One positive outcome of quarantine is a renewed enthusiasm for bread making. People cultivated sourdough starters to account for the lack of available yeast, or just threw their floured hands in the air and attempted a no-yeast dough. Pizza’s popularity was on the rise (not that it needed a reputation bump!), as home cooks made pizza in skillets, on grills, in pans, and on stones. We at Colavita are no different. Our love for pizza is only second to our love for olive oil, and thankfully the two go hand in hand! As we approach the cooler and cozier months of the year, let’s fire up those ovens together. To help you kick off National Pizza Month with ease, here is a list of helpful pizza making tips, tricks and recipes.
Gather Your Tools:
Making pizza at home is an easy process, but it’s best to have a few tools handy to make it all go more smoothly.
Scale: Bakers measure all their ingredients by weight. It’s a more accurate way to make sure you have the right amounts of all the ingredients. Specifically, for making bread and pizza dough, you’ll want to make sure that you have the proper ratio of flour to water. Having a digital scale makes this process easy.
Yeast: Make sure you have some packages of active dry yeast on hand, so your dough will rise. We’ll talk about natural yeasts a little later on.
Stand Mixer: We are all about using our stand mixers fitted with the dough hook to make our pizza dough. It really does make it easier. Of course, kneading by hand is possible, it will just take some time.
Dough scrapers: Having a plastic and a metal dough scraper on hand will help you get the dough out of your mixing bowl (plastic) and make forming them into individual balls (metal) easier.
Plastic wrap: Always protect your dough from the air so it doesn’t dry out. While it’s rising, cover it tightly in plastic wrap.
Parchment paper: If you’re baking your pizza on a baking sheet, line the baking sheet with some parchment paper. This way, you can easily slide the pizza off and onto a cutting board when it’s finished baking.
Pizza Stone / Pizza Peel: If you’re ready for next level baking, using a pizza peel and stone is a great way to get a crispy crust. The stone needs to heat in the oven for at least 30 minutes. Dust the pizza peel with a little flour and stretch your dough out directly on it. Top it and then slide it into the oven on top of the stone to bake.
Assorted specialty pans: If you get into making different styles of pizza, you’ll want the pans to help you achieve the right results. Chicago uses a 9” cake pan, while both Detroit and Sicilian use special steel or alloy rectangular pans.
Making the Dough:
Making your own dough can be an intimidating project. But don’t let it dissuade you! Once you get the hang of it, you’ll love getting your hands in the flour and you’ll find that you can make a more flavorful dough.
If you’d like to try one with a slightly different flavor, try our semolina dough. This dough has a slightly sweeter flavor and a more yellow color.
You can develop the flavor of your dough using a poolish or a sourdough starter as a leavening agent instead of active dry yeast. Both a poolish and a starter use yeast developed over time to enhance the flavor of the dough. A poolish uses equal amounts of flour and water, plus a small amount of active dry yeast. This mixture is allowed to develop for about 12 hours and creates a flavorful mixture (not unlike a sourdough) that will help your dough to rise. In contrast, a sourdough starter uses equal amounts of flour and water and no processed yeast to develop a natural leavening agent. Sourdough starters are usually kept for long periods of time and require maintenance, in the form of feeding. If you don’t feel like maintaining a starter, using a poolish is a great way to get all that flavor without the hassle of feeding a sourdough starter.
Of course, different pizzas have different dough recipes! I know, I know…you thought this was easy.
Chicago pizza has its own special dough that is stronger so it can hold so many ingredients.
Which brings us to ... Choosing your pizza style:
Pizza making at home can be as easy as topping dough in a pan, but it can also be so much more!
There are so many different styles of pizza to choose from, each with their own defining characteristics. Here are some of our favorites:
Grandma/Pan pizza: We love this style of pizza, because you don’t need any special tools like a pizza peel or stone. You just need a regular rimmed baking sheet. You can also load up on toppings a bit more, because you don’t have to slide your pizza into the oven.
Sicilian Pizza: If you’re a fan of a fluffy, thick crust, this is the pizza for you! Made with a focaccia style dough recipe and also baked in a pan, this pizza is fluffy, airy, and just so delicious.
Skillet Pizza: This pizza style is one of our favorite ways to make pizza in a home oven! By heating up a cast iron skillet before placing your dough inside, you can have a crispy and fluffy crust. The high sides of a cast iron skillet also let you extend your toppings all the way to the edge, giving you some very crispy sides!
Detroit Pizza: This pizza style is something different. Made with mozzarella and “brick” cheese (handy substitution—cheddar), it’s another pan pizza with a twist. The cheese is tucked in between a par-baked dough and the sides of the pan giving you crispy, cheesy edges all the way down to the bottom.
Chicago Deep Dish Pizza: This pizza style is more of an event. It’s an epic, loaded with toppings pizza baked in a 9” round cake pan. It’s a labor of love that’s completely worth the effort.
Neapolitan/California Style: This kind of pizza is normally cooked in a piping hot brick oven. If you don’t have one of those, the next best option would be a pizza stone in your oven. This is your classic, personal sized, round pizza. Get creative with your toppings!
Grilled pizza: Making pizza on the grill is as entertaining as it is delicious. Gather around a group of friends or family members for an outdoor pizza party. You can cook your dough right on the grill grate, just make sure it’s loaded up with plenty of Colavita EVOO!
These days pizza toppings can get pretty creative. We encourage this creative kitchen play, but it may be helpful for you to keep a few tips in mind:
For a pizza that you are sliding into the oven like a Neapolitan or California style, it’s best to use a light hand with your toppings. Overloading your pizza will often cause it to stick to the peel,and end up as a folded-over mess.
Fresh mozzarella contains a lot of water. This can result in a soggy pizza. Choose low moisture mozzarella for your pizza, or drain fresh mozzarella overnight in your fridge.
Pizzas like a Grandma, Sicilian or Skillet pizza can handle more toppings, so feel free to load up.
Don’t forget to add a little Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil to your pizza before popping it into the oven. The olive oil will keep your ingredients and dough from drying out and add a little extra flavor.
Salt your pizza to taste as you would any dish you’re cooking. Keep in mind that some toppings like prosciutto, anchovies and parmesan cheese are very salty, so adjust accordingly.
Apply fresh herbs like basil after you remove your pizza from the oven. The heat of the oven is too strong for delicate herbs and they will burn. Their aroma will be released from the residual heat of your cooked pie.