Recently the local supermarket chain began offering pre-made pizza dough in their bakery. I'm not talking about the Boboli pizza disc or some other par-baked monstrosity. I'm talking about real dough with flour and yeast that you can take home and knead yourself. Last weekend, that's exactly what I did, and I came away with a fantastic sausage pizza done to absolute perfection.
- Bagged pizza dough (if you can't find it at your supermarket, ask around at local pizza places. They'll often be willing to sell you dough. Plus, it'll give you a chance to talk to your local pizza guy)
- Two links organic mild Italian sausage
- Approx. 1.5 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
- Approx. 3 tablespoons of your favorite (sensible) pasta sauce
Follow the directions on the dough to prep it. Mine required being left on the counter for an hour in order to rise and help activate the gluten.
Note: gluten's not some weird additive. It's protein found in wheat and it helps give pizza crust that wonderful crunchy/chewy texture that all great crusts have. Also, while prepping the dough, you'll want to cook the sausage, if you're using it for a topping. Raw sausage on the pizza will tend to render too much fat and you'll end up with a grease slick.
To prepare the dough, work it into a ball on a cutting board dusted with flour or cornmeal. Press the heel of your palm firmly in the middle of the dough. Then, pick up the dough and begin working it in your fingers, pinching along the outside edge (you can also just roll-out the dough with a rolling pin to your desired thickness, but that won't give you the great raised edge we associate with pizza). Just keep working around the perimeter of your dough, carefully pinching and allowing the weight of the dough to pull itself to the desired shape and thickness. If you bought two, and are feeling adventurous, go ahead and rest the dough atop your fists or across the backs of your hands. Slowly work in a circle, allowing the dough to stretch down over your hands. If it begins to stretch out of shape, rotate your hands and fling the pizza into the air. Let it fall back on your hands. Sing fake opera.
Once you have the pizza dough worked to your desired thickness, go ahead and spoon on the pasta sauce (not too much! We Americans have a tendency to over-sauce our pizza. Just a little goes a long way) and sprinkle on the cheese. Top with the sausage pieces, and brush the exposed crust with olive oil to help browning. Put the pizza in the oven. About 15 to 20 minutes later, you'll have a delicious, hot, bubbly pizza ready to scald your mouth and chin with molten cheese.
There are several things I love about this approach to pizza. First, working with dough is fun. It harkens back to playing with clay as a child, though no one will get after you for eating this. And it's something you could make with your kids, should you have some around and should they be so inclined. It's also quick, easy, and inexpensive. The best part though? I know exactly what's going into the pizza I make. I did some quick nutritional searches on Pizza Hut and Dominos. For the most part, the two chains seem to stick with fairly simple ingredients, until you get into chicken, pork toppings or some of their sauces. When I make my own pizza, though, I don't have guess or wonder. If I want to eliminate all traces of sugar, I can make my own sauce. If I want to switch up the cheeses and use some parmesan? Not a problem at all. When you make your own pizza, you're in control of the ingredients. You make the call. Just don't make it to some giant pizza chain.