Believe it or not, up until a few months ago I had never really baked a day in my life. Sure I dabbled with a few cookie recipes over the years but I always found myself returning to the good old ‘break and bake’s’. And sure I could make one hell of an apple pie but my crust was always store bought. And why on earth would anyone hassle with making homemade biscuits when you can get them from one of those groovy cans that pop when you take the wrapper off? All this changed this past November when my Aunt sent me the recipe for my Great Grandmother’s pie crust.
Since I moved away from the frozen tundra, also known as upstate New York, when I was only five I don’t have too many memories of back home. However there was one thing I could always count on, Aunt Ellie’s killer pies. And it wasn’t just the filling she put in there, it was the crust…buttery, a little salty and that killer flake that no store bought crust could ever compare to. Unfortunately I’m not here to share a pie recipe, I have been sworn to secrecy and I am pretty sure the family would disown me if I posted it, but what I realized when making that crust was ‘what is all the fuss about?’
For years I dreaded baking, it was too scientific for me. Different types of flours, precise measurements and don’t even get me started on the whole letting dough rise thing…it just seemed like way too much work. But after spending enough time in the kitchen, sampling one recipe after another I realized they would never be truly amazing until every part of it was homemade. So that meant having a go to red sauce for pastas, my own chicken stock for soups and now my own dough for pizzas!
The best part about this dough is it only needs an hour to rise so you can have homemade pizzas fresh out of the oven in less then and hour and half. As for how you cook your pizza a quick search online will give you a ton of different suggestions. You can throw them on the grill, toss them in the oven or cook them in a cast iron skillet. I choose the skillet method because I wanted that extra crispy crust but if you prefer one over the other please share your thoughts in the comments below. Either way, homemade pizzas are a great way to get the entire family in the kitchen sharing ideas and spending time together!
Homemade Pizza Dough
Yields enough for 3 to 4 medium pizzas, or one half sheet pan
1 ¼ cup warm water
1 packet (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
3 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
In a large measuring cup add the yeast, water, sugar and olive oil and mix well. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. In a large bowl add the flour creating a well in the middle. After 10 minutes add the yeast mixture to the well you made in the flour and gradually bring the flour in from the sides of the bowl with a fork. Toss in the salt and keep mixing until the dough comes together. Continue to knead the dough by hand until you have a smooth, springy dough.
Wash out your bowl and dry thoroughly. Add a teaspoon of olive oil to the bowl and make sure that the bottom and all sides are greased. Transfer your dough back to the bowl, turning once to ensure it is evenly coated with the oil. Cover with a damp towel and transfer to a cool oven to rise for 1 hour.
Lightly flour your counter and transfer the dough on its surface. Gently deflate the dough with your hands. Cut the dough into thirds or quarters if making individual pizzas, these can be frozen for later use. If making a full sheet pan, leave the dough as is for a thicker crust or cut in half to be used for a thinner crust. Pat out the dough to your desired size.
If using the skillet method, preheat a cast iron skillet over high heat for at least 5 minutes and crank on the broiler in your oven to high, make sure the rack is at its highest setting. Let the oven heat up for a good 10 – 15 minutes. Transfer the dough to a floured cutting board and poke a few holes in the bottom. This will prevent bubbles from forming while cooking. Dress your pizza with your favorite toppings, we choose a little red sauce, fresh mozzarella, some torn basil, a couple slices of prosciutto then drizzled the whole thing with a little olive oil. Carefully slide your pizza off of the cutting board and into the preheated skillet and cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the stove top and transfer to the oven to finish cooking, another 2-3 minutes.
If using the sheet pan method, line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil and lightly oil it. Crank the broiler in your oven to high and again make sure the rack is in its highest setting. Let the oven heat up for a good 10 – 15 minutes. Dress the pizza on the pan and then toss into the oven, cooking time will very but should be no longer then 5 minutes. Keep checking to make sure the edges are nice and brown and the cheese is toasty.
Remove your pizza the oven and using a spatula transfer the pizza back to your cutting surface. Slice into wedges or squares and garnish with fresh parmesan cheese and some crushed red pepper flakes.