The alternative title for this post was “Pizza with Sex Appeal,” but I figured in the interest of anyone reading this at the office, I should keep it PG. Not that you read this while you’re at work or anything.
Another reason I opted for this title instead of the racier one is that I’m going to try to break things down every now and again – bring us back to basics, if you will. Recipes are great and all, but sometimes little tricks of the trade are what’s really needed to take things to the next level. Consider these tips added bonuses to help you to build a stronger foundation for your meal.
So, here’s to our first of – hopefully – many “how to” posts! Here goes nothin’ 🙂
Please allow me to preface this pizza party with the fact that what’s listed above is in no way, shape or form the correct method of making pizza. Nope. That’s actually a recipe my husband crafted when he was a kid. What it lacks in accuracy, it makes up for in cuteness and I just wanted to share.
Of course, if you were my Facebook friend, you would have already seen that yesterday. Perks, people.
All joking and shameless attempt at Facebook friending aside, the bottom line is that the contents of this particular post are simply observations I’ve made along the way in all of my pizza experimentation…and in my humble opinion, they help to create a pretty perfect slice. So, while I’m not claiming to be the authority on all things pizza, I’ve certainly made plenty of it…much to the delight of my belly and the chagrin of other body parts.
1. The Difference is in the Dough. I’m not trying to peer pressure you into making your own dough or anything, but come on…all the cool kids are doing it. I’ll also tell you that while it seems intimidating, it really is easy. If you haven’t read my diatribe on dough making yet, I’d advise you do so. Not only does that post include the easiest dough recipe that’s out of this world, but it also touches upon a bunch of little hints to help along the way. I guess that was, in essence, a “how to” post. Hmmm…
If you’re feeling wimpy or are simply short on time and must buy a ball of dough, do me one favor and make sure to let it sit out and warm up a bit before working with it. Cold dough is wet, heavy and just the worst…ugh. Besides being a nightmare to roll out, I learned yesterday that cold dough is what causes that thing where you take a bite of pizza and all the cheese comes off in one fell swoop. I’m not sure there’s a name for this specific food fail, but whatever it’s called, it’s annoying. Let’s avoid that.
2. Cornmeal is King. In addition to giving my old, warped and stained pans a spritz of nonstick spray, I always make sure there’s a healthy coating of coarse cornmeal. Not only does this give your crust that classic pizza parlor texture, but it also acts as a buffer zone between the dough and your baking surface. So regardless of whether you’ve got beat up baking equipment like me or a top of the line pizza stone, those tiny grains of cornmeal will help keep your pizza from sticking and also prevent the bottom from burning. Cornmeal is pretty much a staple in my pantry, but if you’re fresh out or just don’t happen to have any on hand, feel free to sub in a light dusting of flour.
3. The Sauce is Boss. Just like the pizza slice itself, sauce is so subjective. Some like it sweet while others prefer it tangy – and a chunky texture is make or break for most. Whatever your preference – the goal is simple – make sure it’s really good. This principle applies to store bought and homemade sauce alike. If you’re still on the hunt for a simple tomato sauce recipe, look no further than my Marinara Made Easy. Of course, if you’re looking to expand your sauce horizons, there’s always pesto, BBQ, alfredo or others. Long story short – there’s more than marinara, my friends.
4. Spice it Up (and Underneath)! Open your spice cabinet and get to shakin’! Prior to piling on the cheese, I find that having a heavy hand with the garlic and onion powder never hurt anyone. Then, go for the green stuff – basil and oregano, that is. I usually put these two on top of the cheese because they look pretty, but you can really add ’em in whenever you want. You don’t have to see them to know they’re there!
5. Cheese, please. I’m not going to argue with you over which cheese is best. All I’ll say is that freshly shredded beats out pre-shredded each and every time. You know that powdery coating that covers those shreds of the packaged stuff? Sure, it keeps everything from sticking together, but it also keeps the cheese from melting properly – and it’s just flat out funky. So, buy a block of whatever blows your hair back and take a minute to shred it yourself. All it’ll take is one bite for you to see what I’m blogging about.
For those of you wondering what’s on my pizza…it’s a mix of muenster for maximum meltability and some parmesan for pure salty awesomeness. Of course, if you’re a pizza purist, go ahead and get your mozzarella on!
6. Bake, then broil. So, your pizza’s topped and ready for the oven. Now what? I recommend baking it at a high temperature (425 degrees or up, depending on your oven) on the lowest rack. This will crisp up the bottom nicely, stopping sogginess in its tracks.
Then, after 10-12 minutes, switch the oven from bake to broil and carefully move the pizza up to the top rack. With the oven door slightly open, peek in and you’ll see the top of your pizza bubble and become even more perfect than you even imagined. Just keep a watchful eye – it doesn’t take more than a minute or two – and it could very easily go from bubbly to burned.
7. Try Tons of Toppings. Sometimes, nothing hits the spot like a slice or
ten two of plain cheese pizza. Fresh out the oven – or straight from the fridge – it’s simple, satisfying and a real stroke of genius. Still though, I tend to prefer my pizza with a bunch of business up on top – and I veer more in the direction of veggie than meat lover.
I’d encourage everyone reading this to partake of some pizza experimentation of your own – the possibilities are endless. All I know is that every time I try something new, it ends up becoming my favorite…that is, until the next new combo comes along.
Want to know what combination currently reigns supreme? Tune in next time for even more pizza inspiration…and until then, start coming up with some yourself!