How To Make a Homemade Pizza
I do not know about you, but I love good pizza. I can honestly say that if I have not had it for a while I even love bad pizza. The better part of my adult life I have been searching for a better way to make a great homemade pizza.
I grew up in New York City a long time ago (Remember those big old yellow checker cabs?) Back when I was a kid I remember going around the corner to Sal's pizzeria and for twenty five cents I got the largest, most delicious slice of pizza you could imagine. If you got it right out of the oven all of the cheese and sauce would ooze out of the sides as youave yourself third degree burns to the insides of your mouth. Oh, it hurt so good.
I have moved around the country a lot since I left and discovered that not all pizza is created equal. When I first went to Chicago I was shocked to see that people there actually ate their pizza with a knife and a fork and even claimed to have invented it. In Connecticut, brick oven fired, Neopolitian style is king and in California you're lucky if you can find the cheese with all the different toppings they use (Tofu, pineapple, lobster pizza anyone?)
The point is good pizza is good based on where you come from. I can not think of any other type of food that can be so different and still be called by the same name.For me, I set out to make my own pizza to see if I could get close to the taste I remembered as a kid.
At first I went the boxed Chef Boy-Ar-Dee route and all I could say was Ugh-hhh. So much for trusting that jovial old Italian chef on the box cover. It was the first time I knew what cardboard must actually taste like. Even the cheese was terrible. I mean it was powdered cheese in an envelope for crying out loud.
Undeterred, I pressed on in my quest to make a decent homemade pizza. I decided to go to the local grocery store where I bought some fresh dough (Now we're cookin), some Ragu Pizza sauce and some shredded mozzarella cheese. I even splurged for one of those pizza stones. Now I was ready to make my masterpiece.
The first thing I did was set the store bought dough in a bowl and put aside to warm up. Then I turned on the oven with the pizza stone inside. I remember that in the old days those pizza ovens we're pretty hot, upwards of 500-600 degrees. I was not going to do that with my old Kenmore electric oven but I set it at 475 and hop it would not smoke too much. At least not enough to set off the smoke detectors.
I also remember that when the pizza guys worked they had everything right in front of them, so I pre-cooked my sausage and laid all the other ingredients out in front of me. Now I was ready to start preparing the dough.
Throwing a little flour on the cutting board, I plopped down the dough and started to smack it around and knead it just like I remember seeing at Sal's. After about 3 minutes of doing this along with singing a few verses of Che La Luna, I realized my crust was about 3 inches wider than it was than when I started. Three more minutes of this activity gained me another 2 inches but my hands were starting to surge up and sting just like they did back in th 4th grade when Sister Mary Needaman smacked me with her ruler for not having my homework. This was not going to work. It was time for the rolling pin.
Now, traditional pizza makers would probably just shake their heads and snicker at this activity, but I was getting desperate, never mind hungry (Remember the cooked sausage sitting in a bowl next to me?)
Rolling it actually got me closer to the size I was looking for but alas the crust was no longer round, in fact you would have stretched the truth to even call it elliptical. It was at this point that I made my second fatal mistake.
Back at Sals, the pizza guy would throw the crust way up in the air with a spinning motion and make a spectacular catch to the Ooo's and Ahhh's of all who observed.
I said to myself, "Why not? I can do that".
Smart guy that I am, I realized that it was the centrifugal force that stretched out the dough and made it circular. I started out carefully, only throwing it up a few inches and everything was fine. Getting a little cocky now I gave it a more of a twist as I tossed it even higher. After five or six of these I was ready for the pizza maker Olympics. Starting a new chorus of Che La Luna, I gave it a big twist and hurled it up to the ceiling.
Here in Buffalo we have a saying we use to describe anything that goes wrong. It goes back to the missed field goal that allowed the NY Giants to win the Superbowl a few years back. We say things like "That guy is just a little bit wide right" or "I will not be at work today because I'm feeling a little wide right."
Well that's where that crust went, wide right. It looked like a frisby sailing across a field on a tranquil summer's day. Boy, was it beautiful. My dog must of thought so too because he came right out of the sleeping position to 3 feet off the ground and snagged that crust in mid air. Lucky me, here I thought It was going to hit the dirty floor.
I got it back, minus a few punctures marks and one large U-shapped hole. No harm done (My wife was not home.)
At this point I had had quite enough so I took the stone out of the oven and placed it on a pan holder (You see, I'm not a complete moron), pieced the torn up dough back together on the hot stone, very carefully I might add, and added some sauce and cheese. Everything now was getting something back to normal and I was feeling a little happier about the whole situation. I was not back to singing yet, but I was getting there.Working quickly so as not to let the stone cool too much, I added some oregeno, basil, pepper and salt. Then I topped with my sliced sausage and sprinkled some olive oil on top. Voila, I was ready.
Into the oven it went. I cooked it for around 25 minutes and it was done. I have to say except for that single lava stream of sauce and cheese which was erupting from the side of the broken crust it looked pretty good. It tasted pretty good too, but it was not the same as I remembered.
Since that time I have been looking on how to improve my pizza making. The internet has made it a lot easier to find resources on how to make a homemade pizza. I continued making improvements over the years but it was not until a few months ago that I stumbled upon a resource that taught me how to make the best pizza I have ever tasted.
Like I said earlier, I'm from New York City and that is the style of pizza that I personally crave. I know most of you folks do not come from New York City but if any of you have ever tasted this type of pizza while while visiting, you know what I'm talking about. If you've never tasted New York city pizza before but would like to without actually having to travel there, this is your chance. I can now also make many other styles of pizza like Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis. Louis and Sicilean. Over the years I've learned how to make great pizza, I wish I could say the same about my singing.