There are two things in our house that are constant, and one of them is pizza. Pizza is a constant around here because we love it, and because we REALLY love it. (The other constant is superheroes, but that's a conversation for another day.)
Our weekend dinner schedule is this:
It's been like this since 2004. And pre-2004 it was the same, just nix the Cafe Rio. That's our lives: predictable and cozy. Just how we like it.
Back in the pre-historic days I made pizza on a sourdough loaf. Then I moved on to crust mixes. Then I moved on to crust made with actual yeast mixed by my bread machine, which is where I have remained for the last 8 or so years.
It's like I said; our lives are predictable.
A few weeks ago I felt adventurous, and also was tired of my bread machine which is worn out and needs to be thrown out a high window, so I looked in one of my trusty cook books for a pizza crust recipe. I found one in The Best of Cooking Light. And this is what came out:
Puffy, fluffy, yummy crust. TC declared his love for the crust and ever since we have dedicated our lives/weekend dinners to this crust.
The recipe is for Herbed Cheese Pizza, but really I just use the dough recipe and skip the rest which calls for crazy stuff like kasseri cheese and paprika.
Here it is:
2 cups bread flour, divided (I don't actually have bread flour in the house due to space constraints and laziness, so I just use regular old all-puprose flour)
1 teaspoon sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons yeast
2 cups warm water, divided
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
Combine 1 cup flour (bread flour if you have it) with 1 cup warm water, sugar and yeast. Let it stand for 15 minutes until it's all bubbly and alive.
Then, combine 3 cups of flour, salt, olive oil, the other 1 cup of warm water and yeast mixture. Stir until combined.
Then, turn dough out to a floured surface and knead, adding the remaining 1/2 cup of flour (or more if needed) until the dough is smooth and elastic (this usually takes me about 5 minutes).
Place dough in a bowl coated in olive oil (I usually pour in a little bit, like maybe a 1/2 teaspoon, then take a pastry brush and spread it all around). Cover and allow to rise in a warm place. (I turn on the oven to the lowest temperature, which for my oven is 170F, and place the bowl on the stove top.) Let it rise for about 45 minutes, until it has doubled in size. Then punch it, divide into two and let it rest for 20 minutes.
While your dough is resting, grate your cheese (we love plain old low-moisture mozzarella), make your pizza sauce (pop whatever tomatoes you have on hand in the blender with a teaspoon of sugar, some salt, oregano, garlic and whatever other seasonings you like), and preheat oven to 425F.
Now here's the fun part, spread cornmeal on a flat cookie sheet. Spread dough on cookie sheet over cornmeal (the cornmeal makes it so the dough doesn't stick), working it until you have a roughly round shape and the dough is fairly evenly spread out.
This recipe makes two crusts. Now, for us, one pizza is perfect for two hungry people for dinner, so I usually just store the other dough portion in the fridge until the next day (which explains why we have pizza two days in a row). I just keep the dough in the bowl that it rose in, covered with plastic wrap.
You can see that my crust is, um, NOT round. It's more rectangular with a hint of oblongness.
Top dough with sauce and cheese and whatever else you'd like. Then pop it in the oven (on a middle rack with nothing below it obstructing the heat from baking the bottom of the dough completely) for 15 minutes or so until the cheese is bubbly. Then voila! Magically, or by the power of leavening, the dough puffs and huffs and rises and congeals. It's beautiful, and I find myself frequently staring into the oven to see the progress.
And this is what you get: crusty, lovely goodness. It smells spectacular and tastes even better.
And if you want to turn up the yum factor, instead of using cornmeal on the cookie sheet, brush on olive oil and brush some olive oil on the crust. It's crazy good.