The next level included buying some uncooked pizza dough at Whole Foods, attempting to make our own sauce, using fresh mozzarella, and unique toppings like pancetta. From these early trials, we learned a few things. First of all, while fresh mozzarella is great, it has a ton of moisture. Either you need to press some of the moisture out, or use the shredded low moisture stuff. Also, we learned that when you make a homemade sauce, it too has a lot of moisture, especially if you use any sort of canned tomato. So lots of moisture from the sauce + lots of moisture from the mozzarella = runny, unevenly cooked, soggy pizza.
But now we've learned better. I now make the sauce ahead of time and let it sit in a mesh strainer for about an hour before use. This allows all the tomato water to seep out, leaving only the wonderful saucy flavor. We also use a ton of basil. And finally, we make our own dough. The beauty of making your own dough is that you can cater it to your tastes - some people like saltier doughs, some like sweeter doughs, some like thin crust, some like thick. Pizza dough is pretty basic, so there's lots of room to get creative!
Here's what we like to do:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoon white sugar
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
Put yeast, warm water, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Let sit until frothy, about 10 minutes. Then add the oil, salt, and slowly mix in the flour until dough is elastic and smooth, not sticky. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and let sit for 1-2 hours in a warm dry place. Then punch the dough, knead for another 5 minutes, and roll out to desired shape/thickness. Let sit for 15 minutes, top with desired toppings, and bake until dough begins to brown.
The great thing about making your own dough is how much fun you can have! Not only can you play with the toppings (pepperoni, onions, and basil shown above), but you can also play with the dough itself! We like to sometimes mix herbs directly into the dough before baking to give the nice italian seasoning flavor all throughout. You can also spread just a little bit of the sauce on top, and make pizza bread with dipping sauce. And if you have a family, make-your-own-pizza night is always a hit! Split the dough into little balls and let everyone have a shot at making their own!