Friday home made pizza nightA Friday night ritual for at least the last 10 years has been to make home made pizza. With all the pressures and strains on our time, Friday pizza night tradition has stood the test of time. The kids are getting older, but they still want pizza on Friday even if they have an activity planned later in the evening.

My initial foray into pizza making was clunky to say the least, but after many years of refining my methods I can pretty much turn out a perfect pizza every time. Now I’ll share my secrets to great pizza making so you can use it as a base for your family traditions.

My secret recipe for great pizza can be found after the break.

The secret to great pizza is the dough. My dough recipe, adapted from a Cooks Illustrated Magazine article, is simple and almost foolproof. You can make the dough in a stand mixer, large food processor, or even a bread maker using the dough setting. If you are ambitious enough it can even be hand kneaded, but I let the machines do the work.

Pizza Dough

makes 2 12 inch crusts

4 Cups Bread Flour
1 tbsp Sugar
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1 packet active dry or quick rise yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 1/2 Cup Water (about 104 degrees)

Pizz dough in the stand mixerPlace dry ingredients into a mixing bowl or work bowl of food processer. Add oil and water. Mix using the stand mixer fitted with a bread hook for 10 minutes on the low setting. Dough should have a smooth and slightly glassy look when it is properly kneaded. If using a food processor, place dry ingredients and oil into work bowl fitted with the standard blade. Turn on and add water. Process for 30 seconds.

Pizza dough ballTurn dough onto a floured surface and knead a couple times by hand. Place kneaded dough into a greased rising vessel or large glass bowl. cover and let rise in a warm spot for one hour or until doubled in size. I like to use my oven as a proofing box. Heat the oven for 10 minutes at 200 degrees. Turn off heat and place dough vessel into the oven to rise.

Dough rising in the ovenAfter rising, turn the dough onto a floured surface, and work lightly with the dough to divide it into two equal pieces. Cover with a towel and let rise for 20 minutes while your oven heats up. Many bread baking cookbooks say to ‘punch’ the dough at this time, but punching is kind of a misnomer and causes novice bakers to overwork the dough. You don’t want to beat the dough down or overwork it otherwise it will become too dense. Lightly turning and working the risen dough is usually enough to punch it down.

I roll the pizza out onto a wooden pizza peel covered with corn meal. The corn meal keeps the dough from sticking when slide it off into the oven. I use a floured rolling pin to shape my crust. I never got the hang of throwing the dough. You can hand shape the dough if you want a more rustic appearance, but the rolling pin will give you a more uniform crust.

Pizza rolled out with toppingsNow is the time you can become creative with your pizza. I use a homemade tomato sauce that we can in the summer, but any sauce with seasonings of your choice can be used. I recommend about 6-8 tablespoons of sauce per pizza. Too much sauce and the pizza will become soggy. Add about 8 ounces of cheese and any toppings you want. My favorite is caramelized onions and Gorgonzola cheese.

Place the pizza directly on a pizza stone in an oven heated to 475 degrees. If you don’t have a pizza peel or pizza stone, use a baking sheet. Just be aware that a baking sheet can reduce your cooking times, so keep an eye on your first pie when it’s in the oven.

Cooking time will vary with the number of toppings, but check periodically after about 12 minutes for doneness.