A pizza is the sum of its parts; namely, the pizza crust, the pizza toppings and the pizza sauce. Make each one as wonderful as you can make it and you'll be assured of turning out the best homemade pizza possible. Try out the following secrets when you make your homemade pizza.
Pizza Crust Secrets
Bake your pizza crust separately: It would be best if you can bake your pizza crust first before you add on the toppings and sauce. There's one good reason for doing this. If you bake the lot at one and the same time, you may end up with a pizza that has overcooked toppings, burnt cheese and an undercooked, flat crust. Of course, you should not bake your crust fully the first time so that you won't end up with a pizza that has a burnt crust after your final baking stage.
Mixing pizza dough ingredients: Begin by putting in a bowl at least one-tenth of the warm water specified in your homemade pizza recipe. Add yeast gradually to the water, stir and let it stand for a few minutes. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, put the remaining warm water, stir in the sugar and salt (if your recipe calls for these ingredients) and the other dry ingredients except the flour, add the water and yeast mixture, stir the lot then immediately add the rest of the ingredients.
Kneading the pizza mixture: Kneading will let air mix with your pizza dough mixture. You should knead the pizza dough only until it reaches the proper consistency: the dough doesn't stick to the container and individual portions can be stretched without breaking. Over-kneading will result in brittle pizza dough. While kneading the dough, use flour to prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands and the bowl, but use as little flour as possible.
Let your pizza dough rise before using it: After kneading your pizza dough, you must give it enough time to rise to your desired thickness. Generally, the longer the fermentation time you allow your pizza, the better the taste of the pizza crust. However, be careful not to use too much yeast if you are going to let the dough rise for hours (say you prepared the dough in the morning and let it relax for the rest of the day in preparation for baking by day end).
If speed is of the essence: If you need the pizza dough as quickly as possible, you can let it rise faster by adding more yeast to the mixture or by increasing the temperature of the dough. To do the latter, you can heat your oven for a few minutes, turn it off, cool the oven off a bit by leaving the oven door open for a few seconds, put the dough in a covered bowl, put the bowl in the oven and close the door. Let the mixture stay in the warm oven for at least 30 minutes, take it out, softly press the dough down then repeat the "rising" exercise for another 30 minutes. Another technique that you can apply for a faster fermentation period is to use warm water. The higher the water temperature, the faster yeast action will be. Just a note of caution, however, the pizza dough which has been allowed to ferment longer using minimum amount of yeast generally results into a better-tasting pizza crust so it's best that you mix and knead your dough hours before you actually need it.
Frozen homemade pizza dough preparation: If you have prepared pizza dough the night before and left it in the refrigerator for next day's baking, take it out in the morning and let it rise for at least several hours before you use it. Again, the less the yeast used, the longer the rising period required.
To make a thin pizza crust: If you are aiming for a thin crust pizza, you will want to use less dough per pan. You can also just stretch your pizza dough more on the pan. Doing this will naturally reduce the crust thickness.
To get a thick pizza crust: For a thicker crust, you need to use a pizza pan with a smaller circumference, use more pizza dough per pan or stretch out the dough less. The result would be increased crust thickness.
To get a crispy pizza crust: For a crispy pizza crust, it would be best if you reduce the amount of water. Drier pizza dough usually means a crispier pizza crust. Stiffer pizza dough also means crispier crust so it would be best to use flour with high gluten content if you want a crispy crust.
For a soft and gooey crust: To get a soft and chewy crust, you need to add more water to your dough mixture or use less flour. More moist pizza dough means softer pizza crust. To achieve better results, use flour with low gluten content. You may make gluten-free pizza dough by using gluten-free flour
If you live in a high-altitude location: Be mindful of the effect of high altitude on pizza dough. A higher altitude means less air pressure so the dough will rise faster, and it means a faster rate of evaporation so the dough will dry out faster. Thus, if you are in a high-altitude location, it is generally advisable to use more water and less yeast in your pizza dough mixture than you would normally use if you were in a low-altitude location.
Simply speaking, the pizza toppings you should use depend on the type of pizza that you want. Fresh mozzarella cheese is necessary if you want to make a New York pizza. New York style pizza is typically minimalist; that is to say, they use as few toppings as possible. On the other hand, a Chicago deep dish pizza is usually loaded with meaty toppings: pepperoni, beef sausage, pork sausage, ground beef, bacon, ham, etc. You will also see bell peppers, mushrooms, and different kinds of cheese on a typical Chicago pizza. Tomatoes, cheese, anchovies, garlic, and herbs like basil and oregano, on the other hand, are typical of Italian pizza. California pizza, on the other hand, is characterized by seasonal vegetable toppings, fruit toppings, chicken pizza toppings, smoked salmon toppings, and other unusual toppings.
For great economy: Use pizza toppings that you already have on hand. Bacon, ham and sausages left over from breakfast, for instance, will make great toppings. Innovate depending on what ingredients you have. Naturally, cooked toppings will require less time in the oven so be sure to take this into account when baking your pizza.
Fresh toppings: It is recommended that you use fresh ingredients for your pizza toppings. Use fresh mozzarella cheese, if possible.
Finger crush herbs: To release the flavor of dried herbs, it is best to finger crush them before you add them to your pizza.
Drain and dry toppings: To avoid getting a soggy pizza, especially if you are using lots of canned and moist ingredients, you should drain your toppings of excess moisture before you arrange them on your pizza base.
Your pizza sauce will give your pizza its distinctive flavor. In the web, you can find a lot of easy pizza sauce recipes to follow. You can even try making your own trademark pizza sauce.
Easy pizza sauce recipe: There should be canned, pre-mixed pizza sauces available in your local supermarket. On the other hand, you can use spaghetti sauce as your pizza sauce. Another easy alternative would be to sauté some onions and garlic in extra virgin olive oil, add tomato sauce (chunky tomato sauce is fine or tomato paste/puree diluted with some water), add salt (and crushed pepper if preferred), let the sauce simmer then add basil and oregano. You can even add some balsamic vinegar if you wish. You can also add some cooked ground meat to your sauce if you prefer.
Thicker sauce is better: Use thick pizza sauce on your pizza. Too watery pizza sauce means a soggy pizza. If you are using canned pizza sauce, evaluate the thickness. If too thin, let the sauce simmer before using it on your pizza.
Pizza sauce on top: When cooking your pizza, it is advisable to put the sauce on top. This will prevent your cheese and other ingredients from burning.