Friday nights are pizza night on the homestead. I love pizza, communally prepared, many hands customizing slices, working side by side, elbow to elbow, loud laughing chaos. This is what pizza looks like in our kitchen.
Thursday night I prepare the dough for the simple handmade artisan crust. It takes five minutes. Honestly. The dough then rests quietly working it’s magic until called upon Friday evening. This pizza almost makes itself, it is so entirely simple to assemble, especially with a houseful of hungry boys.
Friday evening commences with a call out for veggie choppers, cheese sprinklers, and sauce stirrers. Chaos ensues. Loud raucousness in the kitchen. Love it. I unfurl parchment, allowing each individual to create his own masterpiece. The customizing of crust begins. As I scoop dough from bowl, they begin to hand sculpt custom crust densities, dough malleable and smooth in nimble yet muscled hands. The results are full thick crusts, thin crusts, and everything in between. Each individual’s propensity toward diversity is remarkable. No two are ever alike.
With oven blazing heat waves, because this is the best way to cook pizza, fast and hard, to seal distinct flavors, add crisp to crust, and zest to life. I begin to slide in sheets of custom crusts. Some like them cracker crisp, shards landing on tongue with each bite, and some like them billowy soft savoring the perfect chewiness between jaws. Precooking the crust allows perfect customization. When each artists’ level of crust perfection is reached, I remove sheets from the oven, fresh canvas at the ready for creativity.
Sauce splashes, herbs float haphazardly in the air, toppings are passed, and the competition ensues for best flavor combinations, presentation, and originality. Please understand the nature of teenage boys. No matter what is happening, it is a competition. Vying for number one spot in any category. Always. Lovingly jousting each other to bring out the other’s best. This is how they are. A tribe of raucous, rabble-rousing, crazy, I-want-you-to-be-your-all, always.
All in, all up front, all heart. Always.
I Love it. Every crazy minute.
The pizzas come together, chests puff, and anticipation ensues as the final timing quietly counts down the moment of unveiling masterpiece. Wafts of basil, oregano and garlic dance in the air together mingling with yeast. Calls out for best combinations, and presentation begin to fall hushed as the sacred moment approaches. You can feel it in the air.
The shrill telling of the timer releases the chaos once more. Everyone crowds in the kitchen gathering around a single oven to witness the first coming forth of greatness. Glimpsing of golden mozzarella, veggies piled high, or simply, blasts of heat heavily scented with herbs, and admonitions from me to stand back from the oven so no one gets burned as they are jockeying for position, I remove the first handmade pizzas.
Oooohs and Aaaahs, back-slapping commences and congratulatory words circulate the room. Tasting, sharing, and camaraderie continue late into the evening as everyone shares in the joy created in the kitchen.
Artisan Crust Recipe
Oven temp 450 degrees
3 c. lukewarm water
1 T. granulated yeast
1 1/2 T. Redmond Real Salt, or Sea Salt
6 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
Mixing the dough:
You will need a very large bowl or bucket with a lid to mix your dough. It needs to be at least 5 quarts to allow room for the dough to rise, I use a 6 quart bucket with a lid.
In your bucket or bowl, add water, yeast, and salt.
- Dump in all of the flour at once, and begin to stir. A long handled, sturdy wooden spoon works wonders.
- Stir well, until all the flour is incorporated, and makes a wet, rough dough. (This dough will not be smooth like other bread doughs).
- Put the lid on your container. If it seals tightly, leave a lip of the lid unsealed to allow gases to escape as the dough is working.
- Allow dough to rise for 2-12 hours. You will know it is ready when it has risen up in the container, then fallen back in on itself. The longer time the dough has to work, the more flavor develops.
- Your dough is now ready to be used, or refrigerated. You may choose to use the dough, right away without chilling, but it is easier to work with once it has been chilled.
- Dough will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks.
This is a master recipe from Artisan Bread in Five. Their breads are designed to be mixed in large batches of dough, then refrigerated and baked fresh daily. I love these recipes. They are simple, tasty and wonderfully homemade. They are our bread of choice on our homestead.
Handmade Pizza Recipe
Oven temp 450 degrees
Gather together your favorite pizza toppings and prepare.
Some of our favorites are:
Fancy Green Olives
Natural Black Olives
Green and Red Peppers
Onions, sliced thin
Homemade Pizza Sauce
We usually use what is on hand in the garden seasonally, and also what we have frozen from the garden first. Otherwise, we choose the basics. Usually, homemade meats, mushrooms, and a few veggies and olives. I also make our pizza sauce from our garden tomatoes I have canned in the summer, but you may also used a prepared sauce to your liking.
Making pizza night in your home is a wonderful family tradition. It gets everyone in on the action, preparing veggies, and assembling pizzas. We do pizza night for birthday parties, and set up a pizza bar. Each kid gets a ball of dough on parchment to shape into their own personal crust, and topped to their liking. It is a huge hit. My youngest sons’ friends all request this for his party now. A lot of kids have never handmade pizza before, love the experience and the tasty results.
Homemade Pizza Sauce
1 quart (36 oz) tomato sauce, or puree
2 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 t. dried sweet basil
1 t. dried oregano
- In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, add olive oil and garlic. Sautee garlic 1-2 min. to release the flavor, do not brown.
- Add tomato sauce, or puree.
- Simmer for 5-10 min. Less if you are already using sauce, more if you are using puree to reduce it down to sauce….
- Add herbs, salt and pepper to taste.
- Simmer 5-10 min. more, until sauce is at the consistency you like to top your pizza.
This is really just a basic recipe. I usually do it a day or two ahead, and put it in the fridge so the flavors can mingle and deepen. This could also be canned in the summer when the tomatoes are in abundance.
Assembling the Pizzas
Oven temp 450 degrees.
Let’s start with the crust.
When making individual pizzas I use parchment underneath, so each person may first shape his dough out on the countertop, then I transfer to a baking sheet to slide into the oven to bake. Otherwise, if I am just assembling the pizzas, I oil my sheet generously with olive oil, sprinkle with cornmeal or flour, and shape the crust directly on the sheet. In these pics, I was out of parchment paper, so we just used the direct method of shaping on the baking sheet.
Begin by removing lid from dough bucket/bowl. Sprinkle with all-purpose flour. Remove a softball sized hunk of dough from the bucket for a full-sized baking sheet, baseball sized if you are making individual pizzas for kids. If your dough has been refrigerated, you will want it to allow it to stand at room temp for about 20 min. before shaping.
Place dough onto prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with flour. Gently shape the dough with your fingertips, so as not to completely flatten, allowing all the little hills and valleys in your crust, so you do not crush out all the air. This keeps your crust light.
Continue pressing the dough out toward the edges of the baking sheet, allowing all the little air bubbles to stay enveloped in the crust.
Bake for approximately 10 min. or until desired crispness is achieved. I like to bake mine until the crust is just golden on the bottom. It gives a crust that is crisp underneath, and has the perfect chewiness in the center.
Remove from oven. Notice the fork holes in the crust. If you have gotten large air bubbles in the oven, just gently pop with a fork before adding sauce.
Gettin’ Saucy, Finishing Your Handmade Pizza
You are now ready to add sauce and toppings to your prepared crust. Use caution, the edges of your baking sheet are hot.
When working with small kids in the kitchen, I do not prebake crusts. The kids shape their dough on parchment, add sauce and toppings, and I bake all at once, to avoid burns.
- Generously spread crust with prepared pizza sauce.
- Add cheese and desired toppings.
- Return pizza to the oven for approximately 10-15 min. until cheese is melted, browned and bubbly.
- Remove from oven. Let stand 5 min.
- Cut into slices, dish and enjoy!