I think pizza is one of those foods that is enjoyed by (almost) everyone. It seems that even the pickiest eaters like it, and one reason this may be is because it is so customizable. Even though many pizza restaurants are now offering great deals on pizza (one positive result of the poor economy), it can still get expensive to buy them. Don't get me wrong, my husband and I occasionally splurge and buy a pizza as a special treat or just to give me a break. However, we are able to make our own pizza at home rather inexpensively!
I use The Pioneer Woman's recipe for pizza crust. It's very basic and delicious!
1 tsp yeast
1 1/2 cup warm water (100-110 degrees)
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil
Dissolve yeast in warm water; let sit for about 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a mixer (use paddle attachment), combine the flour and salt. If you don't have a mixer, you can do this by hand - just put the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. Mix on low until combined. While the mixer is running, slowly drizzle olive oil into the flour/salt mixture. Add yeast mixture and mix well.
|Before allowing it to rise.|
|After is has risen.|
Punch dough down. Take half of the dough and roll it out to fit your pizza pan or stone. I put a little flour on my stone and roll it right on the stone.
Using a fork, poke holes in the crust to prevent large bubbles from forming. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Top with sauce, cheese, and your favorite toppings then bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown. My secret for being able to use a lot of toppings without them falling off is to put just a little cheese on the sauce, then the toppings, then the rest of the cheese. The cheese on top will sort of seal the pizza, keeping the toppings in place!
Each batch of dough will make 2 thin crust pizzas. I usually use half of the dough the day I make it, then freeze the other half in a zip top bag for another day or make bread sticks out of it. When I'm ready to use the frozen half, I pull it out of the freezer either the night before or the morning of and put it in the refrigerator to thaw.
To save time while making dinner, I usually cut most of my toppings and brown the Italian sausage in the morning or early afternoon. Additionally, you can brown a large amount of sausage at once and freeze in single portions. When you need sausage, simply pull it out of the freezer and defrost! I found that if I waited until I was making the pizza to prepare the ingredients, I became all frazzled and rushed. Preparing my ingredients ahead of time makes assembling the pizza a breeze! Keep in mind, however, that certain ingredients, like mushrooms, shouldn't be cut until right before you need them.
Other than the typical red sauce, mozzarella, and typical toppings (i.e. pepperoni, Italian sausage, olives, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions), try some of these variations:
Pesto Pizza: Try using pesto sauce instead of regular pizza sauce. Suggested toppings include, but are never limited to, artichoke hearts, red onions, avocados, tomato slices, roasted garlic, basil, and chicken. One of my favorites is topped with mozzarella, red onions, avocado slices, fresh basil, and feta cheese - delish!
Margherita Pizza: Use regular pizza sauce and top with mozzarella, tomatoes (chopped or sliced), and fresh basil. The basil will shrink considerably when cooked, so use more than you think you need.
Barbecue Chicken Pizza: Top with barbecue sauce, jack cheese, barbecued chicken, red onions, cilantro.
Calzones: Take a ball of dough about 3 inches in diameter and roll out. Fill with desired toppings and cheese. Place toppings on one half of the rolled out dough. Fold dough over on itself. Fold edges up and press with fork to seal. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.