Making Pizza and My Childhood
As a child pizza was the end all be all in my house. It was a magical concoction that was delivered to our door. I have very fond memories of pizza – Friday night sleep overs, movies, and giant bottles of soda pop.
There were a couple times along the way that my family tried to experiment with making pizza. At the time it felt like we were doing something almost mystical. My mom would bring home the pre-made pizza crust and we would engineer what we thought was a much better version of what we could order.
The truth is that the pizza was often soggy and overladen with too many ingredients. As a child that was okay. I loved the idea of making pizza. Our family just never mastered the art and science of making pizza! As an adult – it never even occurred to me to try making pizza because of my mediocre childhood experience.
Making Pizza as an Adult
After being to New York, Chicago and to Europe I had developed a taste for hot, delicious, and fresh pizza! Over the years I have tried all kinds of crazy ingredients on a pizza – none available at my local pizzerias.
I asked a national pizza chain if they had fresh basil. The lady behind the counter looked at me like I had a unicorn horn. I soon became frustrated! The local pizza delivery chains just weren’t cutting it anymore.
I started making pizza at home again a couple years ago. The first few times that I made it, I used a recipe from the newspaper, magazine, or one of my many cookbooks (I forget which). Regardless, the recipe told how to make your own pizza crust. I did not have any problems with it, although it did seem to be time-consuming.
While shopping for ingredients one day, I found a pizza-crust mix available. I experimented with several pizza-crust mixes until I found one that I love – Jiffy Pizza Crust Mix. Shortly thereafter, I started using that mix, and it was easier and quicker to make, as well as being more delicious.
I need to note that when I started making pizza I accommodated myself to what I had at home. I used a pizza pan, which I used for making cookies and other dishes. I did eventually move onto a pizza stone and then to the ultimate pizza making gadget – Bakerstone Pizza Oven Box.
It is important to cook the crust before you place the toppings. It is important for at least a couple of reasons. The first is that the crust and the toppings have different cooking times. The crust needs enough time to become firm and a toasty-brown in color, while the topping need only a brief period of time to become heated and for the cheese to become melted. The second reason is that the toppings (especially the sliced tomatoes) are juicy and would tend to make the uncooked crust soggy. Information on cooking can be found at the bottom.
Regardless of the pizza crust, I always had a passion for the toppings, and always wanted the freshest and best ingredients available. The wonderful thing about pizzas is that it can–and should–be a full meal. The wonderful thing about pizzas is that it can be a meal for anybody and everybody: for vegetarians, vegans and non-vegetarians. Perhaps that is why pizzas are so popular here.
Making Pizza – The Toppings
The most important thing about a pizza, the thing that makes a pizza a pizza, is the toppings. Growing up, my family and I were always big meat-eaters, so I always placed a priority on salami, pepperoni and sausage.
When I started making pizza I usually used store-bought salami and pepperoni slices in a package. At other times, though, I used rolls of salami and pepperoni, and cut them into relatively thin slices. I cannot recall the price differential (although I assume that the rolls were cheaper) but the convenience of having them pre-sliced (and tender) may outweigh the higher cost. For sausage, I bought a pack of it from the butcher section and cooked it until it was a tender brown. I would then drain the oil from it so that it would be tastier.
I cannot recall all of the other toppings that I used, but I was always proud of using different kinds of toppings, and of using a lot of each. I do remember that I usually used sliced basil, tomatoes, mushrooms and a few other things. As a kid we tried anchovies once–which seems to be common amongst pizza lovers. I believe that one of my sisters did like it, but the rest of my family did not. The consensus seems to be that anchovies are too salty.
Of course, to top off all of these toppings require cheese. The overwhelming favorite is that of mozzarella cheese. A few months ago, I read that there was even a scientific study to find out which cheese is best for pizzas and why. This extensive study concluded that mozzarella cheese is indeed the best and the reason why is because of the bubbles and air pockets created during cooking.
For my pizzas, I usually did use mozzarella, but I found it difficult and time consuming to grate the ball of cheese. At other times, I used slices of mozzarella (or of other cheeses). This did make it far easier for me, but then the slices never melted fully and completely. In the end, the slices of cheese looked like slices of cheese. It was still tasty, but not aesthetically pleasing. A friend of mine actually joked about it and said that it looked like the plains of the Midwest when viewed from an airplane.
Cooking the pizza
As described above, the crust needs to be cooked first. I cannot recall the specifics but if you are using a pizza crust mix then you ought to follow those directions. The basics of what I do is to heat the oven to about 450 degrees and bake for about 5-7 minutes. In any case, you want to make sure that the crust is firm and a light toasty-brown.
When you re-cook it (for the toppings and the cheese) it should be just long enough for the cheese to be melted about 8- 10 minutes. If you are using slices of (rather than grated) cheese then, again, the cheese cannot become completely melted. If you do, then you run the risk of burning everything. Do not worry, though, the slices of cheese may not be aesthetically pleasing but it will still be delicious.
Over the next couple of years my pizza making skills evolved. I introduced a pizza stone into my pizza making skill set. This upped my game considerably.
Once I bought McBoxHage Manor with my partner, I took the pizza making to a whole new level by cooking pizza on the grill using Bakerstone Pizza Oven Box. My childhood dreams of heavenly delicious pizza were finally fulfilled with this handy and clever gadget. I cannot believe what I can do with my Bakerstone Pizza Oven Box!
A full review of the Bakerstone Pizza Oven Box with recipes and behind the scenes action of my mad pizza making skills coming soon!