These are the 3 main benefits of homemade pizza (in my opinion):
1. Making pizza is fun!
2. Home made pizzas are healthy, the ones from your local pizza delivery are not.
3. You can adapt any pizza recipe to your own taste.
OK, now lets get started. I recommend starting at the pizza dough section, then moving on to the pizza sauce section before finally taking a stroll into the pizza topping area.
What are you waiting for? It's time to roll up those sleeves and get stuck in!!
Making pizza dough is not the quickest process, but it's easy, and if you are an aficionado of Italian food you now that it's worth the effort to find your best pizza dough recipe, it will reward you with perfect pizzas every time.
Every one who has ever made his or her own pasta will know that it bears no resemblance to the bland dried product that you can buy in the supermarket. There is nothing wrong with using a prefab pizza dough base, but if you truly love pizza you owe it yourself to taste the best pizza dough. You are likely never to go back to the pre-made pizza bases.
Personal preference decides what pizza dough is perfect for you, and at the end of the day homemade pizza dough is made from flour, yeast, salt and water. However, particular attention must be paid to the process for the dough to be perfect.
How To Make Pizza Dough
Strong white flour is best (in some countries this flour is marked as bread flour). Although plain flour can be used as well, it does not have the same high gluten content and therefore the finished pizza dough will not be as stretchy. Watching a pizza chef doing acrobatics with the dough is proof enough how elastic the dough should be, they throw it in the air and catch it with their fingers without it leaving a dent in the dough. This shows that the gluten has done its work and the pizza dough is robust and flexible.
Whilst it is technically possible to get the pizza dough to rise faster by placing the dough in a warm place, experts tend to agree that the finished pizza dough is best left to rise naturally, whatever the pizza dough recipe. After kneading the dough should be left to double in size naturally. This should be a process that is completed by the eye and not the clock. It can take anything between 1 hour and 2 hours depending on the temperature and the amount of draught.
Pay attention to the kneading process: it eliminates excess gas produced by the yeast and quite literally knocks the air out of the pizza dough. Many people find the action of kneading the dough very therapeutic and chefs are often asked how you can tell when the dough is kneaded sufficiently. The answer is: you can feel it in your hands (practice makes perfect).
Pizza dough keeps in the refrigerator for several days and frozen pizza dough can be kept for several months. I always have frozen pizza dough in the freezer for emergencies, and I find that if it is frozen in pieces the size of golf balls then it is defrosted in ten minutes.
When you come to baking your pizza dough, the chances are that you are using a conventional oven rather than one fired from the volcanic rocks of Vesuvius. The baking time is always intense and short and the temperature should be 220°C or 425°F. The pizza dough should always be placed on the upper shelves, and whilst you can cook more than one pizza base at once, they should never be placed at less than the middle. This is because heat rises and you cannot get the best heat at the bottom of an oven.
How to Ascertain the Pizza Is Cooked
If your oven has a glass door this is an easy process. If the pizza has a rim then the dough develops blisters and it is golden brown, without a rim the golden brown color of the edge indicates that the pizza is ready to be eaten.
If the oven has not got a glass door it's more difficult to check if your pizza is ready. Do remember that every time you open the oven door, heat is lost and the pizza becomes less than perfect each time the door is opened.
The process, depending on the oven, takes between ten to fifteen minutes and it will take longer if you have more than one pizza in. A thicker crust will also take longer than a thinner crust.
Styles of Pizza Dough
What shape and size your pizza should be depends on how many people you want to feed and how traditional you want to make the pizza. Pizzas are not always round. the Sorrento region in Italy is famous for its rectangular pizza.
Though in theory pizzas can be any shape, a shape such as a crescent is not practical to pick up, as the filling will hold in the center and fall of the edge. Really the only important thing you have to decide is how thick or thin you want to make your finished pizzas.
For the traditionalists regarding Italian pizza dough recipes, there are two schools of thought dominated by the Romans and the Neapolitans.
The Classic Neapolitan pizza dough Shape
The Neapolitans favor a thicker pizza with a rim. The dough should be a little over 3mm or 1/8 of an inch thick. The edges are a little thicker so that they will puff up in the cooking process. This means that this will form a natural barrier and keep the filling in the center.
The Classic Roman pizza dough Shape
The Roman style pizza does not have a rim because their pizza fillings are more viscous and they tend to stay in place and not have a tendency to slide off the pizza. The pizza is never more than 3mm or 1/8 of an inch thick.