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Homemade Pizza

April 13, 2010

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of Friday nights.  In our household, homemade pizza was typically on the menu and my brother and I were usually allowed a can of soda[!], the opportunity to stay up late, and more time in front of the TV than was deemed appropriate for school nights. But most importantly, I remember being given my own lump of dough and creating my own baby pies.  Some evenings I went the thin-crust route, going to town with my miniature rolling pin (a gift from Santa somewhere along the line?) while other times, I dabbled in calzones or made ‘experimental’ pizzas that probably resembled cheese-topped biscuits more than anything else. My Dad was always nearby skillfully tossing an adult-sized pizza and when it was time, my brother and I would follow him outside to the deck to witness his signature pizza-making maneuver: a sky-high toss that sent the wobbly dough well into the dark night sky.

To this day, Friday nights always make me think of pizza, though I’m happy to eat it any/all days of the week. Although I’ve been experimenting with homemade dough, using a couple of lovely recipes from Smitten Kitchen and 101 Cookbooks, I’m usually inclined to buy it from a local market. It’s a huge bonus if your favorite pizzeria will sell you the uncooked dough.  Although not always a typical request (I’ve received a few confused looks from cashiers: “Why would you want the dough if we can, like, make it for you here?”), you can usually get a big ball o’ dough for only a couple of bucks. Add your favorite toppings and 10-15 minutes in a very hot oven and presto! A delicious pizza for a fraction of the take-out price.

A pizza screen

I recently discovered the handy-dandy pizza screen, available very inexpensively at restaurant supply stores.  Available in a number of sizes, these wire mesh ‘pans’ help insure a crisp, well-browned crust with minimal sticking.  Although pizza stones also produce great results, these screens are light weight and don’t require the use of a pizza peel.  Chalk it up to lack of skills, but I’ve had more than one pizza crisis occur when transferring the uncooked pie (o.k., probably with one too many toppings) from peel to stone.  With the screen, you can assemble the pie right on top then transfer it directly to the oven. Easy-peasy.

crispy, golden crust

Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Pizza (above)

high heat cooking spray
1 large pizza dough (store bought, or made with your favorite recipe)
olive oil
your favorite tomato sauce
grated whole milk mozzarella cheese
roasted eggplant slices
caramelized onions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a pizza screen (or sheet pan) with a high heat cooking spray. Shape your pizza dough and spread  out onto the screen or pan. Brush a bit of olive oil around the edge of the crust.  Apply a thin layer of tomato sauce, then sprinkle cheese and arrange the sliced roasted eggplant and caramelized onions. (Go easy on the toppings–too much with inhibit desired crispiness)

Put assembled pizza into oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, watching carefully and rotating pan periodically if the pizza begins to brown unevenly.

Once pizza is crisp and brown, remove carefully from oven, slice and enjoy.

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