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Once when I was little, one of my teachers had our entire class over for a pizza party. What I remember most was standing on a stool at a counter, spooning sauce onto a circle of dough and getting to top it with white strings of cheese, feeling very grown up
That was probably the best party ever. I kind of loved that teacher but, mostly, I loved that pizza.
Here’s the truth:
I could eat pizza every day. Sometimes I do. I like the fancy ones that cost $15 at a nice restaurant, the frozen ones in cardboard boxes at the grocery story, even mozzarella and tomato sauce heaped high on a bagel. In my book, pizza = good. Always.
So as far as pizza goes, it’s hard to make me hate one (though not impossible, thank you, Domino’s, when we ordered you the second time at work), it’s easy to make me like one and it’s, seriously, not that hard to make me really like one.
Even a hardcore pizza fan like myself has to admit that pizza made with your own hands far outshines any competition. And also, it just so happens I’m privileged to have an incredible mother who makes the most incredible meaty sauce you’ve ever had.
Really. She froze a Tupperware container of it recently, and she gave it to me to use for a Sunday lunch. She should bottle it and sell it in grocery stores, it’s that good. And it’s perfect on pizza.
Sadly, this post is not about that sauce – mainly because she eyeballs things and feels her way around the recipe, and that sort of thing is very hard to communicate. Instead, this guide is about two other things. 1) An easy pizza crust recipe that you really ought to try, and 2) A cookbook that, now, I am officially endorsing.
First, the pizza crust. When I was at Whole Foods this weekend, would you believe a frozen pizza, wrapped up and placed near the deli, cost $12?
I suppose that’s not so bad when you think what it costs to buy one at Connie’s or Pizza Hut or, heck, even Domino’s, by way of comparison. But then, when you think how cheap the ingredients are for a good crust, it’s a shame not to do it yourself.
You’ll need, essentially, the following: water, yeast, olive oil, flour (unbleached all-purpose or bread flour, which is what I used) and salt. Seriously.
The process is just as simple: you’ll mix up and knead the dough (it helps if you have a somewhat powerful, dough capable standmixer), then let it rest, then finish kneading, then let it rest. Split it up into two sections and you’re ready to use it – or you can refrigerate it for tomorrow or freeze it for sometime later.
Before I go any further with the explanation of the pizza crust, I must get to the second thing: You really ought to buy The Art & Soul of Baking.
The Art & Soul of Baking available at Amazon
After I got past the beautiful hardcover exterior and into the large pages of beautiful, colorful photos, I made its white bread, fougasse and (now) pizza crust, and I have to say I’m sold.
OK, back to the pizza dough. Mine turned out very nicely, even though I may have pushed the first in the oven before it was fully preheated and pulled it out before the crust’s bottom was fully browned.
Because the recipe makes two crusts, I shaped the first into a circle that fit our pizza pan; the second I sort of free-formed into a rectangle for use on a baking stone.
Both were substantial – not as thin as I’d imagined – and held up with the toppings perfectly. I’ll be making the recipe again, no question, both because it’s simple and because, as you could guess, it’s delicious.
Adapted from the The Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet
Top the Pizza: Apply the toppings of your choice, leaving a 1/2 –inch border at the edges. If you’re curious, here’s what I did: olive oil on the pizza pan, then the crust on top of that. Drizzle olive oil on top and indent all over with a fork to help the oil soak through. I covered it with Mom’s meat sauce, then loads of mozzarella, then shredded fresh spinach.
Bake the Pizza: Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, until the dough is golden brown at the edges and across the bottom (use a metal spatula to lift the pizza slightly to check). Brush the edges of the pizza with the 1 tablespoon olive oil to give the golden crust a beautiful shine. Use a pizza cutter or chef’s knife to cut the pizza into 8 wedges and serve immediately.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.