One of my favorite meals to prepare is homemade pizza. Restaurants often refer to them as “flatbreads,” but we here, we just call them pizzas. Homemade pizza dough does take some time to prepare, but it isn’t very difficult. Therefore, I typically make pizza for Sunday suppers.
Our favorite pizzas don’t even involve tomato sauce. I just smear the dough with olive oil and garlic, and sprinkle over salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes before adding the toppings. Fresh mozzarella is our cheese of choice. It’s pricier, but has an ideal chew and richness. Scoop up a ball at your local Italian deli or find some at ALDI or Trader Joe’s. Instead of covering the whole pizza with mozzarella, I stretch one ball over an entire recipe of dough by pinching off pieces and dotting them between the other toppings.
The best part about making homemade pizza is that you can add whatever toppings you like. Any vegetable you find at the farmers market probably makes a great topping. We’ve enjoyed pizza topped with everything from roasted kholarabi to shaved radish to blanched potato slices. Here’s a list of our favorite pizza toppings and instructions for making my favorite dough.
Pizza inspired by our favorite pie in the whole world, The Eggplant Special at Broders Cucina Italiana in Minneapolis, MN. Topped with fresh mozz, roasted eggplant, bell pepper, caramelized onions, and goat cheese mixed with herbs.
Yeast doughs are more forgiving than you might assume. I avoided making yeast doughs for years because they intimidated me so much! If the yeast is not old and you allow the dough to properly rise twice, all should be well. It’s easy to feel tempted to rush the second rising, but, this will really mess up the texture of your bread. My culinary instructor at Minnesota State Community & Tech College always reminded us that yeast dough rises once for flavor and twice for structure.
When I prepare pizza crust dough, I look for a texture that’s smooth, elastic, and not too sticky. If you find that your dough is too dry, slowly drizzle in a little bit of water at a time, and, if it’s too wet, mix in more flour.
Fresh mozzarella: We stretch one ball over a whole recipe of pizza dough.
Sliced bell pepper
Shaved hot chilis
Roasted (or pulled) chicken
Reduced balsamic vinegar: Reduce in a saucepan until thick and sweet.
Slow roasted tomatoes: Instead of roasting at a high heat, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake at a low temperature (250-300ºF) until the juices thicken and the skins are tender. This could take hours. Cherry tomatoes work well, but if you only have whole tomatoes, cut into small pieces and remove some of the pulp.
Pizza inspired by Maxwell’s of West Fargo’s Roasted Chicken & Basil Pesto flatbread: Fresh mozz, pulled chicken leg meat, caramelized red bell peppers and onions, balsamic drizzle.
My Favorite Thin Crust Recipe
Adapted from Saveur’s recipe for Lahmacun. This is an excellent recipe in itself!
2 cups AP unbleached flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 scant teaspoon kosher salt
1 packet of yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus a little extra for oiling the bowl
Instructions For Making The Dough With A Stand Mixer:
- Place two cups of flour and a scant teaspoon of salt in a large mixing bowl.
- In a small bowl, add the yeast, warm water, and sugar, and gently stir. Water that is too hot will kill the yeast. I don’t measure the temperature, but aim for slightly above luke warm. The yeast will bloom after 5-10 minutes.
- Pour the yeast into the dry ingredients. Add the olive oil and mix with a dough hook at a lower speed until it forms a ball. If the mixture is too dry and won’t combine, slowly stream in a little bit of water. If the dough feels too sticky, add more flour.
- When you like the texture of the dough, mix on a medium or medium-high speed for about five minutes. It should feel smooth, elastic, and slightly sticky.
- Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, flipping it around so that the entire surface is oiled. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until it doubles in size. If your home is chilly or you can’t find an available window sill, turn your oven on briefly just to warm it. Rise the dough inside the oven.
- When it’s time to make the pizza, punch down the dough and remove it from the bowl.
- Divide the dough in half to make two larger pizzas, or smaller balls for personal-size pizzas. Gently roll them out on a lightly floured surface. The thinner you roll the dough, the thinner your pizza crusts will be.
- Place on sheet pans lined with parchment, cover with tea towels, and allow to rise again. They might not dramatically double in size, but they should appear puffy.
Topping Your Pizzas:
- Brush a light coat of olive oil on the surface of the risen pizza crusts. Rub with grated garlic and sprinkle with salt, pepper and/or crushed red pepper flakes.
- If you like pizza sauce, spread it on the dough. We prefer it without.
- Add your favorite toppings.
- Space pinches of mozzarella over the pizzas.
- Bake 400ºF (or higher) until the dough is crisp and golden brown around the edges and the cheese caramelizes.