Well, our YouTube channel recently hit 1,000,000 views, and we passed 10,000 subscribers. THANK YOU VIEWERS! We love you back! To celebrate we pulled out a special episode for everyone… Making Homemade Pizza. Actually, we have wanted to do a pizza episode for quite a while, but it just wasn’t happening. We had a lot of technical issues such as lost audio, and gaps in our footage, etc, and we ended up filming it several times, and it was shelved for a while before we were finally said “Eff it, let’s make this happen!” and we were able to stitch it all together. So here it is.
Here is a recap for those who are here for the blogged version:
Things you’ll need:
- A decent oven (one that is well sealed and can reach a true 450 degrees)
- Pizza screens
- Pizza peel (the big spatulas you see the pizzeria guys using to move the pizza around) Choose one with a short handle.
- Spatula for cutting dough and scraping – makes life easier for you
- Pizza cutter
- Bowl and Brush
- Pizza dough ( here I suggest we keep it simple and you can buy a good quality pre-made dough at a good bakery or supermarket, or just buy raw dough at your favorite pizzeria. You can make your own dough from scratch, but that deserves its own episode and set of instructions, so stay tuned for that one)
- Crushed tomato ( not flavored or spiced “tomato sauce”… let’s keep it just tomato so that we can control what flavors we want in there.
- Mozzarella cheese
- Toppings: here, it all depends on what you want to put on your pizza. In fact, you don’t even have to put cheese, or tomato sauce, if you prefer not (although you would usually have at least one or the other). For instance, you could make a “Marinara” (seafood) pizza, in which you would leave out cheese ( unless you really want cheese and seafood together – I wouldn’t ) or you could make a “white pizza” which leaves out the tomato, for a different taste… all good. Of course, one of the world favorites is the basic “Margherita” pizza which simply has tomato, cheese, and basil. Now besides the usual mushroom, sausage, peppers, and onion, that you will commonly find here at the pizzerias through most of the United States, there is really no reason to restrict yourself to that: I often say you can think of pizza very similarly to pasta dishes: the combinations can be endless. Have some fun. Invent your own. I have a few toppings that you might try either by themselves or in different combinations: leeks, radicchio, prosciutto, arugula, eggplant (see eggplant prep video here), red onion, broccoli rabe, pine nuts, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, walnuts, exotic cheeses (like gorgonzola). Try one without sauce, a smear of caciocavallo cheese, mustard greens, and truffle oil. Or if going for some seafood, let’s leave out the cheese and try things like shrimp, calamari, mussels out of the shell, or octopus. As you can tell, the list can go on. Just remember that for most of the toppings, it requires a little bit of prep cooking. Most toppings won’t cook thoroughly in the quick time that the pizza is in the oven, so cook your toppings ahead of the pizza making time, and have them out when your pies are ready for your experimenting.
Get your dough out about a couple hours before you are planning to have your pizzas in the oven. We need to give it about an hour or two to rise – if your kitchen is warm it will rise faster, if cooler it will take a little longer, but an hour to two hours is probably the norm. Portion your dough with the spatula and start making your dough balls. This part takes a bit of experience to know how big to make your dough balls, but I would say about a tennis ball sized ball will be good for the small 12 inch pizza screens, and something closer to softball size is good for the larger 16 inch pie. The easiest way to make a nice ball is to take the rough edges of the cut dough and sort of wrap them around toward each other till they meet, in an outward and around motion away from you. Try, you’ll get the hang of it. Arrange your dough balls on a baking sheet that you brushed lightly with olive oil to keep them from sticking. Now cut an X at the top of each dough ball, and cover your whole tray of balls with a clean towel moistened with warm water. Now just let it sit. When they rise to about double their original size, it’s pizza making time!
Now… rolling out our pie. On a clean surface, toss a little dry flour (to keep the dough from sticking) and get to work. On TV you will see the pizza guy tossing and flipping the pie to stretch it out. You can try that if you want… takes practice. But it’s totally unnecessary. All the matters is that you get your dough stretched out nice and even and round enough to fit on your screen, but honestly, it doesn’t even have to be round. You can make it any shape, really. More important is to try to keep it even. Be patient and just try to evenly push it out from the center, gradually pushing and stretching. Try to avoid overworking it though. If it gets thin and you get a tear, just overlap the edges of the tear to fix and keep working the rest of it, evening it out as much as possible; avoid the temptation to roll it back into a ball and start over. Don’t judge yourself. Your first two or three pizzas may not look so pretty and even, but will probably taste just great, and it will get much easier with practice.
Once you get it stretched out enough, lay it on your screen and start laying on your precooked toppings. Try to keep it simple. If you flood it with crushed tomato for example, your pizza will get soggy. Stay light and get a feel for it. You can get bolder with your experiments as your confidence grows. I always like to start with a basic margherita pizza. The kids love it, and it’s a classic. Always a winner. Margherita is just the basic mozzarella on crushed tomato, and then basil leaves added when it comes out of the oven. Simple, fantastic.
Your oven should be at 450 degrees. Using your pizza peel, slip in your pizza. Start checking after maybe three minutes to see how it’s going. Every oven will cook differently and you need to see how your own oven behaves. When it starts to get a little crispy and I see some evidence of browning on the crust, what I like to do is remove it so that I can brush a layer of olive oil onto the crust. That will help it crisp up with some flavor. Delicious. Then just pop it back in and let that brown for just another minute or two.
Your pizza is done when the edges and the underside are browned (take a peek under the pizza screen to check the underside) After you’ve made a couple of these, you’ll know how often to check your oven for doneness.
So that’s pretty much it. I guarantee, your family and you are going to have fun with this one. Let us know how your pizza comes out. Let us know what great new pizza recipe toppings you come up with, and keep watching.
Chef Tony Scarpati