Classic fluffy dough pizza
Pizza is, and always has been, one of my absolute favorite foods. I'm pretty sure it has a lot to do with melty cheese. Pizza is such a go-to meal. Having a casual get together with friends? PIZZA. Movie night with your loved one? You know what would be perfect? PIZZA! Yes, somehow, this delicious classic Italian treat has managed to find its way into our hearts and our bellies. Where I come from, what they call pizza is pretty far away from anything Italians would make. Perhaps it's too cheapened or too Americanized. Perhaps they just don't know how to make a proper pizza. But you know what? I love pizza so much, I even enjoy the bad pizzas. The ones made with some light ham and not-so-mozzarella-cheese, plus some weird toppings like black olives. Whole. With the seed still inside. (I don't dislike many foods, but black olives and roasted peppers (or peppers that have touched any heat in any way) are prohibited from finding their way to my plate. My mom used to make pizza when I was a kid because it didn't exist yet in my hometown and it was basically bread slices soaked in milk instead of a dough, and toppings with whatever she had in the fridge: salami, black olives, tomatoes, Romanian cheese.
When I moved to Bucharest, I had a very nice Italian place that I ordered my pizza from and I was quite satisfied. But after coming to Finland, and having my long-dreamed about favorite pizza-and-movie date nights with my boyfriend I was very disappointed to see and taste delivered pizzas here that had nothing to do with any kind of pizza I've had. Dough too crispy and weird, too many toppings, I didn't like the pepperoni they used, and somehow it all was way too salty...
That's why I am SO excited to share my favorite classic pizza recipe today! I've discovered the recipe years ago, and everyone who's ever tasted it has absolutely LOVED it. The secret(s)? My favorite pizza sauce, the fluffiness of the dough, and keeping the toppings to a minimum.
Keeping it simple and classic really pays off. I have never understood why people get so greedy with pizza toppings, resulting in a very heavy slice that the crust can't even take... when you could have something as classic and simple as this? Pepperoni slices, and mozzarella cheese that just melts in your mouth, on top of the most aromatic tomato sauce and (very) fluffy homemade dough. If you're a pizza lover (who isn't?) you need to have this in your kitchen. NOW. How do you make it happen?
Okay, follow me.
my own recipe, partly inspired by a Good Food edition and after lots of trials in my kitchen
recipe makes 2 round pizzas with fluffy dough or 1 big one
prep time: 15 minutes
dough rise: 1 hour (of just waiting)
pizza baking: 10 minutes
for the dough:
- 500 grams (1 pound or 4 cups) of flour (strong bread flower works well, I usually just get regular flour)
- 1 packet of dried yeast*
- bit-more-than lukewarm water (about 200-300 ml/1 cup)
- a good pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon olive oil, to cover the dough in
for the toppings:
- tomato sauce (about 1/2 a regular can of whole tomatoes, blended just like here)
- dried oregano or basil or both (use fresh basil after the pizza is out of the oven if you wish)
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 2 peperoncini or a good dust of cayenne, if you like things spicy
- 1 pack of grated mozzarella cheese (about 200 grams or 2 cups)
- pepperoni slices
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
Now, of course, if you don't like pepperoni or would actually like more toppings on your pizza, go ahead. However, remember to not use more than 2-3 toppings, it gets too heavy and it's not worth it, I promise! Here are some extra topping suggestions:
- thin slices of red, green or yellow bell pepper
- cherry tomato or regular tomato slices
- sliced olives
- thin onion slices
- smaller bits of bacon
- chopped mushrooms that you roasted in a pan with some salt and butter
If you are using vegetables (especially frozen) remember they will leave a lot of water and the dough will become soggy. (Also happens with fresh mozzarella.). To get around this, make sure to cook the veggies in a pan first!
1. Let's start with the dough. If you've never made a dough before, this is the basic recipe and it's SO easy. Place the flour and salt in a bowl. Mix it. Make a hole in the center. This will be our little well. Put the yeast and almost all the water in. Mix with a wooden spoon or your hands until a dough is formed.
2. Transfer the dough to a flat, clean surface to knead it (which is basically pushing and pulling the dough towards you, and flipping it a bit - just work it) a little - this makes the dough light & airy. Just about a minute or so, to activate the gluten. No hard work needed here. Once the dough is fully formed and feels elastic...
3. Transfer the dough formed into a ball to a clean bowl which has the teaspoon of olive oil on the bottom. Flip the dough inside it, until it's covered with the oil, and so are the walls of the bowl. Cover with a clean cloth or cling film (clear plastic wrap) and let it rise in a warm place, safe from air drafts for about an hour. My baby dough had risen nicely...
4. Take out the dough, split it into two if you're making round pizzas, and try not to use the rolling pin too much now, or all the air will leave the dough and your pizza won't be fluffy anymore. (if you like thin crust, go for it.) Spread them with your hand as much as you can, and only use the rolling pin gently, to shape it, either into two round ones or a big rectangular one for a normal baking sheet, if you don't have a pizza pan. (I have one with holes in the bottom too, it helps the pizza cook fast and evenly - they are inexpensive and you can find them in most stores). Place in the pan. Preheat your oven to the max.
5. Now let's get to the sauce. This sauce is perfection, I promise. Mince the garlic (if you're a garlic snob, use garlic powder instead, but you won't be able to feel the nice garlicky taste) very finely, place it in a small container. Add salt, dry oregano or basil, peperoncini or cayenne, then the tomato sauce (remember to blend it yourself from whole tomatoes, it matters to get a good sauce here) and mix it all together.
6. This is important: On top of the dough inside the pan, place the tomato sauce, then the cheese, then the rest of the toppings. The cheese should never be last, it ruins all the toppings when you cut into the pizza, they just spill all over! I chose just some pepperoni slices and another sprinkle of oregano on top, but sometimes I go for chilli peppers like this...
...gives the pizza a very nice heat. Once it's all ready and the toppings are pressed a bit into the sauce & dough...
7. Place it in the (very) hot oven. Take it out 10 minutes later or when the cheese is bubbly and the crust & bottom are done.
Wait a few minutes to slice it & enjoy! Let me know how it turned out, if you tried this!
*I don't ever use fresh yeast, so I have no idea how it works. I remember reading something about sugar and water and waiting for it to bubble? Don't know exactly, using dried is so much easier though and it works great!
P.S. This would be a great meal to make if you have guests over or on a nice date night!