Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Food Blogging: How to Make Pizza 101

Last night, I came home and had a relatively free evening. Pete was passed out from doggy day care (which, considering that he's been a total spaz for the past few days, this was a GOOD thing). In my free time, I decided to make pizza, which is both relatively cheap and easy.

Shortly after the pizza was made, and partially consumed, one of my neighbors (visiting my roommate) came over and said, "Your pizza looks good, what brand is it?" She had assumed that I made frozen pizza. In that moment, I simply stared blankly at her - probably not my best moment, in retrospect - but I wouldn't buying frozen pizza unless it was one of the pricier kinds, in which case, I might as make my own. Take out or delivery pizza is a different story, of course, because when I order pizza from somewhere, its because I want to avoid cooking.

Anyway, for those of you who want to make your own pizza, it is incredibly easy to do so - its not so much cooking or even baking as it is assembly.

Here are the ingredients:

1 28 oz. can of CRUSHED tomatoes (you should only use about half of it) - $2.60
1 lb. of mozzarella cheese (again, you should use only around half) - $6
1 lb. of pizza or bread dough - $2 (max).
Toppings: you pick

Spices - dried oregano, garlic powder, salt, honey, black pepper, red chile flakes, pecorino cheese and olive oil (all of which, you should have - sugar can be substituted for honey).

Hardware needed:

1 clean aluminum cookie sheet (preferably one that fits in your oven)
1 bowl, also clean
1 implement to shred cheese, also clean.
1 can opener
1 spoon (clean)
1 oven, preheated to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.

So, here's what you do.


1) Put about a teaspoon or so of olive oil on the cookie sheet, and using a paper towel, wipe the entire interior of the cookie sheet, including the interior's sides.

2) Put the pizza or bread dough in the middle of the cookie sheet. Slowly, and carefully, stretch the dough so that it covers the entire interior of the cookie sheet. If the dough sticks to your hands, then put a little bit of olive oil on your hands, and that should help. Do not tear the dough. Put a towel over the dough and the cookie sheet and wash your hands.

3) Using the can opener, open the can of crushed tomatoes and pour the contents into the bowl. If the bowl now appears to be too small for the job, get a bigger bowl. Okay, now add the spices (except the pecorino cheese) to the tomatoes. You are now seasoning the tomato sauce, so do so to your own tastes. Stir with spoon. I happen to have a heavy hand with the red chile flakes and black pepper. If the sauce is a bit too thick, feel free to add a little bit of white wine or water. Set aside the sauce.

4) Shred half mozzarella cheese. If you bought shredded mozzarella, then you're ahead of the game, although the cheese you bought probably tastes like cardboard. If you have a cheese grater, then use the cheese grater. Otherwise, you can slice the cheese with a knife, and then hand-shred the cheese slices. Set aside.


5) Remove the towel from atop the cookie sheet and dough. If the dough has shrunk from the sides of the pan, carefully stretch the dough out, but don't tear the dough.

6) Using the spoon, put a small amount of sauce onto the dough and spread it out so that the sauce covers almost all of the dough, but leaving a frame around the dough of about an inch. This is important because if the sauce is too close to the edges, some of the juices of the sauce will run over the sides of the pizza, burn in the oven, and then cause the pizza to stick to the pan. Trust me, you do not want this. Also, you want a thin covering of sauce on top of the dough.

7) Put the cheese on top of the sauce on top of the dough, but don't stray outside the margins above. Pizza sticking to pan = bad.

8) Now, put a slightly thicker layer of sauce on top of the cheese. You should end up only using about half of the sauce you made (so save the rest for next time). Again, stay within the margins.

9) Here's the last step before going into the oven - put on your extras. For last night's pizza, I put on some kalamata olives that were pitted and sliced in half, lengthwise. If you want to add pepperoni, do so now. Also, take it easy with the toppings, and beware that some toppings (like mushrooms) will release liquids when cooked. So, I would suggest cooking toppings like mushrooms ahead of time. Lastly, sprinkle the pizza with oregano, pecorino cheese, and just a little bit of olive oil.


10) Open the door to your oven and put the pizza into the oven (preheated to 475 degrees) on the lowest rack in your oven. Close the door to the oven and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Because the pizza will be closer to the bottom of the oven (where the heat comes from), the bottom will cook faster than the top of the pizza. This is a good thing.

11) After about ten minutes, check on the pizza. At this point, the bottom should be pretty well cooked, so go ahead and move the pizza to a higher rack in the oven, and also rotate the pizza so that the side that was facing the door of the oven now faces the back of the oven. Close the door to the oven.

12) Continue to let the pizza cook in the oven for about 5 minutes, and then start checking on it. When the pizza is at your desired level of doneness, take the pizza out of the oven.

13) Let the pizza sit for about five minutes, then slice and serve.

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