Ladies and gentlemen... last night, I created what may the kitchen accomplishment of which I am most proud of in my entire life. I made homemade pizza, from scratch.
Yes, scratch. Everything (except the cheese & pepperoni, I suppose) was made from basic raw ingredients.
Beginning with the dough/crust, I started from a recipe I found in Fine Cooking (here: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/pizza-dough.aspx). The recipe is very simple and many people have told me that pizza dough is quite forgiving, but I was very keen to start out right. This recipe did go mostly according to plan... I got nervous and added more water at one point which was probably not a good idea; I had to compensate with more flour.
The sauce was the next key question - in that case, I decided to use the awesome pasta sauce I found a few months back which consists of butter-roasted tomatoes with garlic and diced anchovies. Here's the script for that one: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/bucatini-with-butter-roasted-tomato-sauce
Both of those were done the night before, so the dough could rise and the sauce could cool and saturate. I was concerned about the thinness of the sauce because it really is more suited to pasta, but that didn't seem to be a problem in this first attempt.
My basic guide to the making of the pizza itself was this: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/classic-margherita-pizza.aspx, though we only loosely followed the topping instructions. On the night of, we pulled together some basic toppings - fresh mozzarella (you know, in the ball), green and red peppers, onion, and pepperoni. I would have liked some nice pepperoni but what the generic stuff we got was fine.
Shaping the dough into little pizzas is harder than you'd think! You feel very authentic Italian in rotating it around on the back of your hands - if you try this, follow the instructions in that recipe closely (especially the part about separating the dough out into little balls and THEN letting it sit for two hours to warm up - I missed that part and I think it would have helped).
Cooking these suckers also presented a challenge - I don't have a "pizza stone" as they say in the recipe so I went with the back of a cookie sheet, per suggestion. A rimless cookie sheet might be better if you have one, and as it turns out pizza stones aren't too expensive so I might look into one of those. You have to slide the pizza off your work surface and onto the hot (max oven temperature) cooking surface, which is hot and exciting and can be messy.
My biggest mistake was, on the second pizza, that the work surface was not floured well enough for it to slide once it was made heavy by all the toppings. This presents a major challenge - how do you get it off the surface? It's not strong enough to hold together if you just try to lift it up, and it's too sticky to use an implement to get under it. In the end, pizza #2 had a different fate, which I will speak of in more detail in another post.
Once we got them in the oven though - everything went great. The dough rose REMARKABLY - the recipe suggests you try to make it paper-thin on the part where you're putting the toppings. I thought that was hyperbole, but it really isn't - that middle part will still puff up nicely even when it's super then.
The end result - some incredibly delicious, albeit oddly shaped, completely home made pizzas! The deliciousness was comparable to any delivered or frozen pizza I've ever had, and of course the fat and preservative content was much lower. It was extremely satisfying to eat something so good that I also knew had maybe 10-15 raw ingredients, total, that I'd bought myself, and can pronounce the names of.
I'll absolutely be trying this again and trying to get a bit better at it. The greatest challenge will be trying not to do it too often or else I'll be carrying around 100lbs of pizza on me! If you feel adventurous, please give it a try and let me know how it goes!