Friday, January 2, 2015

Homemade Pizza 101

I love family traditions!  Holidays, birthday and even the little traditions that occur weekly or even daily.  Some of them are carried on from the families my husband and I grew up in and others we've started brand new just for our family.  Many of them are planned and intentionally carried out, others just kind of happen and evolve into a beloved tradition.  Our weekly "Pizza Movie Party" night is one of those unplanned traditions that we all love.  Sometimes it's Friday night, sometimes it Saturday night, but very few weeks go by without a family pizza movie party.  Sometimes we substitute the movie for games but the pizza part is a must.  We'd probably have to take out a second mortgage to fund our pizza tradition if we bought good pizza for this crowd every week and I don't think I could stomach a weekly feasting on the cheap stuff.  What's a mom to do?  Learn to make the good stuff at home!  I had a friend in Iowa that was in the same boat.  They had five kids and she made it her personal quest to find the perfect pizza crust recipe for their family pizza nights.  Because every good pizza has to start with a good crust.  I don't usually follow the instructions to a T.  Preparing it the night before probably does make it that much better.  I don't usually plan ahead enough to make it the night before and I think it tastes great still if I make it that evening.  This recipe makes enough dough for two pizzas.  As far as toppings go, we usually top one pizza with just cheese or cheese and peperoni and then I like to have fun with the second one.  I've come up with some topping combinations that are real winners and will be sharing them every Friday, so keep checking back.  Another fun thing we like to do is to divide the dough into 8 pieces and make personal pizzas for everyone.  Then everybody gets to top their own little pizza to their liking.  I love our weekly family pizza tradition and hope that my kids will think of them with fond memories when they make pizza with their families someday.

1 3/4 cup warm water
1 TBS yeast
 2 TBS sugar
2 TBSP olive oil (plus extra to brush on the edge of the crust)
1 1/2 tsp table salt
4 cups flour
pizza sauce
pizza toppings of choice

I just throw everything into my bread mixer, put it on the dough setting and let it take over. Of course, you can mix and knead it by hand though. I always just make the dough as I'm getting ready to make dinner, but the official recipe says this: After kneading the dough, place in a bowl that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. Yes, this step really does make a difference. The crust I tried making the same day was good, but the overnight one was chewy and had a much better texture. Two hours before you make your pizza, take the bowl out, spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Divide your dough into 2 balls, cover lightly with plastic wrap, let rise on counter. When you're ready to make your pizza, place your pizza stone (best choice) or rimless pizza pan into the oven and preheat to 500. Make sure you preheat your pan with the oven! Hand stretch (best method) or roll out your dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Top with sauce, cheese and toppings.   You can brush the crust with olive oil and lightly sprinkle the crust with things like parmesan cheese and garlic salt if you think it would compliment your chosen toppings. When your pizza is ready to bake, carefully pull the hot stone or pan out of the oven, slide the parchment paper with the pizza onto the pan. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.  Remove from oven and brush crust with olive oil.

*Source:  Jessica Brown

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