I think it is quite obvious that I love food. Maybe a little too much, lately, as I become all-too familiar with skin tight dresses and the swimsuits of summer again. However, there is one thing that I come back to time and time again – and that’s homemade pizza. I make it at least once a week, and more if I can find any excuse to. It’s delicious, fresh, and not altogether unhealthy since you’re making it from home without the unnecessary oils and questionable meat toppings. But most importantly, it’s probably the most all-encompassing comfort food I have ever known. Let’s talk about Pizza Margherita.
First of all, it’s a bit of a process. But I don’t care because I love it that much. I don’t care that when I eat it I end up with a blob of fresh mozzarella on my lap, or that I burn my mouth every time, or that sauce gets all over my chin. I promise it’s worth it.
To make great pizza outside of owning a pizza oven, you’re going to need a pizza stone. Now, they aren’t glamorous. You buy them and they look pretty and new, but a well-used pizza stone is pretty ugly as time goes by. Cheese, sauce, olive oil, and dough all get stuck to it, and instantly burn in a 600 degree oven. Then, you scrape it off with a barbeque scraper, and call it a day. However, over time, that build-up of black char marks and character add incredible flavor to your dough, making it taste like a true wood-fired pizza.
A face only a mother can love: (before it was scraped with a bbq scraper)
While you’re doing everything else, you pop this bad boy into the oven at 550 (or higher, if your oven allows for it) and let it get HOT. It usually takes at least 40 minutes to truly heat up to 550, and then I let it hang out in there for another hour after that.
In the meantime, you make the dough. I’ll include a recipe below.
He’s hanging out in his bowl with a good coating of olive oil to keep from sticking. I usually let him rise for an hour or so. Then he looks like this!
As is the case with anything incredibly simple, the ingredients have to be outstanding. The fewer the ingredients, the more each one has to shine. That means that this pizza is a great time to pull out the best mozzarella you can find, the freshest basil available, and a completely delicious (hopefully homemade) pizza sauce.
My favourite mozzarella (so far!)
It’s the perfect combination of slightly sweet, salty, creamy, and still has a firm bite with a soft center. It’s in a bag of water, so you’ll need to drain that, and then pat it dry with paper towels.
When you’re using a pizza stone, you need a pizza peel to slide the dough onto the hot stone. It needs to be well floured to ensure the dough doesn’t stick. Take my word for that, because if it DOES stick, then you may or may not have the entire pizza end up face-down in your scorching hot oven, causing copious amounts of smoke to billow out while the smoke alarm is terrifying condo residents around you, all at 4am because you just can’t just eat pizza at a normal goddamn time, can you?
Not that I’m speaking from experience.
When your dough is good to go, you’ll need to poke and prod it a bit into submission. I haven’t quite mastered the whole throw-the-dough-in-the-air-Italian-chef-style thing, so I stretch and mould it a bit to get it into a relatively acceptable circle shape. The good thing about making pizza homemade is – it’s not supposed to look perfect, so don’t fret. If you have a lot of trouble, use a rolling pin. Generally though I like to just use my fingers, as it naturally forms air bubbles and dips within the dough that make it that much yummier for catching cheese and eating.
There are a few things that aren’t difficult, but necessary, to create a great pizza. You want to go easy on the sauce, because too much sauce can make the dough soggy. You need to ensure that the process of dressing the pizza happens quickly for a few reasons. One – because the longer the toppings sit on the dough, the soggier the dough will get, and two – because the dough will begin to stick to the pizza peel. So have your ingredients ready to go.
Here’s the pizza just prior to popping it in the oven. I give it a liberal sprinkling of sea salt and crack some fresh black pepper over the whole thing. You can add whatever else you like – chili flakes, habanero salt, etc. Just keep the toppings minimal. The more veggies and cheese you add, the more water content there will be, and water = soggy pizza.
Because the oven and stone are so hot at this point, the pizza won’t take long at all to cook. The dough actually instantly cooks when you place it on the stone – you can hear it when you put it down. I like to rotate my pizza after 3-4 minutes to avoid any hot spots in the oven cooking one side faster than the other. Then – voila! 7-8 minutes is all you need:
Simple and perfect. The only thing that made it better was strawberries dipped in creme fraiche and rolled in brown sugar for dessert :)
Summer is hereeeeeee!!!
*note – I have no idea where I originally got the backbone for this dough recipe. I have been making the same one for years, and I keep adding and taking away things as I see fit. If you recognize it from somewhere, let me know and I’ll give credit where it’s due.
- 2 cups of all purpose flour, or italian tipo 00 flour. More for dusting and adjustments
- 2 1/4th tsp of yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
sometimes I like to add a couple tsps of additional flavouring such as garlic powder, dried basil, dried oregano, etc.
- mix together the yeast, sugar, and water in a small bowl or measuring cup and let it sit to proof for 11-13 minutes
- mix together the flour, salt, proofed yeast mixture, EVOO, and any extra flavourings in a mixer fitted with a dough hook
- let the dough mix at medium-high speed for 10 minutes
- remove the dough and coat it with a tsp or so of olive oil to keep it from sticking. Place it in the same mixing bowl, and cover with plastic wrap for an hour or so in a warm place.
- pizza dough
- pizza sauce (homemade or otherwise)
- fresh mozzarella (I use Saputo brand)
- fresh basil
- sea salt or kosher salt
- fresh black pepper
- additional and optional flavour: chili flakes, flavoured salts, drizzle of good olive oil, fresh parmesan
- roll out your dough into a respectable circle shape. You will need to keep the surface well-floured to prevent sticking
- put the dough on the floured pizza peel, and, working fairly quickly, spread the sauce onto the dough. Add chunks or slices of the fresh mozzarella, and as much fresh basil as you want. Sprinkle sea salt on top, and add your fresh black pepper.
- make sure that the dough is sliding well on the pizza peel before trying to put it on the pizza stone. Once it’s sliding with ease, put it in your preheated 550 degree oven, directly on the pizza stone. Close the oven, and wait 3-4 minutes. Using tongs, gently slide the half-cooked pizza dough back onto your peel, and rotate it so that it cooks evenly in the oven. Leave it in for another 3-4 minutes, or until cooked to your liking!
- let it cool for several minutes before slicing