Easy pizza at home?
I love pizza and would love to make good pizza at home without the trouble and mess of making my own pizza dough. What would CH's recommend for an easy fix. Should I buy Boboli's (have never tried them), should I buy TJ's pizza dough and bake it myself...or is there another easy solution. Should I buy a pizza stone...if so, what kind? In essence, how should I get started in making good pizza at home without too much trouble or mess.
I've been experimenting with pizza for a while now since we got our new "Big Green Egg" my husband bought me the pizza stone for my Bday. I usually make my own pizza dough since its just so much easier theres lots of good recipes around, you just have to get in there and start playing with it, I "LOVE" the Pizza Stone and I do think it makes a big difference in the crust so I would reccomend that, I know for years we made pizza in the oven without a stone and the the pizza was always just so so, now its Amazing. It just takes a couple of minutes to throw the dough together in a food processor or a kitchen aide mixer.
Start with TJ dough... some day, when you have some time, make some dough (bunches of threads on this). Do get a stone (and keep in in the oven, it will make it cook everything more evenly). At some point you will get hooked. And realize it's easier to make the dough than stop on TJ's. And that pizza is a great way to use up leftover cheese, meat, and veggies at the end of the week. Then pretty soon you will have your own starter, lovingly named blob.
The pre-made crusts are fast, but it will never give you good pizza.
If you've got freezer space you can make big batches of dough, roll them out to the right size, and freeze them between layers of saran wrap (I use a sheet of cardboard on the bottom so they freeze flat). Then you can pry off a layer when you want it, and by the time you've added the toppings it will be ready to cook.
If you like doing pizza often, you can make things easier by maki your own sauce, again in batches, and freezing individual pizza sized portions. You can also prep and freeze individual pizza sized portions of meat (after buying a package of salami, or pre-cooking Italian sausage), which is particularly useful if you're in a hurry, or cooking for one person).
Definitely get a pizza stone. And use tortillas as your crust- if you're gonna go the pre-made route, that's the only thing worth your hard earned money. The suggestion of making your own and freezing it is your best and most rewarding option, but tortilla pizzas have the most crispy crust and take minutes to cook.
Your first problem is that you don't think making dough is worth the trouble. But it is.
Accepting that limitation- pizza stone is worth it. For a crisp thin crust, soft lavash is a great easy way to go. For smaller personal pizzas, fresh naan is great. We use the naan from TJ's for lunches for the kiddos.
'Good' is relative. Pizza is a wonderful thing, and, much like sex, when done poorly, is still pretty 'good.' That portion of the public that spends billions of dollars a year on frozen pizza- they'd probably classify frozen pizza as 'good.' Warming up a frozen pizza is about as easy as you can get, and, as far as frozen pizzas go, TJ's has some of the best.
Now, if you define 'good' as 'pizzeria quality,' that's a different ball game. Achieving pizzeria quality pizza at home can be done, but it definitely isn't easy. You need to buy a stone- and not just any old stone. Good pizza is dependent on fast bake times, and fast bakes are a result of either a very hot, tricked out oven, a thick, conductive stone, or both. As of today, you cannot walk into a home goods store and buy a stone that can bake restaurant quality pizza at typical peak oven temps. The best stones for baking pizza at home aren't even labeled as such. They're more raw materials than retail products. Here are the three best candidates.
1/2" steel plate can be found online and is also available locally. It's also reasonably priced- about $40 for an 18" x 18" x 1/2" slab. It's pretty heavy, so shipping adds up. If you can find it locally and avoid shipping charges, that's ideal. Steel plate, when pre-heated to 550 can match the bake time/quality of any NY style deck pizzeria oven.
1 1/4" soapstone slab, the kind they use for countertops, makes another great baking stone. It's the only naturally occurring stone that can stand up to the rigors of baking. In one or two parts of the country it's reasonably priced, but in most places, it's top dollar (as much as $120 for an 18 x 18 x 1 1/4 stone). It's also easy to misidentify and comes in non baking suitable varieties, so you have to know what your doing. Like 1/2" steel plate, though, 1 1/4" soapstone will guarantee pizzeria quality results in a 550 deg. home oven.
Cordierite isn't as conductive as steel plate or soapstone, but it's reasonably priced, readily available locally (from a ceramics supplier) and available online. Cordierite is the material of choice for most commercial pizza ovens. This is also exactly the same material as the majority of the more expensive retail pizza stones (such as pampered chef, old home, oneida, etc.), except thicker. To achieve good results you have to to go thicker- 1" minimum. Ideally, it helps to have an oven that runs a little on the warm side (575), but if your oven only goes to 550, you could probably get away with cordierite. If you're working with 525, then definitely get the steel plate. Less than 525, then I'd start thinking about modding your oven so that it gets hotter.
With all of these stones, you want to size them so that they're as large as possible- the larger the target to launch the pie on to, the better. In other words, get a square stone that has clearance on the sides of the oven, but none on the back and front- almost touching the door, but not quite.
As far as commercial doughs go, I've heard pretty good things about TJs. In order to get the most out of TJs dough, though, you really need to have a few homemade doughs under your belt so that you can judge it's level of fermentation/worth. Dough, like produce, is a living, breathing being. You need to have the experience to be able to look at it and tell if it's ready. The sell by date isn't going to help you.
If you're going to buy dough, get it from a pizzeria. It still helps to be able to judge proper fermentation, but your chances at buying a properly fermented dough are better because most pizzerias won't sell dough past it's prime. Ideally, it helps if you know the person behind the counter and can ask when the dough was made- and can trust the answer they give you.
Use TJ's, not Boboli. I bought unglazed quarry tiles from Home Depot at less than 40 cents each, six for the bottom rack of the oven. Heat them as high as your oven will go (Mine is 550) for at least half an hour. Make the pizza on a piece of parchment paper (cut so there are only a couple of inches outside the pizza) and slide that in, either with a pizza peel or the bottom of cookie sheet flipped over. With the parchment paper, you can make multiple pizzas, ready to slip in and out of the oven. Cook 5-7 minutes, depending on the size.
Making your own dough is easy, as others have said. You can refrigerate for a couple of days, or freeze.
Use flour Tortillas. Top with your favorite sauce and toppings (my favs : tomato sauce, pepperoni, onions, green peppers, OR pesto, grilled chicken, feta, and artichokes), then grill on hot BBQ with lid down for a few minutes, turning once or twice. Serve with a variety of hot sauces and a side salad.
Crispy bottom and slight charred flavor. They are excellent and very quick.
Definitely go with the TJs dough! When we have to make pizza indoors we definitely prefer the crunch a pizza stone lends to the crust, but if we have the option we will always choose grilling our pizza over any other method. The pizza becomes crispy and chewy and is done in minutes. Let me know if you need further details on the grilling method!
We love pizza on the grill! Our method: We have a gas Weber, and crank it to high to preheat. Roll/toss/shape dough, brush one side with olive oil, turn grill down to medium, place dough oil side down on grill, and cook with lid open for 2-3 minutes until nicely browned. Brush top of dough with olive oil, flip, and quickly (QUICKLY!) spread toppings, close lid, and cook about 4 minutes. If you don't want to rush the toppings and risk burning the crust by leaving it on the grill, you can slide the dough off the grill while adding toppings, then pop it back on.
This method works best with minimal toppings (sauce, fresh mozz, basil/garlic, for example), although we've piled on the fixings and it's still extremely tasty.
I've bought pizza dough many times from my local pizzeria in the past; I recommend you do this if you're not into making pizza dough. I'm not into making my own dough; this will yield very good results if you have a stone.
Josphnl... I think it all comes down to what you want out of your pizza... If you are looking for a quick decent meal--- premade pizza shells are not as bad as everyone seems to be making them out to be... I have had some great results from even using off brand shells. ( I always cover them in olive oil, little corn starch , and sugar mixture)
I will agree making your own dough is not that hard, but does take a little to get use to streatching and cooking times...
If you have a Whole Foods nearby, their refrigerated pizza dough is excellent and has a date on it to tell you when it was made. Buy a lump of it (in the refrigerated section, near the take-and-bake pizzas - but DON'T buy a take-and-bake pizza, they use a different dough and aren't nearly as good) for $2, let it rise in your fridge for a day, divide it into two balls, let them come to room temp for a couple of hours, and stretch each into about a 12" circle (they'll be very thin). Put it on a well-floured pizza peel, cutting board, or something else flat without a lip that will let you slide the pizza off (you can also line it with parchment paper to avoid any chance of sticking). Top sparingly, going especially light on any sauce - the way a lot of home bakers ruin pizza is putting a ton of toppings on, which makes the crust soggy. About an hour before baking, put the pizza stone in the oven on the lowest rack and crank it up as high as it'll go on the bake setting; during that hour, the stone will superheat and end up around 600-650 degrees, which is perfect for pizza. Slide the pizza onto the stone carefully, close the door, and check it in 5 minutes. When the cheese is melted and the bottom is browned (even a little charred in spots), it's done; you can toss it under the broiler quickly if you want to get a little char on the top too. Presto - neopolitan pizza at home that's better than any delivery, and better than most pizza places to boot.
As far as making the dough yourself, you should try it but I've experimented for years and found that Whole Foods' dough is as good or better than my best efforts. At $2 for 2 pizzas worth, it's just not worth my time to make the dough. The WF dough is made fresh every day from the same stuff I'd use, so for me it's not worth the extra effort. (And I'm not a WF junkie - pizza dough and fish are about the only things I buy there, since it's so expensive. But those two items are better there than anywhere else where I live.)
Agree with fellow CH's who suggested a local pizza shop which sell their dough to customers. I've noticed more and more grocery stores sell fresh made pizza dough in white and whole wheat flour. In both cases, you would need little more than some flour and your toppings to make a homemade pizza.
Boboli isn't pizza dough, it's a big bread muffin and costs about 4.00. Fresh dough costs $1.50 at the grocery store and $2.75 at the pizza shop....and well under a buck to make from scratch.
I make pizza all the time using Cook's Illustrated recipe, but using a cookie sheet since I don't have a pizza stone. It always comes out really good but am thinking of investing in the stone. My question is: do I leave the stone in the oven all the time or do I have to remove it? And can I bake anything else on the stone? Like bread, maybe?
You leave the stone in the oven at all times. Your oven will take slightly longer to preheat but a benefit is that it helps regular the oven temp when you open the door. The day after making pizza, I give it a quick rinse to remove any leftover flour or semolina from the prior day's pizza (it stays hot for too long after cooking to move it right away).
I got mine for about $35 at william sonoma I think. Get a rectangular one and make sure it is thick enough. Don't want a thin flimsy one.
Buy a stone and make sure it is a good heavy one. I recommend a rectangular one rather than round. A good stone is going to cost about $50. Mine never leaves the oven, it even goes through the self cleaning cycle and has for over 20+ years. Keeping the stone in the oven accomplishes 2 issues. First is where to store it and second it keeps your oven at a constant even temperature. You will also need a peel. The peel is the handled paddle that you use to slide the pizza in and out of the oven with. I tend ti make a rather sticky dough and place a piece of parchment paper on the peel first and then pat my dough out on that and build the pizza. You should preheat the oven and stone at the highest setting on your oven for about 45 mins. to an hour. When I slide the pizza onto the stone on the parchment, i wait a few minutes 2-3, and then pull the parchment from under the pizza and let it proceed to bake.
If you have a stand mixer or a food processor try this dough:
2 C. Bread flour
1 C. Semolina (Bob's red mill is a good brand)
salt, not too much, it can retard the yeast
1 Tbs. yeast
Mix that together and then start slowly mixing in about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 C. warm (not hot) water. How much water can depend on the day. If it is very humid your flour will have more moisture in it than on a very dry day. Mix until satiny smooth. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a clean dishtowel and allow it to rise until doubled in size, be patient. Punch it down and let it double again and again punch down and give it one more rising. I think the 3 risings give it better flavor. I also like it to rise slowly so I place it in a cooler area of my kitchen. You are now ready to start making your pizza.
You will like the dough better than commercially prepared doughs that contain a lot of sugar. I tried TJ's once and that was enough. When making your own dough you can add crushed red pepper, or parm. cheese, crushed garlic and when in season chopped basil. Use your imagination or leave it plain. Making your own really is not messy and i promise you will like it better.
I used to maneuver an incredibly heavy stone I had in and out of the oven. I need a new one and thought about leaving it in, if I can place it, and leave it at the base. When I clean my oven I have to remove the racks, so placing one on a rack isn't an option for me.
For the op, I'm looking at this stone:
One other one I'm looking at (If I can leave it at the base):
Their lightweight version of the one I just posted is about 6 1/2 pounds; don't know if it's an issue with you if you're not planning on leaving your stone in. It also costs only $10, I can't vouch for the quality or endurance but my sister's is lightweight and works beautifully.
Pocketless pita or Naan bread (Indian/ Pakistani) make a good inexpensive crust for a smaller pizza, even easily cooked in a convection/ toaster oven, my son does this all the time. We think the Contadina pizza sauce in a can is the best. Shredded cheese and pepperoni are easy to come by.