Unrepentant pizza diehards have been known to experiment over and over again with recipes, tweaking ingredients and process until they get a recipe that’s just right. While there’s no replacement for experimentation at home – it’s a great way to get to know the how and why of baking, and the effect that tinkering with one variable can have on the resulting pizza – these tips should provide some inspiration.
Use a Pizza Stone: One of the simplest things you can do to improve your pizza at home is to invest in a pizza stone. These range in price from $10 to $60+, with quality, durability and ease of cleaning all a factor in the cost. It’s important to preheat the pizza stone in the oven so that the dough gets the full benefit of the stone’s even, instant heat. Even frozen grocery store pizzas can benefit from being cooked on a pizza stone.
Make Your Own Dough: It’s simple, there are very few ingredients, and the flavour and texture is hard to beat. Because you’re not buying a pre-made crust, you can play with how thick or thin your crust is, be it pillowy deep-dish or thin as a traditional wood-fired pie. You can also make plenty of dough at once, then freeze it for later use. Pull it out of the freezer the night before, pop it into the fridge, and by the time you’re home from work, you can press it into a pan, top it, and pop it in the oven for a speedy supper.
Oven Temperature: Hotter is better when baking pizza, especially if you’re working with a more traditional thin-crust pizza. Experiment with baking times and temperatures a bit, and see what happens. Thicker crusts won’t work as well in high heat, as the outside will cook faster than the inside, leading to a crunchy, golden exterior, and a doughy, undercooked centre.
Cornmeal on the Pizza Stone: It’s a natural non-stick technique. Just sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on the stone before sliding your pizza onto it, and your pizza will be much easier to remove once it’s done baking.
Small is the New Big: Individual pizzas are easy to bake on a pizza stone, easy to cut and serve, and a great choice when the family members you’re feeding have wildly different opinions on acceptable toppings.
Beyond Tomato Sauce: It’s the classic, yes, but there are many other options to consider as a base for your pizza. Think cream sauces, salsa, barbecue sauce (especially on a barbecue chicken pizza), and even chutney.
Cheesy Does It: The go-to pizza cheese is mozzarella, but other cheeses are every bit as good. Try brie, blue cheese, Manchego, provolone, Monterey Jack – all add different flavours to a pizza. Change the cheese on your favourite pizza and you change the whole experience.
Raid the Leftovers for New Ideas: Got some spare red peppers? Leftover jerk chicken? Half a block of smoked gouda? It’s a great way to get out of a topping rut.
Additions After Baking: Once the pizza comes out of the oven, it isn’t necessarily done. Toss on some fresh herbs, fresh tomatoes, parmesan or cracked peppers. The residual heat will partially cook fresh herbs, bringing their flavour to the pizza without losing some of their more delicate flavours and aromas.