Mark your calendars: National Cheese Pizza Day is September 5th. There are few foods that can instantly put your smile on a face the way pizza does. It’s the food for all ages – young and old enjoy pizza in all shapes, temperatures and texture. Frozen, delivery or homemade, even when pizza is bad, it’s still pretty good. But, of course, when you’re making homemade pizza, you want it to be better than pretty good, so here are 6 tips for great homemade pizza.
Weigh it Baking is a science. All professional bakers measure ingredients by weight using a digital kitchen scale. Using a scale makes measuring more accurate and, in turn, more tasty. It’s not a must for making great pizza, but it certainly makes a difference. Besides, learning to measure opens up a new world of professional recipes you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
Plan Ahead Just about every pizza dough recipe you find requires it to be refrigerated overnight. When you’ve mixed together the yeast, water, salt, and flour, kneaded it and let it rise, it’s very tempting to skip the refrigeration step – don’t! Pizza dough ferments while it’s in the refrigerator. One night of fermentation is great, but three nights makes it super. This is how they do it in New Haven. If you’ve ever had New Haven apizza (that’s not a typo – that’s what they call it in New Haven), you’ve had some of the best pizza in the world.
Roll it Out In movies and TV shows you see people spinning and tossing pizza dough out over their heads to make a perfectly circular pie; what you don’t see is that it takes years of practice to make it look that easy. Tossing pizza dough is really hard. Don’t be ashamed of using a pin. It’ll make nice circles and it won’t take you years to do it.
Keep it Loose Professionals and serious pizza makers toss the dough, top it and slide it into the oven with the help of a pizza peel (like a big paddle) and a lot of semolina or cornmeal to make it loose so it doesn’t stick to the peel. To do that without everything falling off into your oven in one big lump also takes a lot of practice. But you can skip the practice and the equipment (unless you’re aiming for authentic). Parchment paper or bake mat work just fine to replace the cornmeal and the pizza peel. Roll your dough out on the paper, top it, carry it to the oven and lower it onto the pizza stone. Easy-peasy, pizza-cheesy.
Keep it Flat The best homemade pizzas are made with pizza stones, but you don’t have to have one to make a pizza good. Flip over a cookie sheet and use the bottom for your flat surface. Make sure you preheat the oven with the pan inside (as you would with a pizza stone) so it’s hot when you slide your pizza in. Alternatively, you can assemble it all in a cast iron skillet and bake it just like Pizza Hut.
Get it Hot! Turn your oven up as high as the temperature can go – most ovens won’t go much higher than 500°F. The dough has to be baked all the way through without burning the cheese on top. The high temperature for a short amount of time (10-15 minutes) allows the pizza crust to get crispy and the cheese just hot enough to bubble and melt.
Pizza is hard to make – which is why there are so many alternatives to making it at home. But eating a pizza you created yourself is way more satisfying than anything you can buy. Happy Cheese Pizza Day!