Looking to replicate your favorite restaurant pizza at home? Here are some tips to making great pizza without a wood-fired oven. Read on for our ideas, a recipe for the crust and a few suggestions for interesting toppings.
Making Pizza Crust
Since pizza crust is a yeast-risen dough, it needs to be started before you prep your other ingredients to allow time to rise. Dissolve a package of active dry yeast in 2/3 cup warm water. Add 1 tablespoon honey and 2 tablespoons olive oil to the yeast mixture as well. Stir well and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. The mixture will get foamy.
Place 2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a food processor with a dough blade. Pulse to combine. With the machine running, slowly pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube. Process until the mixture pulls away from sides of the food processor and forms a ball of dough. Continue processing for 30 seconds.
Knead the dough gently with your hands until it forms a smooth ball. Place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover with a towel and set somewhere warm. Let the dough rise for at least 30 minutes. Divide in half; this recipe will make enough dough for 2 pizzas.
A basic tomato sauce is classic on pizza, but consider some alternatives:
- BBQ sauce
- Creamy white sauce
- Olive oil with garlic and herbs
- Basil pesto
- Olive tapenade
Pizza just wouldn’t be pizza without lots of cheese. Try the following cheeses or combine them to make your own blend:
- Fresh or shredded mozzarella
- Smoked cheddar
- Feta or goat cheese
There are countless fruits and vegetables that can top a pizza, including old standbys and fresh picks like:
- Olives (pitted, of course)
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Artichoke hearts
- Fresh basil or other herbs*
- Fresh corn
- Roasted garlic
- Roasted eggplant
- Shaved truffle
When assembling your pizza, place fresh herbs under the cheese. The cheese will act as a protective barrier so the herbs don’t burn.
For meat lovers, an array of options awaits:
- Sliced sausage (Experiment with sausage made from duck, chicken, lamb, venison, rabbit, or wild boar.)
- Ground buffalo
- Sliced smoked duck breast
- Shredded duck leg confit
- Cooked and crumbled pancetta or bacon
- Sliced saucisson sec
- Chunks of ham
- Shredded smoked chicken breast
How to Cook Your Pizza
Do you know how hot a pizza oven is? A wood-fired pizza oven will be 850 – 1000 degrees F, and a gas oven more like 600 – 800 degrees F. That’s why they get such beautiful and rapid results. This is hard to duplicate at home.
The secret to baking pizza at home is to preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. You read that right. It’s got to be screaming hot for a crispy crust.
If you are using a pizza stone, which will help in this project, preheat it for about 20 minutes. If you don’t have this specialized tool, you can use a baking sheet and preheat that for 5 to 10 minutes. When the dough hits the hot surface, it starts baking immediately and gives your pizza that desirable crispiness. Nobody likes soggy pizza!
Something to consider: cranking your oven up to 500 degrees is probably not something you do all that often. If there is anything in the oven – a spill or crumbs from the last time you used it – it will certainly burn at this high temperature. So make sure to clean the oven before you turn it on, and keep an eye on the pizza while it’s in the oven.
Assemble your pizza on a pizza peel. Spread out a layer of coarse cornmeal before laying out your crust. This will allow the pizza to slide off the peel easily. Assemble your pizza. Give the peel a shake to make sure the pizza is loosened from the bottom of the peel. Gently slide the pizza off onto the pizza stone. Bake for 8 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown and the crust is firm. If you don’t have a pizza stone, assemble the pizza on a sheet tray or pizza pan. Place the entire pan into the oven to bake.
Pizza in the Backyard
For the warmer months, try grilling your pizza. Put the dough directly on the grill. Grill for just a few minutes on the first side. The pizza crust will be puffed and will have nice grill marks. Flip the crust over onto a cooler portion of the grill and top your pizza however you choose. Close the lid of the grill and let the grill work like an oven. The pizza is ready when the ingredients are hot and melted.
Another option is the Big Green Egg® – which is a cooker, smoker, and grill, all in one, and is famous for reaching high temperatures that can easily bake a pizza. Check their website for more info.