But let’s start from the beginning. I love pizza. I know that it sounds cliché, but the heart wants what it wants. I eat pizza more or less once a week. In Kraków you can easily get great quality pizza, but only in restaurants. And nothing can replace a lazy weeknight at home, watching your favorite tv show in your pj’s, eating pizza and sipping rosé. So if you want to stay in and order your pizza, you are stuck with this weird, gooey pie that doesn’t have much in common with its Italian ancestor.
This is why long ago I embarked on the process of mastering my own recipe, and on the way I gathered a bunch of tips that will help you make absolutely the best pizza you can make at home.
The only bad news is that you will need some equipment. I use a bread maker to knead the dough. I guess you can use Kitchen Aid as well, but I’ve never tried it. My bread maker has a special program – it kneads the dough for 30 minutes and lets it rest for another hour, while gently warming the container to help it rise. Of course you can do it with your hands, but it takes a long, long time to knead the dough and you would have to use all the strength that you have in order to obtain a very well aerated, fluffy dough. To be honest I’m quite weak and I’ve never succeeded doing it manually…
The second gadget that you need is a pizza stone. And there is no way to get around that. This is because pizza ovens are able to reach much higher temperatures than the ovens at home. The stone keeps and transmits the heat in the manner that somehow simulates those conditions. It’s a great investment though, cause you can use it to bake bread, buns, focaccia, etc.
So lets get down to business!
Ingredients for the dough:
Makes two pies
13 oz all-purpose flour (type 550 if you’re in Poland or Germany)
1 oz fresh baking yeast - dissolved in 1 cup of warm (not hot!) water
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Firstly, place all the ingredients for the dough in the bread machine (or Kitchen Aid) and let it start doing its work. Remember to check on it a couple of times. You want it to be quite loose and fluffy, but it should not stick to your hands. If it does, add a little more flour. Remember to let the dough rest in a warm place for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 480°F. Remember to place the cold stone in a cold oven and heat them together. If you place it in a hot oven it might break. (Also, never wash stone with any liquid or detergent!)
Prepare the sauce. Usually pizza sauce is made by cooking tomatoes for a very long time, but as I am quite lazy, I’ve come up with my own alternative. I use canned tomatoes (whole, not chopped). I separate them from the juice, then I mush them using my hands in a bowl, adding a pinch of salt, about a tablespoon of olive oil, and one very small clove of garlic, grated. And that’s it. The key is in the quality of the ingredients, not the quantity.
Always use fresh mozzarella – the kind they sell in small plastic bags. Just drain and slice it. I use 1.5 ball of cheese for 1 pizza. Grated mozzarella would dry out in such a hot oven.
In terms of other ingredients – Please remember that in this case less is more, and try to use 2 (not more than 3) extra ingredients per pizza. Otherwise it will not bake properly. I usually use one kind of Italian cold cuts (salami Napoli, prosciutto, cooked, ham, etc.) plus one kind of vegetable (mushrooms, onion, bell peppers, grilled eggplant slices, etc.)
Remember – if you use prosciutto ham – put it on the pizza after baking, just before serving, or it will look and taste awful.
Also, I often break one egg in the middle of the pizza before baking, but I know that’s a little unorthodox and I understand that not everybody would like it.
The last thing you will need are herbs. I purposefully don’t add them to the sauce. I’ve tried many, many options and the pizza tastes best when the herbs are added separately. If you want to use oregano, choose the dried version and remember to sprinkle it on the pizza AFTER you take it out of the oven. This way it will not lose its aroma. If you are using basil (of course you can use both) choose fresh leaves and also add them after baking.
When the dough is ready, sprinkle it with flour, knead it for about a minute, then separate it into two equal parts, forming two balls, and let them rest for another 15 minutes.
Then, sprinkle your work surface with flour and roll one ball out (if you don’t have a rolling pin you can use a wine bottle) until it is quite thin.
Take the stone out of the oven – preferably on its metal stand.
As you probably don’t have a large pizza peel to transfer the pizza onto the stone, transfer the crust without the toppings, and once the dough is already on the stone add the sauce, cheese and other ingredients.
Bake the pie for about 10 minutes—Every oven is different, so you have to observe the pizza carefully. The cheese has to bubble and the crust has to get slightly golden (while remaining quite pale).
Once you take the pizza out of the oven, sprinkle it with herbs. Wait one or two minutes before you cut it. This way you are letting it steam, so the pizza isn’t too wet.