A few years ago, my husband and I were invited to attend a film screening house party. Sounds fun, eh? Well, I’ll be honest, I can’t remember much of anything about the actual film screening (like what the film was even about), but there was something at that house that left a lasting impression on me: the brick oven.
Yes, you heard me. The kitchen had a built-in full-scale brick oven beautifully settled in one corner. It looked so rustic and cozy, but at the same time modern and functional. Hard to explain the imagery without a picture, but can I just say, perfect? The hostess had made a huge batch of pizza dough and had every topping you could think of laid out for us. So as each guest arrived we assembled our personalized mini-pizzas, got in line for the oven, and her husband, using his long-handled pizza peel, slid those babies in and cooked ’em to perfection. Awesome, huh?
I couldn’t stop talking about that oven for the next few days. I had recently started getting a kick out of experimenting with artisan breads and I thought this would be the key to take these breads to the next level. Somewhere in all of this jabber, I told my husband that in our future dream home, we had better plan a place for the brick oven in the kitchen….to which he laughed. “Seriously? You will never use that thing.” That was his answer. I told him that he was wrong and that, in fact, if only I had a brick oven I would make the most perfect beautiful bread on a daily basis. So he made me a deal. He said, ” I will promise you a brick oven if you bake something bready at least four days a week for the rest of the year.” No problem. You’ve got a deal.
Well friends, sad to say, I do not think I’ll be getting that brick oven without some hefty renegotiation. I think I lasted about two weeks with the consistent bread making before I petered out. Although I do love fresh-baked bread, the whole process can get a little time-consuming, and well, I’m just a little too disorganized to plan enough in advance to make it happen on a regular basis. For those of you that can fit bread making into your regular schedule, kudos to you! You would be well-deserving for a brick oven if you so desired. For now and possibly forever, I will have to settle for my baking stone in my (sigh) normal oven.
Well, to those who hear my bready predicament of not having enough time to conquer such a task, have no fear. Today I’m sharing with you my basic recipe for a quick rising pizza crust that has never failed me yet. This dough is not to thin, not to thick, but just right. It mixes together really fast and pretty hard to mess up. So the next time you’re trying to impress, give this a try! For a fast basic pepperoni pizza, I just use Newman’s Own Sockarooni Sauce* (a little zing, but not overwhelming), shredded Mozzarella cheese, and a liberal amount of pepperoni (it shrinks down, so you need more than you think). I use this dough for all of my pizza making, so I’ll have some more fun variations for toppings that I’ll put up soon.
Quick Rise Pizza Crust
- 2 cups – 2 ¼ flour
- ¼ oz package instant yeast 2 1/4 teaspoons
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2/3 cup hot water not lukewarm, not scalding, just hot to the touch when it first comes out of the tap
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for coating
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Cornmeal for dusting surface
Special kitchen gadgets:
- Pizza peel
- Baking stone
With a spoon, stir together ¾ cup of the flour, yeast, sugar, and water in a large mixing bowl. Let mixture stand until dissolved, about 1-2 minutes.
Mix in remaining ingredients. Add additional flour if needed until non-sticky to the touch. (You may have to incorporate the last of the flour in by hand.)
Knead for 5 minutes.
Loosely create a ball. Put back in mixing bowl and coat with olive oil.
Let dough rise for 10-20 minutes.
While dough is rising, place your baking stone on the middle rack and preheat oven to 425 F.
Generously sprinkle cornmeal over a pizza peel. Take risen dough, place on peel, and start spreading out by hand, working from the center out until approximately 1/4 inch thick. Dough should be soft and easy to manipulate. If dough feels too sticky, try oiling your hands a little to help out. If you need to, use a rolling pin, but try not to overwork the dough.
Put on desired sauce and toppings.
Slide onto preheated baking stone. Cook in oven for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
Recipe NotesQuick Tips:
1. Does the dough seem tough after kneading? Make sure to coat with olive oil before the rise. Additionally, put the bowl over the oven as it's heating up and cover bowl with a moist warm towel. That has always done the trick for me if this occurs.
2.I just get a general circular idea for my crust and then call it good! It gives the pizza a rustic feel and adds a little character.
3. This dough is a little on the soft side, so be generous with your cornmeal. This will save you from having it stick to the peel when you are transferring it to the stone. If having a hard time transferring, give the peel little shakes to help it move. If somehow it has stuck in a spot, run a metal spatula under that spot to help it out. In a worst case scenario when it doesn't want to budge (I have experienced when getting a little too excited and overloading the pizza with toppings, making it very heavy), get a helping hand to hold the peel and using two big spatulas, slide under the dough and transfer to stone.
Dress it Up: During the first dough mixing phase (before adding the additional flour), try throwing in some dried herbs (Italian seasoning, basil, etc.) minced garlic, or Parmesan cheese.
Change it Up: Don't have a pizza peel or baking stone? Roll out dough on a flat surface (generously sprinkled with cornmeal) and then slide onto baking sheet.
*So, random side note, I totally love Newman’s Own for a few reasons: 1) decent stuff, 2) reasonably priced, and 3) all after-tax profits are donated to charity. I think that’s awesome. If you want more info about the Newman’s Own Foundation, check it out here: http://newmansownfoundation.org/
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