As most of you know, I love when my readers/ followers ask me a question concerning something that they’ve been struggling with in the kitchen. Even if I don’t know the answer, I know people who do (read this awesome baking interview I did to help answer some of your questions). I got another question a while back and I was waiting for the stars to align just right before I answered it. The question you ask, “How do I make pizza at home?”
Now this reader had some issues with the crust but for the sake of covering all of my bases, I’m going to touch on everything I know to make pizza making at your home a success.
First things first. We need to talk about yeast; yeast is a wonderful and temperamental thing. I talked about dealing with yeast back in my roll post (you really should read it, it’s fantastic!) but one thing that I failed to mention is that yeast has an expiration date. We may not really think about it but yeast is a living and breathing thing and eventually fades away. Now, to my knowledge, I don’t think it rots… that might be where alcohol comes into play… but after the expiration date, yeast loses its ability to rise and do its job significantly. Lesson 1: check your yeast best by date.
Also, while on the topic of yeast, we need to treat it with care. Store it in a cool place, bloom it in warm water and let it hang out at room temperature to rise. Think of yourself and treat your yeast likewise.
Secondly and what might be one of the most important things for a good pizza crust is amount of gluten built up in the dough. The dough is going to get beat up in order to become the shape it needs to be AND literally be the foundation that holds all of those beautiful toppings. Knead that dough for a good 5-7 minutes. The dough will transform into a lovely shiny-ish ball that is nice and smooth. Then you let it rest.
Unlike other bread doughs, you only let pizza rise once for 30 minutes and then it’s good to shape and bake. With other bread doughs, you want a kind of crumb which results from the multiple rises and punches and such. Pizza dough is going to be a sturdy bread so no need to rise and beat down this dough.
Some people might argue about whether or not the flour actually matters. I say it does but I think pizza dough is a bit more forgiving than other floured goods. A lot of pizzerias, (Pizza Hut doesn’t count) I’m talking about like artisan pizza places, use what is called 00 flour. I touched on this point in my homemade pasta post but I think it’s worth bringing up again. 00 flour is a super fine wheat flour with a high gluten content which is super ideal for making pizza because we don’t want the crumb from other bread doughs BUT we want the durability that comes from high gluten flours (yes, we want our cake and eat it too). IF 00 flour is not readily available OR slightly out of your budget, no worries; bread flour really will be a good substitute for this application.
When we go to build our pizza, I know I can get like this sometimes, but we often get a little overzealous with our toppings. Remember, our crust is the foundation but it isn’t made out of steel here. Make sure that your dough has no holes which will cause a laundry list full of problems; from soggy crust to not releasing properly and spilling all of your yummy toppings off of your pizza and on to your oven floor. That’s a mess nobody wants to clean.
The important thing to remember about baking your pizza crust is that you want it done fast so that it crisps up without the toppings over cooking. You do this by cooking the pizza at a high temperature for a short amount of time. The tricky thing, though, is that most home ovens only go up to 500 degrees. At one kitchen I worked at, we had a wood fire oven and I would keep that baby running at 650 degrees during dinner service so I could kick out flatbreads in 8 minutes (building, cooking, cutting, plating and garnishing 8 minutes; that’s why I’m a ninja). If you happen to have a wood fire pizza oven at home, more power to ya! Crank that baby up and I’ll be at your place for dinner tonight! For those of us that don’t have really cool ovens at home, we have a couple of different options to crisp up our pizza dough without building a fire in our kitchen.
Preheat a baking sheet
This option is for those who really don’t want to or can’t go out and buy special equipment for that one pizza recipe that they want to make at home. If you’re not a huge pizza maker, this might be a good option for you. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees with a baking sheet in the middle rack for about 30 minutes. With a slightly smaller baking sheet, build your pizza with the dough covering the whole surface of the baking sheet. When you’re ready to bake your pizza, place the pizza baking sheet on top of the heated baking sheet in the oven. This will kick start the setting process of high heat on your dough and will result in a pretty crispy crust. I would check the dough after about 10 minutes to see how your dough is looking. If it looks pretty set, pull both baking sheets out and let cool before handling the pizza.
The one con I see to this option that it doesn’t necessarily provide a nice crisp crust. It does take longer to bake than other options we’re going to explore but it is very economical and if you don’t have space or want to make space for special pizza equipment, this is your best bet.
This is probably my favorite option and the one I use. Pizza stones are great because they are built to withstand super high temperatures and with proper preheating, it will act like the stone floor of a wood fire oven, thus resulting in a nice crust. They also cut down on cooking time because they absorb heat so well that it is piping hot when you put your uncooked pizza on top. As long as you put cornmeal on the stone, your pizza won’t stick which is great. It’s super easy to care for; every so often you have to rinse it off (just water, no soap because it is super absorbent) and place back in your oven. I just leave mine in the oven because I use it a bit often so I don’t worry too much about storage with it.
Depending on the brand, the price will vary. You can get a very economical one for $20, and naturally they’ll go up in price depending on the brand. I use this one and have been very happy with it so far. They are heavy and some can be really big. If you do a ton of baking and don’t want to move your stone in and out of the oven, it might not be super ideal for you. I have another option that we’ll explore next.
Baker Stone Pizza Box
Now, I follow Joanie Simon and she did this awesome post last summer that included this nifty gadget. The Baker Stone Pizza Box sits on top of your grill and get suuuuuuper hot! It’s like having a brick oven at your house! This thing is pretty cool and it definitely would do the job. If you have an outdoor grill and have extra room in your budget, this is the way to go! Much cheaper than building an oven outdoors to have pizza and way more compact.
And there ya have it! This is the wealth of knowledge I have on how to make killer pizza at home! To review, in order to make amazing pizza at home:
- Make sure your yeast isn’t expired and treat it with love.
- Use the right flour. High gluten content is paramount!
- Don’t over load your pizza; less is definitely more in this case.
- Cook high and fast. We want a crisp crust to enjoy with our yummy toppings!
Now practice what you’ve learned here and let me know how it all went.
As a sneak peak: I put my own tips to practice and show you how to make this amazing pizza!