Monday, July 23, 2012

Pizza from Home

When I first moved to Illinois, one of my roommates used to occasionally make pizza for dinner. All of the roommates split the grocery bill four ways, and sometimes this was upsetting: I am intentionally frugal and almost always shop at Aldi as a result, whereas my less scrupulous roommates shopped wherever whim or convenience took them. I glowered whenever I saw Dominick's bags cross our threshold. But I was never upset when splitting the groceries involved splitting the pizza, because my roommate's pizza was awesome. And here was the main secret to his pizza: ... Well, I'll get to that in a second.

Over the years since living with roommates, I have been working to perfect pizza from home. I've taken parts from many different sources, but the result is a delicious Frankenstein that, best of all, offers no boring conversations between man and creature and no ethical questions except, Should I take the last piece or save it for someone else? Below is the recipe, along with some commentary.

The first thing I'll say is that there are several optional toppings and ingredients that can be added or subtracted as the concerns of mood, budget, or diet take precedence. And sorry: some of the baking times are a little off; I, like my grandma, use the "cook until done" method and eschew specifics.

3/4 c. warm water
1/2 t. sugar
1/2 pkg. active dry yeast
1/2 T. olive oil
2 c. plus 1 1/2 T. all-purpose flour
3/4 t. salt

Combine water and sugar. Add yeast and let stand until foamy. Stir in oil. Combine flour and salt in food processor. Scrape yeast mixture in (while processor is still running); pulse until dough forms a ball. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray and place dough in bowl. Cover and let dough rise in a warm spot for about an hour. Knead as necessary and roll out; place on pizza pan. (This, by the way, is a pretty thin crust. It's actually a recipe from a low-calorie cookbook we have...but the rest of this recipe is NOT low-calorie. We just like this crust better than the others we've made.)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Additional Crust Tastiness
1 T. butter or olive oil
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced

Heat butter/oil and garlic in the microwave for for 20 seconds or so. Apply to the rolled-out crust on the pan using a brush or spoon. (This is entirely optional. We usually don't do this...but it's awesome when we do.)

1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 or 2 cloves garlic (as the Spirit moves--I usually tend toward two), minced
1 t. oregano, Italian seasoning, or pizza seasoning

Mix these three together. Spread atop rolled-out pizza crust.

You can use your favorites (obviously), but here are some of mine, usually only two of which make it onto any given pizza:

  • Pepperoni (spring for the stuff they sell in the deli, not the pillow pack that has a million preservatives and could sit on a shelf for years before being purchased)--a quarter pound is usually plenty to completely coat the pizza, which is how I like it.
  • Bacon (again, spring for the good stuff--that is, the thick-cut bacon. The thin, spindly stuff is usually super fatty and more trouble than it's worth. This goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: this needs to be cooked before putting it on the pizza.)
  • Smoked sausage (if possible, use sausage from my family's meat locker in Indiana. Oh, wait. You don't have access to that? Well, I suppose any smoked sausage will do. [And don't feel too terrible: we don't have any of the smoked sausage left after the great storm of 2012--the second most unfortunate casualty to the storm, after our tree. :-/] This should be cooked as well before using as a topping.)
  • 1 green pepper, sliced in long strips (this is usually best placed on the pizza above the sauce and below the meat, but really, it's up to you)
This is the trick my roommate used, and I have enjoyed homemade pizza ever since: pepper jack cheese. Seriously, pepper jack makes an awesome pizza topping, and if you're worried about it being too spicy, there's no need to fear.* Pepper jack is just flavorful, not super spicy once cooked. But it can enliven any limp pizza.

Top pizza with toppings and then cheese. Place completed pizza in preheated oven. Bake around five minutes at 500 degrees, then lower the temperature to 400 degrees. Cook until done. Despite how ravenous you will be after all this and despite how anxious you are to eat delicious, delicious pizza, do not, I repeat (from experience), do NOT eat the pizza right away. Don't be the hipster who burned his mouth eating pizza before it was cool. Don't be that guy.

This is pizza the way I like it (at least, when I make it from home). How do you like your pizza?

* Disclaimer: others do not always agree with my sense of what's hot or not. If the spiciest food you can eat is ketchup, you might want to avoid pepper jack cheese.


  1. Grilled Pizza:
    You can use any dough recipe but the one that I've found that I like the best is:

    1 cup of warm water
    1 and 1/2 teaspoon of yeast (or a pkg if that's how you buy yeast)
    1 teaspoon of sugar
    1 cup of flour (I like whole wheat, but white works too or some of each)

    Mix and let rise 15 mins (mixture will be soupy)

    Add some salt (I just sprinkle some on there), then add enough flour to make a dough (this is where some dough experience comes in handy. I have no concept of how much I add. It seems like a lot).
    Knead for 5 mins.

    Divide into 2 generous sized portions or, for grilling, 3 - 4 smaller pizzas are better. You can freeze grilled, naked crusts for a rainy (snowy?) day. Brush the bottoms of the dough with a little olive oil and place on a lightly floured cookie sheet (I hear cornmeal is good but I never remember to buy it!) Prepare your toppings. We generally put them into small containers and take them out to the grill with us, but it works just as well to bring the grilled dough in and top them before returning them to the grill. Read on.

    To Grill:
    Preheat the grill on high. Place the dough onto the grill and watch it puff. It will literally take 2 min for the dough to become done. The underside will be slightly browned. Remove the cooked dough from the grill and put your toppings on the slightly browned side. Turn the grill to heat indirectly (center two burners off). Return your topped pizzas to the grill and close the lid for a few minutes while the cheese melts and everything becomes hot and delicious. Enjoy!

    Now I'm going to go make some dough for our dinner!

  2. Thanks for sharing, Jon (and Lindsey)! I'll have to try both!

  3. Also: I've learned that giardinera is a fantastic pizza topping. In fact, I don't know if I'll make this pizza again without it. It's delicious!