It's a time of hurrying and hustling, boxing and bustling. There will be shopping and baking (and eating). We will be busy with Christmas projects and plans.
Meals that save time will be called upon and what could be better than pizza?
Easy to make, quick to prepare, short-ish cooking time and there's so many kinds to choose from. It's a great spur of the moment meal to end a busy day. It's a perfect meal for unexpected guests. Everyone loves pizza.
I searched online and tried quite a few recipes for pizza dough before finding one I liked. Turns out I had a great recipe on my shelf all along. The recipe I use is a modified version of one in my old home economics cookbook from high school - Recipes for Young Adults.
If you are using a small cookie sheet, or an 8" pizza pan, the basic recipe will be enough. If you are using a larger cookie sheet or a pizza pan greater than 8", or if you like a thick crust, you'll want the double recipe.
Prepare the toppings you will use.
Mozza cheese works the best on pizza and there are kinds specifically for pizza (usually labeled pizza mozzarella). If you like a variety, try Parmesan (or even better, a Parmigiano Reggiano) or an aged Provolone. Whichever cheese you decide on, grate it up and put it back in the fridge to keep cold.
There are many kinds of pizza sauce. Try different brands to get the flavor you prefer. If you like to cook, make up your own sauce from scratch. When you have a recipe you like, can a batch so you always have some on hand. Substitute traditional pizza sauce with other flavors, like salsa for a taco pizza.
Unless you want a cheese pizza, you'll want other toppings too.
Try sliced meats like pepperoni and salami, or your favorite sausage.
This is a great way to use up leftover meats like ham and chicken.
All meats for your pizza should be fully cooked before using them as a topping.
For our last pizza, I fried up seasoned hamburger. Sliced purple onion was mixed in at the end to fry a little before they went on the pizza. When you are topping your pizza with vegetables like onion or peppers, you might want to partially cook them unless you like them fairly crunchy. Softer fruit like pineapple or tomato do not need to be pre-cooked.
Get your oven good and hot - set to 425 F (220 C)
If you have a convection, you can use it at the same temp but it's not necessary.
Prepare the oil for the pans by pouring some in a bowl and sprinkling a good helping of garlic powder in the oil. Use more if you love it and less if you don't.
Use this seasoned oil to lightly oil your pizza pans.
Keep the excess, you will use it.
Gather your ingredients for the dough and prepare the yeast.
Measure your warm water into a bowl and stir in the sugar.
Sprinkle the yeast across the top of the water and let it sit for 10 minutes.
If I am making multiple pizzas, I prepare all the yeasts now.
I use a separate bowl for each one.
When the 10 minutes are up, you will notice a change in the yeast.
Stir it into the water well. Add the salt and oil and stir.
Add in a little more than half the flour and the garlic powder and mix well
Add the rest of the flour and mix well.
Use your hands at the end; knead the dough smooth on a floured surface.
Form the pizza dough into a ball and lightly coat with vegetable oil with your hands (add a couple drops on your hands and then smooth it over). I like to use olive oil but another vegetable oil will work as well.
If I am making multiple pizzas, I set aside the first mixed dough and mix another at this point. How you plan it out will depend on how many pans you are making and how many can fit in your oven. It is okay to use different levels of racks in the oven if you have the room and enough pans.
Once all the pizza dough is ready, roll out each dough ball one at a time.
Using your hands, gently manipulate the ball into a circle or rectangle.
On a floured surface, roll out the dough to cover the pan you are using.
Pick it up and flip it over occasionally to get the most stretch from the dough.
If you like a really thin crust, roll it as thin as you want and cut off the excess.
Once it is the right size, place it over the oiled pan. I usually fold the dough over in half to move it into place and then unfold over the other half of the pan. I find it easier to move this way. Settle the dough into place, trim off some of the excess dough and pinch the edges to form a lip for your pizza.
If you are making multiples, do the rest now. Do not top your pizzas yet.
Baste the panned dough(s) with the leftover oil and garlic powder lightly.
Place the pizza dough(s) in the oven with no toppings for about 5-10 minutes.
About halfway, you can turn the pans. If the dough bubbles up, you can poke the bubbles with a knife tip to flatten them out.
Ovens will vary in cooking time. Basically if you like a well done pizza crust, the pizza dough should be partially cooked and browning before you take it out. If you like a lighter, softer pizza crust, leave the pan in just long enough for the dough to set a bit and start to cook.
If you don't like garlic and you want a softer crust, skip the oil and the pre-bake.
Remove the pans from the oven and quickly add your toppings.
Spread a nice, even layer of sauce across the crust.
I like my cheese sprinkled over everything but pineapple. Some people prefer their cheese under the toppings. There is no wrong way to layer your toppings.
Place the pizzas in the oven and lower the temp to 350 F (175 C)
Bake the pizzas for about 15 - 20 minutes. Times will vary according to the toppings you use. The pizza is ready when the crust is browned, toppings are heated through, and the cheese is melted.
Let the pizza sit for about 5 minutes before slicing (if you can wait).
Slice, serve and enjoy!