A Guide To Pizza For The Novice Baker

Updated: Aug 17, 2020



As much as pizza is beloved worldwide, pizza-making can scare quite a lot of people. Pizza-making is not rocket science; it is only and only up to you to take to whatever level imaginable. But for now, let us start from the ground up. As a newbie pizza-maker myself, I want to give you a guide to probably the easiest, most delicious pizza you're ever going to have. For a very long time, I was also afraid to make my own pizza because I don't have the most sophisticated equipment either. I don't have a pizza oven, a pizza stone, or a pizza peel. But I finally got around to pizza-making, and I finally have this foolproof guide for a pizza that any amateur or inexperienced baker can whip up.

It is no classic Sicilian pizza, but I like to think that my pizza can compete with the big gun restaurants that we all love ordering from, especially during a pandemic when you are craving to pick that phone up and call the pizza place. But it is better to be safe than sorry and trust me; you're going to forget that pizza place after you eat the pizza made using my guide. And yes, the recipe in this guide demands a little bit of your patience and effort, but I am not bluffing when I say that this is one of the easiest, most delicious pizzas you're ever gonna make.

Before we move further, I am not going to tell you what a pizza is; I expect you to know what a pizza is if you're here reading this. Now, this guide will have three sections which will hopefully answer your pizza-related queries;


  • What equipment do I need?

  • What goes into a pizza?

  • What's the recipe for this damn pizza?


Equipment


Many people are discouraged from baking because they think along the lines of, "Oh, I don't own a rubber spatula." "I don't have a spring-form pan." "I don't have an electric mixer." "I don't have a wire rack." Screw all that, you need none of that for this recipe, except an oven, of course. But the most basic oven will also do, I don't have an oven, I use a microwave with a convection mode in it (that's kinda like cheating but who cares).


You need pretty standard equipment to execute this recipe, any type of oven-safe pan will do, and then you'll need some plastic wrap and two big bowls. That's it, precisely. To make it easier for you, I will list down every single utensil and equipment that I think is necessary to make this pizza.


  • An oven

  • A 10-inch shallow baking tray (or use any baking dish that you have)

  • A medium-size mixing bowl

  • A large mixing bowl

  • Cling wrap or plastic wrap

  • Cotton kitchen towel


Apart from these essentials, you will need basics like a couple of spoons, a spatula, a wire whisk, and a saucepan.



Now that you have assembled all of the equipment let us move on to the next section: the structure of a pizza.


A Pizza's Structure


Any pizza will have three fundamental building blocks that are non-negotiable: a crust, sauce, and cheese. Anything other than that is left to your imagination and creativity.

I will be giving you the recipe for my favorite version of homemade cheese pizza, but you can feel free to alter the sauces and toppings any way you like!


For this particular pizza, I like to use two types of sauce: a tomato one and a super cheesy sauce, and I top it with fresh red onions and black olives for a crunch and some flavor complexity. But you can do whatever toppings you love.


Spicy Tomato Chutney

I have nicknamed my tomato sauce as the 30-second pizza sauce, it is delicious, and literally, anyone can make it, probably even a baby. My secret ingredient is an Indian spicy tomato chutney; it is a very thick, paste-like, smokey tomato chutney with a few basic Indian spices, which I absolutely love. It adds that extra flavorful edge to this quick and easy pizza sauce. Think of it like a tomato achar, one with a paste-like consistency instead of a chunky texture. You can use any tomato achar you have, and if you have a chunky tomato achar, I bet you can even blitz it in the food processor to use it in this sauce. Moreover, I love this sauce because it gives the crust a gorgeous, glossy caramelized finish.

Caramelized Crust With The Sauce

And the cheese sauce simply calls for processed cheese and basic pantry ingredients. I love adding this one to the pizza because I love the extra gooey cheesiness.


The crust is undoubtedly the most challenging part of a pizza. It is probably one of the points that scare off anyone who wants to attempt to make a pizza. But this beginner's guide to pizza is going to rip that fear out and throw it away. I promise you that this guide will give you the easiest pizza dough and also the most beautiful and crispy crust as well. I will also teach you guys any amateur baker's favorite technique, the stretch and fold method. This method is so great for beginners and it does pretty much the same things that kneading would. We are basically developing the gluten in the dough and strengthening it without having a full-on arm workout!


Now, the dough obviously requires yeast. My pizza guide calls for instant yeast, but if you have fresh yeast or active dry yeast, I would want you to use the same quantity of yeast but add it to the water beforehand and let it get all nicely bubbly and frothy. Once the yeast is all bubbly, it is ready to be used and can be added to the flour. This should take about 10-15 minutes. But if the yeast mixture struggles to show activity, there is a chance that your yeast is expired, or your water is too hot or too cold.



You can make this pizza the same day, or you can do it the next day, no issues. This pizza-making is going to be a smooth process, and you are going to love it.



The Best Recipe For A Novice Pizza-Maker


Prep time: 70-80 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Proofing time: 3 hours or 12-72 hours


Yields: Two 10-inch diameter pizzas


INGREDIENTS (Click For Grams To Cups Converter)


For the dough:

  • 480 grams (3 ¾ cups) all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons fine salt

  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast

  • 1 ¼ teaspoon of granulated sugar

  • 340 grams (1 ½ cups) lukewarm water

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + 6 tablespoons more for the bowl and pan


For the sauces and toppings:

  • 300 grams (1 ¼ cup) grated mozzarella, grated

  • 2 medium-sized red onions, thinly sliced

  • 20-25 slices of black olives

Cheese sauce:

  • 50 grams (3 ½ tablespoons) processed cheese (Amul, Kraft, Britannia...)

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 50 grams (3 tablespoons) whole milk

  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt

  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper

Tomato sauce:

  • 100 grams (½ cup) tomato ketchup

  • 40 grams (2 ½ tablespoons) hot sauce

  • 2 teaspoons spicy tomato chutney (optional, but highly recommended)

  • 3 teaspoons dried basil and oregano


METHOD


  • Measure out the flour and put it into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast on one side of the bowl and salt on the other side, then add the sugar. Mix the dry ingredients using a wire whisk or your clean hands.

  • Now, add the water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Use a rubber spatula or your hands to form the dough; it comes together quite quickly.

  • Once you have a uniform mass of dough that looks scraggly but doesn't have dry spots, cover it with a dry and clean kitchen towel and rest for 5 minutes.

Stretch and Fold Method
  • After the 5 minutes end, dip your hand in some water and fold the dough. Place your hand at the bottom of the dough as if you were to pick it up, but instead pull it on a corner (don't tear it) and fold it over the top of the dough. Turn the bowl and repeat this on all four sides and flip it with the seam side down. Cover it with the same kitchen towel and rest it for 5 more minutes.

  • Repeat the stretch and fold process four more times with a 5-minute interval between each set of folds.

  • After you are done with all of the stretch and folds, the dough will look smooth and will have increased elasticity. Now, rest the dough covered with a kitchen towel for 40 minutes.

Dough After Stretch and Fold
  • Then, transfer the pizza dough to an oiled, large bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel.

  • If you want to eat the pizza the same day, let it rise in a warm (not hot) spot for two hours. Otherwise, pop it in the fridge for a minimum of 12 hours and a maximum of 72 hours.

  • To make the tomato sauce, add the ketchup, hot sauce, basil, and oregano to a bowl and give it a proper mix. It is an instant pizza sauce; it tastes great and is ready in less than 30 seconds! Take this time also to grate your 300 grams of cheese, there is a lot of it.

  • To make the cheese sauce, chop up your 50 grams of processed cheese and add it to a saucepan along with the 50 grams of milk, butter, ¼ teaspoon of salt, and pepper. Keep whisking it until you have a smooth, lump-free, and thickened sauce.

  • After the two hours have passed, grease two 10-inch shallow pans that are oven-safe generously with the remaining olive oil.

  • By this time, the dough should have more than doubled in size. Lightly press down on the dough to degas it and divide it into two equal portions.

  • Place each one into a pan and coat both sides of the dough with the oil on the pan.

Dimpling The Dough
  • Start dimpling the dough while stretching it lightly; it should not reach the end of the pans, leave at least a 1-inch gap between the dough and the edge of the pan.

  • "Dimpling" is a process where you 'dimple' or poke the dough with your fingers to spread it instead of rolling it. Moreover, I am asking you to leave the 1-inch gap because the dough is going to expand when in the oven, and if the raw pizza dough is spread towards the end, you are going to end up with an unnaturally giant pizza.

  • Cover the pans with damp kitchen towels and let them proof for 15 minutes and preheat your oven to 230°C.

  • We're not looking for a crazy, proofed dough that is extremely puffy or jiggly, you just want it to have spread out a little bit with a light puffiness, and you should see a few bubbles here and there.

  • Spread the tomato sauce, followed by dollops of the cheese sauce (don't spread it!), olives, onions, and the grated mozzarella cheese. Leave about half an inch of the crust uncovered from the outer side.

  • Bake your pizzas in the preheated oven at 230°C for 20-25 minutes or until you start seeing the cheese bubble and become golden on top.

  • Slide the pizzas out with the help of a thin spatula and serve them hot.




Some tips:

Many of you are probably working with a small oven and a single pan like me. So, what do you do when you cannot make two pizzas simultaneously? When it's time to divide the dough into two, place one portion in the same oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap as you work with the other part of the pizza dough. After your first pizza is ready, remove it from the bowl and repeat the same process with the second pizza dough.


Also, if you wish to use the pizza dough on a later date, wrap it tightly in two layers of plastic wrap and then in a layer of aluminum foil and freeze it. It will last for months! When you are ready to use it, put the wrapped dough in the refrigerator 24 hours before when you want to bake it. And, on the day of baking, take the dough out about 3 hours ahead of baking and let it sit in an oiled bowl covered with a damp towel. Then, continue from the step where you have to grease the pan and dimple the dough, but let it proof for at least 30 minutes instead of 15.


This last tip is actually an instruction; if you are using fresh yeast or active dry yeast, you need to bloom it in the lukewarm water. But when you do that, add the yeast mixture and olive oil separately to the dry ingredients.



I hope that was easy to understand, and hopefully, I demystified the process of pizza-making for you. Happy pizza-making, folks!


Let me know what you think in the comment section below. If you try any of my recipes, please share your experiences with me on Instagram or Facebook!




#pizza #guide #breadsandsavory


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