There’s no secret to making a good pizza or flatbread in your own kitchen. Yes, there are a million tips and techniques, but none of them is a secret, and most of them won’t make the difference between a bad pizza and a decent one.
That’s a bold statement that will no doubt make many bakers and pizza aficionados see red. But the truth is, you don’t have to have NYC water, or specialty flour, or an ancient dough starter that’s been passed down from generation to generation. You don’t need special equipment or a complex understanding of baking science. You don’t even have to plan hours or days ahead of time so your dough can rise slowly in the fridge.
Do those things have any merit when it comes to pizza making? Probably. And if you have the time, interest and energy to explore them, you will no doubt be rewarded.
On the other hand, if you like good pizza, but have always thought it was too hard or time-consuming for you to make on a Tuesday night, I’m here to tell you that’s not true.
Flour, yeast, salt, water and oil, combined in a food processor or in a large bowl, mixed and/or kneaded until smooth and left to rise while you get your toppings together, is all it takes to make a respectable crust. Really.
If you have a pizza stone or tiles, that will help make your crust crispier, but if you don’t, you can use a preheated baking sheet, which also works well.
Toppings are a matter of taste, but no matter how you top your pizza, if you start with quality ingredients, you will likely end up with something that tastes good. For that reason, I suggest you buy good cheese, as that’s usually a key element of your pizza. I like Fontina, a mild, but flavorful cheese that melts beautifully, but if you prefer mozzarella, that’s fine, as long as you shred it yourself. Cheese that comes pre-shredded in a bag has an odd texture, especially when melted.
If you like red sauce on your pizza, make it yourself, as store-bought pizza sauce is often too sweet or overly herby. It only takes a minute to sauté garlic in a little olive oil, add some good canned tomatoes (look for San Marzanos from Italy), add some basil or a little oregano, maybe some crushed red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt and pepper. Personally, I usually skip the sauce and just brush some garlic-infused olive oil over the unbaked crust, but to each his own.
From there, the sky’s the limit. After all, when you’re making your own pizza, you can make it just the way you want it. Do you like pepperoni, with a scattering of chopped pineapple and fresh basil? You got it.
I like veggies on my pizza, and I’m not talking about mushrooms, onions or peppers. I go hard core with broccoli, spinach, even Brussels sprouts, as is highlighted in this Brussels Sprout, Bacon and Butternut Squash Pizza or Flatbread. (Sometimes topping pizza with nontraditional ingredients can make people nutty. Flatbread has no rules.)
Being the rebel that I am, I don’t even care if my pizza/flatbread is round. I like oblong, square or rectangular pizza. It all tastes good. Definitely better than anything that’s delivered to your door.
So next time you crave some pizza, get cooking. You’ll probably finish it before the delivery person can get to your door anyway.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.