Thursday, January 21, 2010

Homemade Pizza

I did it, you guys. I tried to make something with yeast.

Yeast is one of the most intimidating ingredients in cooking. If you're like me and generally sucked at chemistry, it's frightening beyond belief. I don't possess any real understanding of how any of this stuff works, but I knew the yeast part had to be perfect.

Where was this yeast going? Into my very first attempt (one of many future attempts, I'm sure) at making my own pizza dough! I decided to use a recipe from Deb of Smitten Kitchen.

First I combined flour, yeast and salt. Easy enough. Although, I have to admit, I had no idea yeast would look like little seeds when I opened the packet.

Then I was supposed to add lukewarm water. People, that seems easy enough, but in hindsight, I believe my water was still too cold. I understand that can affect the yeast...or something.

I then added olive oil and attempted to stir the big mess into a ball and what you see above is what I got. Hmm. Not quite what I pictured.

On a floured surface, I rolled the dough into a ball, but it still wasn't as smooth as Deb's. Any clues, you guys?

I put the ball of dough into an oiled bowl and covered it with saran wrap and left it alone for two hours. See how my ball of dough is all wrinkly, like play-doh, rather than smooth? Seriously, what is that?

Needless to say, it grew an eensy bit in two hours but didn't rise as much as it should have. I figured I'd plow ahead anyway.

I dumped the ball of dough back onto the counter, covered it with saran wrap and let it sit 20 more minutes. After all that, I went ahead and pushed the bubbles out with the palms of my hands and rolled the dough.

I have to say, the consistency is awesome to feel. It gives, which is so strange and new after baking so many cookies and cakes. I like how pliant it felt, and how easily it stretched.

I rolled it into this sort of oblong shape and then placed it on a piece of parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal. Now, I don't have a pizza stone (but I'd gladly accept one as a gift!), so I had to make do with the pizza pan we already have.

Deb has several recommendations in the entry I linked about making pizza without a stone, if you are like me and don't possess one.

I cheated and used pre-made sauce.

I decided to keep my first pizza simple and just made a basic pepperoni. I will definitely admit I might have overspiced it; I shook a LOT of Italian seasoning onto that bad boy.

Here's where things get really dicey. Deb suggested broiling pizza to get that lovely blistered cheese effect. One of my guests (we were hosting a movie night) showed up right around then and I immediately got kind of flustered and rushed around a little too much.

I popped the pizza under the broiler (way too close, I realized soon after) and came back to find the top was perfectly cooked but the crust hadn't cooked at all. It was a pretty devastating moment.

I then set my oven to 550 (the highest temp I'm comfortable with) and popped the pizza back in. The crust cooked this time, but not before the top TOTALLY burnt.

So yeah. Kind of a mess.

But you know what's so great about pizza? It's still good burnt. The crust was really flavorful and almost had a focaccia quality; it wasn't perfect but it still had a homemade taste you just can't get from frozen or delivery pizza.

I'm definitely trying this again and soon. Deb has a variation on the recipe that subs white wine for water and adds honey; I think that sounds like the makings of an amazing white pizza.


valerie said...

I just made my first pizza the other night! I was scared to death but it actually turned out pretty good! I used the Pioneer Woman's recipe for homemade dough and pre-made sauce.

Did you let your dough rise? That seems to be the only thing different in our two pizzas. I sat mine in a heated over (heated to 450 and then turned off..then you set the dough in a bowl with a damp dishtowel over it)

Your pizza looks super yummy, even with the burns! :)

valerie said...

over = oven. oppsie.

Amber said...

I let it rise for a little over 2 hours to little effect, which is why I thought the water temp might have something to do with it. I will try the oven trick next time!

CHuber said...

I feel like I am the queen of homemade pizzas, here in Kazakhstan, or at least the princess.

Recently I made two pizzas. One of them, the dough didn't rise AT ALL and it looked all wrinkly, like yours. I thought I had followed the recipe and it still tasted great, but wasn't like actual dough. **Yours even looked like it rose in the oven once it was cooked!

BUT, I just made a pizza two days ago... and i whisked the water and the yeast together and got bubbles and that was when I knew I had done it! Then I whisked a lot of the flour in and when it got too sticky I used my spatula. The dough rose like quadruple its size and turned out awesome in the oven... I even added garlic, salt, and butter to the crust to make like... garlic bread crust. OMG it was delish. I'll post pictures on your wall.

**ALSO, homemade sauce is SUPER easy- tomato paste, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, c'mon you can do better =)

**AND, homemade pepperoni also super easy... sausage, fried in a little swig of olive oil and then put on top of the pizza.

We just don't have these things here in Kazakhstan, but cooking keeps me sane here. I also realize I have WAY MORE time to be in the kitchen. =)

ps. your pizza looked awesome.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes if it says to broil, it means to go ahead and cook it normally, then broil it for just a second after. That way, you can control how your crust is cooked and just get the blistered effect (without the burn or rawness) after.

Amber said...

yeah, sometimes i follow recipes a little too literally. I'm still learning how to trust my instincts.