Ever since the girls were very little, Friday night has been pizza night at our house. It’s a nice way to wind down a busy school/work week, and it’s easy for me because the amount of prep is minimal.
I’d like to give you a peek into pizza night at our house, and I’ll start by sharing my super-easy method of making pizza dough. Over the years, I’ve tried many different pizza crust variations, including the little crust mix packets at the store (blech!) and a delicious bread machine recipe that, unfortunately, needs to be started at least 2 hours in advance to allow for rising time (and I don’t always remember to do this). I seem to always come back to the fantastic food processor pizza dough recipe from Amy Dacyczyn’s The Complete Tightwad Gazette. If you haven’t bought this book yet, I simply cannot recommend it highly enough. Some of the information is, of course, outdated, as it was written 20 years ago, but there is still so much you can learn if you’re serious about the frugal life (I have literally worn my copy out. My husband has taped the covers back on more than once).
This dough comes together so quickly, has a crisp but chewy texture, and tastes fantastic!
To make it you will need:
1/2 to 3/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (I have successfully subbed half whole wheat flour in this recipe)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
First, combine 1/4 cup of warm water with yeast and sugar. Stir to dissolve yeast. Let stand 5 minutes until bubbly.
In a food processor, blend flour, oil and salt for 5 seconds. Add yeast mixture and process 10 more seconds until blended. With processor running, slowly drizzle in warm water, until the dough pulls together into a ball. Process until the ball travels around the bowl of the processor a half dozen times or so.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can combine the flour, oil and salt in a mixing bowl with a fork. Then make a well in the center, pour the yeast mixture, and another 1/4 cup warm water into it, and stir until it forms a ball. If it seems too dry, gradually add small amounts of warm water until it’s the right consistency. Turn the dough ball out onto a lightly floured surface (I prefer to use a Silpat) and knead by hand for 4-5 minutes, until it’s smooth and elastic.
This recipe will make two large, thin crust pizzas, or one thick-crust pizza. If you’re making more than one pizza, put the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cutting board and divide with a dough blade. If you’re making just one pizza, place the dough ball in the center of an oiled pizza pan. Cover with a bowl, let rest, then pat or roll out with a pastry roller.
Bake the pizzas in a preheated, 425-degree oven on the lowest rack, for 15-20 minutes. If you’re baking two pizzas at the same time, rotate them halfway through the cooking time.
A few tips:
-Pizza sauce is very simple to make. We like a thicker sauce because it doesn’t make the crust soggy, so I simply combine a 6-ounce can of tomato paste with an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce. I add one teaspoon each of basil, oregano, and sugar, and a generous pinch of garlic salt, and stir. Easy!
-For my family of 5, I make 1 1/2 batches of this dough. I divide it in half, and use one half for a large pizza for my husband and I. I divide the other half into 3 equal pieces because the kids like to make individual pizzas.
-I buy sliced mozzarella cheese, instead of shredding a block of mozzarella. It costs only 19 cents more per pound at Aldi, and I find that not only does it save time, but the kids use less so it goes farther. Please don’t buy pre-shredded cheese, unless you enjoy eating wood pulp, otherwise known as cellulose, which is added to keep the cheese from clumping. Gross.
-You can make a “stuffed crust” pizza by putting half sticks of mozzarella string cheese around the perimeter of the pan, and folding the crust over them. Make sure to pat the dough up the edges of the pan so you have enough to fold over.
-I like to preheat my ovens to 500 degrees for about a half hour, while I make the dough and prep the toppings. I reduce the heat to 425 right before baking the pizzas.
-I don’t have a pizza stone, but I’ve never really needed one. I have great success using pizza pans with holes in the bottom, for obtaining a perfect crust. This one is my favorite: Calphalon Nonstick Pizza Pan, 16-Inch
-To prevent large air bubbles in the dough, I “dock” it all over with a fork before adding the toppings.
Our kids love to make their own pizzas, so I give them a small portion of dough and a Silpat (one of my favorite kitchen inventions ever), and they can make any shape, and use any combination of toppings they want.
The kids love to top their pizzas with this turkey pepperoni,
but my husband and I love “cheeseburger” pizza.
Pizza night is one of the only times, other than holidays, when my second oven – a vintage 70s, built-in – is put to use!
We like to all sit in the living room and watch America’s Funniest Home Videos on Netflix, so we can laugh and guffaw, and exclaim “OWIE!” and “Oh, NO!” over and over again, while we eat our pizza.
I’ve found that these little family traditions mean a lot to the kids. They don’t care that we don’t order in pizza…it’s way more cozy and fun to stay at home and make it themselves anyway![print-me/]