May Peace Be Upon You.
Ahhh. Homemade Pizza. Can anything ever beat it?
When my siblings and I were young, my mom used to make homemade pizzas very often. We loved to help my mom spread the tomato sauce, pile loads and loads of cheese, choose the toppings, and watch the pizza bake while keeping our excitement contained – let alone finally eating the freshly baked pizza! As any children who were fortunate enough to grow up eating pizza, my siblings and I couldn’t get enough of it.
Finally, it was my turn to go through the ropes of learning to make pizza dough. We just had some jars of tomato pasta sauce hanging out in the refrigerator, and instead of having to scoop out a bacteria party in the pasta sauce, I suddenly thought of making pizza with it. I mean, pasta sauce instead of tomato sauce on a pizza. Why not? (Though if you are going to do that, make sure you use pasta sauce that is more chunky than it is watery. You don’t want to soak your crispy pizza dough in tomato water, now, do you?)
So the seemingly difficult part – making the dough – wasn’t that hard, because Allrecipe’s Jay’s Signature Pizza Crust recipe and its video made my first pizza dough experience less daunting. The yeast had to mixed into water and brown sugar for 10 minutes to become all nice and frothy – your kitchen would smell like yummy bread from this. Then you had to mix all the wet ingredients of the dough together. This is so you could mix the wet mixture into the dry ingredients’ mixture, which is what you did next. You then mixed the dough together with your hands (feeling like a pro pizza meister already?), first in the bowl and then on a lightly-floured surface. This kneading would get the dough’s gluten going (gluten is what would let you stretch that dough into a circle). You’d roll the dough into a ball, and would oil the dough and a bowl down. The dough would then be put into the oiled bowl. Putting the dough aside would make sure that the dough would rise nicely for that airy and slightly chewy dough you were looking for. Then you covered the bowl with a towel so that while the pizza dough rose, the dough wouldn’t dry out on you. Not that bad, huh?
Well, rolling out pizza dough was harder than I thought, because making a perfect circle takes some, oh I don’t know, years of experience? My mom makes plenty of roti every single day (an Indian flatbread), and I thought that all dough naturally wanted to be a circle when it grew up. Not a Patrick Star like the other half of my pizza dough wanted to be. Oh well. Patrick Star Pizza it was.
One note here: If you’re Muslim, make sure that the cheese you use does not have rennet used as an ingredient. Why? I’ll talk more about it later in detail, but rennet is a natural stomach thingy found on the inside stomach lining of a cow’s stomach. It helps divide the curds and whey (that are in milk) during the cheese-making prcoess. To have access to the rennet though, you must slaughter a cow (I mean, you can’t just stick your hand in the cow’s stomach). Most likely the cow that the rennet was obtained from wasn’t slaughtered Islamically, making it impermissible eat cheese that has non-Halal rennet in it. So long story short, try to find cheese that has bacterial culture and microbial enzymes (i.e natural bacterias) listed as an ingredient instead. I personally love to use Canada’s Saputo mozzarella cheese.
Other toppings? Olives, fresh round slices of tomatoes, bell peppers, pre-cooked meat (sausage, ground beef, chicken strips), hot pepper rings, onions, pineapple, anchovies – whatever you fancy. Just go for it, tiger. Pizza toppings are really up to you (and whatever’s in your fridge, for that matter).
About Toppings: I’ve read if you put too many moist toppings before baking, your pizza dough might end up a bit soggy and raw in the center of the pizza. I learned this from experience too. To prevent a soggy pizza, you could either:
1) curb your need to host Pizza Topping Overload Night, or
2) you could pre-bake the pizza dough for about 10-15 minutes (meaning, bake your pizza dough before you put your toppings on, so it gets a head-start and doesn’t turn to mush midway during your look-how-far-my-slice’s-cheese-is-stretching moment). If after pre-baking, your pizza is starting to brown too quickly, just lower the temperature to say, 150 degrees Farenheit, and cook it for a bit longer to make sure it any sogginess dries up from the pizza. I didn’t do this step at all at my first attempt, and I did find the center of both the pizzas I made a bit soggy. Luckily, we ate it all up before it could get any soggier.
So here’s the making of homemade pizza, in pictures:
- My pizza didn’t rise much in the bowl: More on this later
- Why is my dough not rolling into a circle?: Trust me, this takes some time to get right. Try to start from the centre of the dough and roll straight out on one side, and then keep turning your dough clockwise or counter-clockwise until all the sides look equal. Eventually you’ll get your circle just right, every time :)
- My pizza was kinda soggy in the middle after I baked it: If you’ve put too many toppings on your pizza, this can happen. Try to pre-bake the pizza for 10-15 minutes, then take it out to put your toppings, then continue baking until the pizza is done. If the pizza is browning too much after you’ve put on the toppings, lower the oven temperature to around 150 degrees Farenheit and cook for a bit longer. Keep an eye on the pizza and take it out when it all looks nice, bright, and dry.
So as they say in Italian, Buon Appetito!
Say Bismillah and dig in!~
And May Peace Be Upon You.