Infinitely variable, simply delicious
I think pizza must truly be a gift from the gods. It’s really just an open-faced sandwich, but oh, what a sandwich. When I learned how to make my own, it seriously changed my life! We have pizza at home about once a week, made to our own specifications, and those meals always leave both me and my husband very happy.
I learned how to make pizza from Joanne Weir when I first moved to Louisville 18 years ago. The no-longer-in-business Cookbook Cottage on Bardstown Road hosted a cooking class to promote her then-new book You Say Tomato. Weir had worked for Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and I had often heard about their wonderful pizzas, so I was very interested in seeing her technique. What she showed us seemed pretty simple, but I doubted it could really be that easy. Trust me, it is! I figured it would surely take me three or four trials to get it right, but the very first time I made my own pizza dough and sauce it worked like a charm and we’ve been hooked ever since. I hope you will be too.
I’ve been making the dough recipe from Weir’s book since I first tried it, but a few months ago I came across a similar recipe that is even simpler, courtesy of Suzanne Lenzer and the New York Times. Everything goes in the mixer or food processor and there’s no kneading. You do have to make the dough in advance and let it freeze overnight, so just a little advance planning is in order. But it’s easy to make multiple batches of dough at one time, so you can easily keep your freezer stocked for pizza and have it for dinner quite frequently.
Some tips I learned from Weir that every home pizza maker should heed include having all your toppings already cooked, or else something that can be eaten raw. These pizzas cook very fast and your toppings won’t have time to cook through (no raw meat on these babies). Another tip is not to load up the pizza too much—have a light hand with the sauce, other toppings and cheese, or you’ll have a soupy mess.
There are specific tools to make really good homemade pizza and a pizza stone is the only truly specialty item in the list. I got mine from Pampered Chef about 25 years ago, and it is one of my favorite tools in the kitchen—but then, I make pizza about once a week, so it’s a much-used tool for me. You can make do with just a cookie sheet instead of the stone, but nothing makes a crisp crust like a hot stone.
The other items I find indispensable in pizza-making are a long, thin flat or offset spatula, a rimless cookie-sheet (it serves as my “pizza peel,” but if you only have rimmed sheets just turn one upside down and use the bottom) and my pizza cutter. You could use a knife, but the pizza cutter really does make a fast, clean job of it.
Tomese Buthod is a Master Gardener who grows food in two locations and cooks in her Highlands kitchen.