Homemade pizza is probably our family's favorite meal. Our teenage kids have been known to change plans and stay home (on weekend nights, even) when they hear we are having pizza. We've tried a variety of toppings. In a later post (after we make them again), I'll include the recipes for our Chicken Feta Basil pizza and Bob's barbecue chicken pizza. I'll also try to post the recipe for the somewhat involved pizza sauce that I make from garden produce and bottle every summer.
The first time we made pizza at home was with the help of our friends Blake and Catherine, who are true experts. They introduced us to the magic of the pizza stone (which we had stored in our pantry since our wedding but had never used). We've actually gone through several stones in the meantime, and now have two that are well seasoned and well used--they are also great for baking bread, giving the finished product a lovely crust. See here, for example.
Our crust recipe has evolved somewhat over time as we've experimented with and combined different recipes. This recipe makes three large pizzas, which is usually enough to feed our crew for dinner and a rewarmed snack the next day (warm the pizza on the pizza stone for best results).
2 T. + ¼ t. instant yeast (if you aren't using instant yeast, activate the yeast in the warm water. Adding the sugar will make it come to life faster).
2 ½ cups warm water
2 ½ t. sugar
2 ½ t. salt
5 T. olive oil
6 ¼ cups flour
Mix together in stand mixer or large bowl; knead for 7-8 minutes. Let rise until double. Divide into three equal portions and roll out flat (we make them as close as possible to the size of the pizza stone). Add sauce and toppings and bake at 550 degrees for about six minutes.
We have found that order matters when it comes to toppings. Here is the preferred order for our three most frequently made pizzas. Use any basic tomato or pizza sauce for the sauce. We prefer grated mozzarella cheese, which we buy in bulk from Costco and then freeze in smaller portions.
Sausage/Mushroom Pizza: Crust – 1 ½ ladles of sauce – cheese – sausage – mushrooms – onions – cheese
Here is a photo of Bob's fine assembly work on a combination pizza just before it goes in the oven (although we do put another layer of cheese on). As you can see from the photo, we use a wooden pizza peel covered with corn meal as the base for the pizza. This allows it to slide easily onto the pizza stone, which we pre-heat for 30 minutes or so in the oven.