Homemade Pizza

23 Apr

I have fixed our oven! I am very happy about this. Having an inferior oven has been a real disappointment. Bakeries do a ton of business here, but I feel sorry for those who buy their product, because to say that their cakes and cookies are poor is to be kind. We have even considered buying a new stove, despite our rental house, but have hesitated making such a purchase in a place that is not our own.

So the other day I fixed the slant that made my cakes lopsided, burnt on one side and raw on the other. It was so simple I wonder I never thought about it before. It is still a lousy oven, with no heat retention worth mentioning, but at least it is even.

I have celebrated by making a pizza, which I and my little one enjoyed with a glass of Coke, our forbidden and much-lamented drink.

Why do I make my own pizza dough? Because it is easy and delicious, and so much better than what you get delivered. Because my daughter loved to watch me knead, standing on a chair next to me as my hands worked the dough. 

So here’s the recipe. You can double the quantity, divide the dough in two, make one half and save the other for the next day.

                                                     Easy Pizza Dough

1 teaspoon active dry yeast (it’s quite sufficient, and more will leave a yeasty taste on the dough)

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup of lukewarm water (make sure it’s not too hot or you will kill the yeast) 

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil

Dissolve the yeast in the water and add the sugar. Let it rest for 10 minutes, until foamy.

In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, and 1 teaspoon of oil. Slowly add the yeast mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon. The dough should come off the sides of the bowl fairly quickly. Add more water by the tablespoon if needed.

Transfer to a floured surface and knead. Use the heel of your hand to roll the dough away from you. Make a quarter turn and fold the dough. Repeat. Do this for five to seven minutes at least. If you have doubled the recipe, you will have to knead longer.

You will feel the dough becoming smooth and elastic, stretching as you knead. I always wondered what people meant by this, but the truth is that you will know it when you feel it. Watch out for the tiny blisters that appear under the surface of the dough, as they will tell you that you are done.

Shape the dough into a ball and place back in the bowl. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of oil on top of the dough. Turn to coat the other side and cover with plastic wrap. Make sure the cling film touches the dough.

Lay a tea towel over the whole thing and let the dough sleep, as my mother says. Leave it in a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until doubled in size. The dough will look puffy and be soft to the touch.

Once risen, prepare the baking dish. You don’t have to use a special pizza pan, and it doesn’t have to be round, although to my daughter it is not pizza if the slice is not a triangle. I used a quiche pan this time, which worked really well. Coat the bottom of the pan with a bit of olive oil to make sure the pizza doesn’t stick.

Roll the dough to the appropriate diameter. Hold the disk in your hands and give it a turn to stretch it. Place on the pan, making sure it meets the edges. Spoon the tomato sauce (see recipe below), and sprinkle grated mozzarella cheese. You can add any toppings you like, and use the  cheese of your choice. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the edges of the pizza look golden.

Since you have to wait for the dough to rise, you might as well make your own pizza sauce while you do it, and nothing could be easier. I never buy bottled tomato sauce, preferring to make mine in bulk and keeping it in the refrigerator for almost instant pasta. Here is what I made today:

                                   Easy Homemade Tomato Sauce

I think the key to a good sauce lies in peeling the tomatoes. Remove the indigestible skin and the ribbon-like film will not interfere with the taste of the tomatoes.

I make an x with a knife at the the top of each tomato, over which I then pour boiling water. Let soak for five minutes, until the skin breaks and starts peeling away.

I always keep some tomatoes in the freezer, so I never run out. I prefer these to canned tomatoes, because they are closer to the natural state, and I make it a point to buy unprocessed, organic food whenever I can. Frozen tomatoes peel very easily, just place them under running water for a few seconds.

5 or 6 large plum tomatoes, peeled and diced

1 small onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced


fresh pepper, ground

oregano & basil (1/2 teaspoon if using dry herbs, more if using fresh)

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

Place all the ingredients  in a saucepan and cook at medium-low temperature, uncovered. If you are using fresh herbs, do not add them until the sauce is off the heat. Stir several times. Mash the tomatoes against the side of the pan when you stir.

Check the salt. Turn off the heat when the sauce has thickened and the oil has separated from the tomatoes, about 20 to 25 minutes.

This sauce can be altered in many ways. Sometimes I do not chop the onion, but simply slice it in half. A book I have says the onion should be discarded, but I love it, so it remains. You can also use unsalted butter instead of olive oil for a richer sauce. You can add carrots and celery and puree the cooked sauce in a blender to make it smooth. Or add mushrooms for a chunky one, and if you love garlic like I do, put more than 3 cloves. The sauce is cooked by evaporation, so the taste of the garlic is not as sharp as the quantity would suggest.

The sauce is delicious with a dash of cream poured in at the last few minutes of cooking for a rich, mellow taste. If you have time (and a large quantity of tomatoes), remove the seeds and the juice, and use only the pulp of the tomatoes. Any way you cook this, it is a good, basic sauce that goes very well with the pizza, and it’s great for pasta too.


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