle and spread pizza sauce evenly over the dough. Now it is time to add the toppings, spices and, finally, the cheese. Once the pizza is dressed, into the oven it goes for 10 to 12 minutes or until the crust is brown and crispy and the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown.
As soon as the first pizza goes into the oven the next dough is rolled and the preparation process continues. If I am preparing four “personal-sized” pizzas the baking process will take just under an hour.
If you follow this simple, organized approach you, too, can treat your friends and family to delicious homemade pizza that they will rave about.