During the 8 years that I have been married, I have subjected my wife and kids to a hodgepodge of homemade pizza. They have been guinea pigs lovingly suffering my many pizza making experiments. I’ve tried to be gentle, but sometimes failure doesn’t taste very good. As a steadfast devotee of pizza, I love every attempt. Not a single moment of this pizza research has been wasted. Every strand of gluten has ministered to my education.
We started making pizzas at home with pre-made pizza crusts. These were good enough to satisfy my pizza cravings and they took very little time. The pre-made crust provided an opportunity to focus on the sauce and toppings.
The toppings were fairly straight forward. We loaded half of the pizza with veggies for my wife. The other half of the pizza was packed with various meats, possibly pineapple, and definitely peppers for me. When the girls came along we added a “just pepperoni” pizza. We’ve mostly stuck with these topping combinations over the years.
The sauce didn’t go through many variations. Initially we used tomato sauce, some italian seasonings, garlic, mozzarella, salt, red pepper, and a little onion powder to make our pizza sauce. Over the years we’ve adjusted the amounts and accommodated on hand ingredients to make our sauce. Right now we use a tomato sauce/paste mix, oregano, basil, garlic, onion powder, salt, red pepper, mozzarella, and a little sugar. This recipe makes a sauce that adds flavor, but doesn’t overwhelm the toppings and crust.
As time rolled on, we moved from pre-made crust to fresh crust. Initially we utilized the packaged dough mixes. They were fairly quick and easy to make, but the results weren’t particularly impressive.
We moved on to pre-made dough balls for our next attempts. Unfortunately for this dough, our inexperience and impatience prevented success from being attainable. These pizzas were not great. We misused the dough and, dissatisfied, abandoned it. It was a dark time in my pizza education.
We were delivered from this darkness by a 1-hour pizza dough recipe. This recipe was a simple mix of flour, water, salt, sugar, olive oil, and yeast. The ingredients were brought together, stirred, kneaded, and left to rise for one hour. We’d cook it at a moderate heat for a moderate length of time. The results were pretty great for the effort and time used. I was satisfied with this formula until I began researching pizza online.
I opened Pandora’s box reading all of these pizza recipes, tips, and stories. The ingredients list didn’t change, but there were loads of subtle changes to the execution and ratios. First, I learned that bread flour is preferred because pizza is foremost a bread. Second, the water to flour ratio for primo pizza is about .667 to 1. (So for example, if you used 12 ounces of flour, you would use 8 ounces of water.) Third, I found out that cooking at high heat for a shorter period yields a better crust. Next, I learned that kneading must be done thoroughly, and that after the initial rise the dough should be reformed to a ball and left to rise again. I also learned that a long, initial cold-rise adds to the flavor of the crust. Last, and most important, I learned that the instant yeast called for in most of the recipes is not active dry yeast, but bread machine or rapid-rise yeast.
Some of these lessons came together, some came separately. All of them came over a process of time and study. They all required patience and diligence.
I was ecstatic when I finally got all of these lessons worked into our pizza dough. I pulled that pizza from the oven, cut it, and served it. We ate! It was fantastic, but a little dry from being cooked slightly long. That’s how it goes with my pizza education. I’m slowly progressing like an overnight, cold-rise pizza dough.