Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pizza at home, from home

I love pizza. I could eat it several times a week and I'd be a very happy woman. But it's bad for you, right? And it can get pretty expensive to order delivery, especially if you want more than one topping--around here it can go for $15 for a large!

I hardly ever order pizza anymore. Now I make quick, delicious, and relatively healthy pizza in my kitchen, for cheap!

I stock up on pre-made refrigerated pizza dough (Trader Joe's has it for $0.99) and keep the bags in the freezer for whenever I want a quick, non-involved meal. A small jar of pizza sauce kept in the fridge will last you for 4-5 pizzas, and just keep a bag of shredded mozzarella in there too (if kept dry this also lasts for months).

Home-made pizza is more flavorful, less greasy than take out, and has a fresher taste, because you can control what you put on it. At one time in my life I had to be on a very strict low-fat diet, and I actually made pizza all the time. A half a cup of mozzarella is 12 grams of fat--if you do light cheese, even better-- and if you choose veggies for toppings, that is virtually all of the fat in the whole pie, less than 2 grams a slice. How can you beat that?

I have made a few mistakes making these pizzas, but I think I've now perfected the art. Here's all you do (including the tidbits I've learned from my mistakes).

1. Take the pizza dough out of the fridge about 20 minutes before you want to start making it. [If you had it in the freezer, put it in the fridge in the morning, and it will be ready by dinner time]. It will soften the dough enough to stretch it into a full sized pizza, but it won't get too gooey, as it would if you left it until it reached room temperature.

2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. You want to cook pizza at a high temperature and fast. If you keep it at 350 or 375, it will be chewy, cook unevenly, and probably take 45 minutes to make.

3. Slice your toppings and prepare them for the pizza. If using mushrooms (my favorite) don't be afraid to layer them a little bit. They will shrink when cooking. If you are using peppers (or another high-water-content veggie) be sure to space them out and put fewer in the center so when the water leeches out it will not collect and create a pool on your pizza (if you see this happening, just sop it with a paper towel quickly).

4. Stretch dough. I found the keys to doing this are first, to put some flour on your hands so you don't stick to the dough, and second, to keep rotating it so that its own weight pulls it into a round shape. Don't worry if it's not perfectly round. It will taste great all the same. If holes keep getting poked in, use your knuckles, not your fingers, to stretch it.

5. Add sauce, then cheese, then toppings. Or no sauce if you roll that way.

6. Cook about 20 minutes, till crust is brown and cheese has become golden and bubbly.

I like to use a non-stick pizza pan with these neat little venting holes (see photo). They make the crust really nice and crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. It is also super easy to clean.

If you don't have a pizza pan of any kind, don't worry. You can use a cookie sheet. I used one for a whole year when I had an oven that couldn't even fit a pizza pan into it. (I recommend a cookie sheet with sides, just in case anything decides to roll off the side of the pie). Make sure you grease it first, or that beautiful pizza will never make it into your mouth!


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