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Making Pizza at Home

Contributed by: Nikki Willhite

Everyone loves pizza. There are many ways to make pizza, and almost everyone has their own favorite toppings, type of crust, and place where they like to buy it.

It can be tricky to make a good homemade pizza. However, if you can learn to make a good pizza at home that will satisfy the pizza craving, you will save money. Here are some tips that may help.

THE CRUST

The crust is the most intimidating part of the pizza for most people. One quick alternative is to use a purchased crust or french bread.

The crust itself is not hard to make. What is hard is baking it correctly. The most common problem is the crust coming out doughy.

One of the reasons for this is that our ovens do not get hot enough to bake a pizza quickly. The ingredients start to burn before the crust is done.

One way to handle this is to cook the crust first for a short time, and then add the sauce and ingredients and finish cooking the pizza.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake the crust for 7-10 minutes. Keep the pizza in the middle of the oven, so the crust won't burn. Then take out the crust, and turn the oven up to 400 degrees. While the oven is getting hotter, add the sauce and ingredients to the crust. Then return the pizza to the oven and continue baking until done.

There are many recipes for pizza dough. I won't list any here. Some people like to add a little whole wheat to their dough, or other ingredients like sesame seeds.

Pizza dough is very easy to make in a bread machine. Almost all bread machines come with recipe books. Use one of the recipes designed specifically for your machine. Later you can tweak it.

The yeast in your bread dough recipe is what makes the crust rise and gives it those little bubbles and keeps it light. When you are making your crust, be sure all the ingredients that come into contact with the yeast are at room temperature. Too hot and you kill the yeast; too cold and the yeast won't work.

Be sure your yeast is active before you use it. Always test it by putting it in a little water with a dab of sugar. If it is good, it will start making little bubbles in 10-15 minutes. (Adjust your recipe accordingly - as to the water used)

Yeast likes warmth and moisture. To speed up the rising process, (if you are not using a bread machine) place your pizza dough in a greased bowl in the oven next to a bowl of hot water (make sure the oven is off); or set it on the counter on top of a bowl of hot water. Be sure and cover the dough with a cloth.

Usually you let your dough rise until double in size (about one hour) and then punch it down and roll or spread it out.

You can pat out your crust in a round pan, or use an oblong cookie sheet. Go around the perimeter of the crust and fold it up to make an edge to hold the sauce and ingredients on the pizza. Let the crust rise on the pizza pan about 15 minutes before you start the baking process.

If you like thick crust pizza, let it sit longer so that it will have more time to rise.

THE SAUCE

Sauces is easy to make. It's just a matter of finding a recipe that you like. You can use sauce out of a can, or you can start with fresh tomatoes and make it from scratch.

Most people do something in the middle. You can start with any canned tomato product. Just add water and spices, and boil down to the right consistency.

If you like your sauce sweet, add sugar. Some of the herbs most commonly added to pizza sauce are oregano, basil, sage, thyme, chili powder and cumin- as well as some kind of onion flavoring, salt and pepper.

Simmer your mixture at least 10 minutes to blend, and taste for flavor. When it is done, remove from the stove.

THE TOPPINGS

You can't go wrong with the toppings. Add chopped vegetables and cooked meats, and sprinkle over the top. Do the same with the cheese. I like to add the cheese first, and then put on the rest, but there are no rules.

You can experiment with different kinds of cheese. Mozzarella is my favorite. Mexican pizzas use cheddar.

It will take 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees to finish up the pizza. Keep an eye on it, so the cheese and crust do not burn. Every oven is different. The crust should be golden brown, and there should be small areas of very cooked cheese on top (almost burnt).

Don't be discouraged if it takes a few tries. Making homemade pizza is a skill worth mastering.

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About the Author: Nikki Willhite, mother of three, and an Interior Design Graduate, is the editor of The Pennypincher Ezine and Tightwad Tidbits Daily. Visit her at http://www.allthingsfrugal.com.


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