The internet is inundated with time saving hacks and suggestions. Search time management and literally millions of links will return, providing you with an infinite opportunity to waste time evaluating hacks, tips, and top ten lists. And yet, making your own pizza will not be among them.
Given that pizza is one of the most popular food groups and a frequent entree for the busy executive, it stands to reason that you should find a way to optimize this most common of dietary options. To which I say…
“Don’t let someone else make your pizza. Take control. Unless you prefer shitty pizza, you should cut back on pizza joints and make your own.”Brendan
This is true for innumerable reasons, which I will dutifully innumerate herewith. First, your homemade pizza will be better pizza. After a little practice and some suboptimal initial efforts, your pizza experience will consistently outperform all but the best artisanal pizza shops. And because most artisanal pizza shops are reliably populated with too many bearded, ink-festooned, bespoke plaid-and-selvidge hipster-types, your homemade efforts will ultimately even outscore these venues.
Second, a homemade pizza is faster. Once you have a hot oven, you can be deep into a thin crust in 20 minutes. (Alas, deep dish takes considerably longer, and that’s not so much a pizza as it is a casserole.) And it’s environmentally more friendly, given that you’re not driving or parking or paying for delivery.
Third, and in response to that whole #MeToo zeitgeist, let me suggest this: Pizzamaking can be man’s domain. This is a kitchen-centric hotspot ripe for male domination, the indoor equivalent of grilling and BBQ. To be the Head Pizza Chef is to be squarely in the center of a storm of bread flour and corn meal, armed with a searing hot oven and pizza peel, holding court and tossing dough. The messier and busier, the better. Homemade pizza is a stand and eat meal, dinner and a show, with you and your pies the glistening main attraction.
Besides, you have all the ingredients (if you have yeast.) Creating culinary magic is entirely possible when all that’s needed are yeast, flour, salt and water. Everything and anything else is simply a topping. Tomato sauce and cheese are traditional options, of course, but hardly a prerequisite. Bacon, canned clams, kale, egg, chickpeas, arugula, onion, leftovers, whatever… If it can rest on a flat surface, it’s a potential topping. The only limit is your imagination, and what hasn’t spoiled in the fridge or pantry.
“Okay, I get it,” you say, impatiently. “How do I start?”
Simple. It’s all in the dough, which you need to make yourself.
But there’s no need to panic. Pizza dough is easy. And the instructions follow:
- Put 1 teaspoon of yeast, 1 tablespoon of sugar and one cup of lukewarm water (or flat beer) into a bowl to dissolve. Add 2 1/2 cups of flour (bread flour is better, but not critical), 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir until thoroughly mixed. You can knead for a few minutes if you want, but otherwise just cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit a couple hours. It should double in size, after which you knock it down and scrape it into a large ziplock bag and toss in the fridge. It should keep about a week.
- When you’re in a pizzamaking mood, take the dough out and let it come to room temperature. (It only takes a few minutes to make pizzas, but it helps if you’re the kind of person that can plan ahead…) Fire up the oven to at least 450 degrees or hotter. Ideally you want a pizza stone or cast iron plate, but a cookie sheet works, too.
- Place the dough on a nicely floured surface, split it into 2 or 3 balls, and shape gently with your fingers into a thin disk resembling a pizza. Get your pizza peel or inverted cookie sheet and dust it heavily with cornmeal. (Few things are as frustrating as a pizza that won’t slide gracefully onto a pizza stone.)
- Dress your pizza, drawing heavily on your unique and special individuality and whatever ingredients are immediately available. Use less tomato sauce that you think necessary, and try one without. Consider a spritz of decent oil oil.
- Then slide the creation quickly onto the stone. Cook 7-10 minutes or whatever looks right, but probably a little longer than you would expect. (That is the thing about expectations, innit?)
- Don’t use a rolling pin. The shaping is best done by hand and a rolling pin crushes the dough, leaving it tough rather than chewy.
- Use enough corn meal. The longer the pizza rests on the peel, the more likely it is to stick and hang up during the critical transfer into the oven. Corn meal is akin to ball bearings.
- You want a hot oven. 450 degrees is a minimum, and if you can get to 550 degrees you’ll be better off. Be advised, it cooks faster.
- Don’t pull the pizza out early. You don’t want a limp, undercooked crust. Longer is better.
Try this a few times and then try to tell me that you’re going out to Sal’s or Vinnie’s or Original Ray’s. It won’t happen. But there is one potential risk. Pizzamaking is a short hop to more serious baking. It’s like a gateway drug. You start tinkering with your pizza dough, experimenting with timing and kneading and ingredient ratios. Before you know it, you’re deep into breads and cakes and sourdough starters and, well…
Now that I think about it, I’m not saving much time making pizzas. But I’ve bulked up nicely.