Post # 331 The Best Homemade Pizza! Really!

January 12, 2015 at 11:22 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Okay, I’m going to shamelessly steal from America’s Test Kitchen here.  What?  You’ve never heard of ATK?  How long have you been reading my blog?  They’re my go to people.  ATK and Cook’s Country are two of the power house cooking shows on television.

ATK/CC are based in Vermont and have regular season shows on PBS channels.  They’re hosted by Chris Kimball, a long time Vermonter.  He has a staff of testers and presenters who assist with the shows.  Apart from the valuable information each episode presents, the camaraderie shown between the presenters is pure joy to watch.  The humor is subtle but real, and makes each show a treasure.  We tape every episode and watch them to pick up pointers and to try new stuff.  They take random recipes that are either complicated, or not done well by the home cook, and rework them in such a way that if you follow their directions to the letter, you will get a consistently good product every time.

Last week, one show was about how to recreate a particular pizza.  They called it Grandma’s Pizza, which I’d never heard of.  But the process was so easy, and so intriguing that I decided we had to make it.  And we did it yesterday.

This is all that’s left:


So I’m going to tell you how to make it and some of the stumbles I had so you can improve on it.

First of all, pizza is typically round with a crust that’s either thin or thick, with a sauce over it, some extra toppings, and cheese over all that’s baked until everything is golden brown and bubbly and heated throughout.

This pizza isn’t.  It’s baked on a half-sheet baking pan, which is typically 18×13 inches.  It’s a standard in the cooking arena and very easy to find.

baking sheet 1

And this pizza is built differently, with the cheese on the crust, and tomatoes on top, then the toppings, if you want any.  We did.

First, you have to build the crust.  Start with your pan.  Spread 2 tablespoons of a good quality olive oil to evenly coat the pan.  This is important so the bottom of the crust doesn’t stick and also gets a good crunch.  Set that aside.  Put 3/4 cup cool water with one tablespoon of olive oil into a measuring cup and set aside.  Now for the dry ingredients.  ***There’s a caveat here.  They used a stand mixer for this.  I used a stand mixer for this.  I recommend you use a stand mixer for this.  It needs to be kneaded for a minimum of ten minutes in the mixer.  A hand electric mixer won’t be able to handle it, and kneading it by hand will be difficult because it’s a sticky dough.  A food processor might work, but I have no idea who long to tell you to mix it.  The long kneading time is important to develop the glutens in the dough so it holds together properly.***  Put 1 1/2 cup bread flour in the bowl of your mixer.  (I didn’t have enough bread flour since it’s not something I keep on hand.  I used 1 1/4 cup bread flour, and 1/4 cup AP flour and it turned out good.)  Add 1 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, and 2 1/4 tsp of yeast (if you’re using the yeast that comes in individual packages, that amount is one package.)  Stir them together to mix them up.  Use the dough hook on your mixer and turn it on low.  Slowly add the water and oil mixture and mix on low for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the flour on the sides to be fully incorporated.  Turn up the speed to medium-low and mix for ten minutes.  The dough will be sticky when it’s done.

Place the dough on the oiled baking sheet, then flip it so the oiled side of the dough is up.  Gently, using your finger tips only, push the dough into a rectangle of about 10×6 inches.  Now it has to rise for 90 minutes.  They covered it with plastic film, but I put mine in my microwave and it did the same thing.  You’re just trying to keep air currents off it and keep it warm.  At the end of 90 minutes, using just your finger tips again, gently push the dough all the way to the edges of the pan spreading it as evenly as possible.  Let it rise again for 45-60 minutes.

During the second rising process, drain 28 oz of canned tomatoes.  I used flavored tomatoes.  I used two medium cans, 14.5 oz each, one with fire roasted garlic and the other with garlic, basil, and oregano.  If you’re using plain tomatoes, we’ll have another step later.  You want to get as much of the juice out as possible so your pizza doesn’t get soggy.  Also, if you’re going to have toppings, now is the time to prepare them.  We used ground sausage so I cooked it at this point so it was cool enough for the dough when it was time.  Also, get the cheese ready.  You need 8 oz of shredded mozzarella and a quarter cup of grated parmesan.  In a bowl, mix those together thoroughly.

When the crust has finished it’s second rise, preheat your oven to 500 degrees.  While the oven is heating, put your pizza together.  Spread the cheese evenly over the entire crust leaving a half-inch border around the edges.  Prep the tomatoes by putting them in a bowl and mixing in one tablespoon of olive oil.  If you are using plain tomatoes without any seasoning, add one clove of minced garlic, one teaspoon of oregano, and one teaspoon of salt.  Using all the tomatoes, spoon them over the cheese as evenly as you can.

On ATK, that was it.  They cooked it and ate it and called it good.  We went one step further, and wondered how it was going to turn out.  I spread the crumbled cooked sausage over the pizza, then put thinly sliced white onion over half.  Then I arranged pepperoni over the entire pizza, and added fresh mushrooms over the half that didn’t have onions.  Then I cooked it.

When the oven is ready, put it on the bottom rack as close the floor of the oven as possible.  Let the pizza cook for 10-12 minutes, then check it.  It should be golden and bubbly with no burning of the crust.  Let it go to 15 minutes, but no longer or the crust will get more toasty than you like.  Trust me.

Remove it from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes.  Using a long spatula, slide the pizza off the pan to a cutting board large enough to hold it.  Cut into pieces and serve.  It turns out perfectly!  It has a wonderful flavor, well cooked toppings, and a crunchy tasty crust that everyone will like.


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