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Monday, October 26, 2009

Homemade Pizza

When I was growing up, my Mom made pizza fairly often. I picture her standing in the kitchen with smudges of flour all over her shirt, buzzing her Cuisinart to make pizza dough. I liked helping top the pizzas, almost always opting for mushrooms, onions and red pepper. Oh, and some fresh basil if we had it. Then, Mom would slide the doughy beauties into the oven.

The baking pizza smelled yeasty, sweet and herby with a cheesy tang. If I could have eaten the air coming out of the kitchen, I would have.

Just thinking about my Mom’s homemade pizza makes me want to hop on a plane to Illinois. Since I can’t do that every time I need a homemade pizza fix, I've learned to make it myself.

Pizza is relaxed and comfy…put whatever you’re craving on top of it, and enjoy it with people you love.

Pizza Dough

¼ cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast, or 1 ¾ teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 ¼ bread flour (or All Purpose)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
Semolina or finely ground cornmeal

Pour the warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast, whisk by hand to blend, and allow the mixture to sit for 5-10 minutes, until the yeast is activated and looks creamy. Add the 1 cup water and 3 tablespoons olive oil and whisk by hand. Add the flour and salt. Knead the dough on low speed for 2 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Turn the mixer to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough is firm, elastic and smooth (3-6 minutes).

Lightly oil a tub or bowl and scrape the dough in. Brush a little oil over the surface of the dough and then cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temp until doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes.

Place a baking or pizza stone (if you have one) in the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Give the oven at least 30 minutes to an hour to fully heat the stone, so you get a beautiful crispy crust.

Punch the dough down very gently to expel some of the bubbles. Then, turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour, then press down with your fingers to flatten the dough into a disk about 12 inches in diameter (you can use a rolling pin if you like).

Top the pizza with whatever deliciousness you have in mind. Center your pizza on a baking sheet that has been dusted with Semolina. You can bake your pizza on the sheet, or slide it directly onto the pizza stone.

Bake for 7-9 minutes until the dough is golden at the edges and bottom (use a spatula to slide under the pizza to check the bottom).

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