Like toppings?

August 06, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

Like anchovies? Throw some on. Are vegetables your thing? Top your pizza with mushrooms, spinach, peppers, olives, tomatoes and zucchini. Meat eaters can pile their pies high with sausage, ground beef, pepperoni or ham. More adventurous types might like to top their pizzas with pistachios, shellfish, Gorgonzola cheese or seasonal greens.

Just about anything goes when you make your own pizza.

For pizza pro Albert Grande, making pizza from scratch and sharing his saucy creations with family and friends is more than a culinary endeavor - it's therapy.

Grande founded the Pizza Therapy Web site at about four years ago to pay tribute to his late father. The elder Grande used the lure of his homemade pizzas to draw young Albert and his buddies home in hopes of keeping them out of trouble on the streets near their New England home, says Grande, who now lives in Hawaii.


"This Web site is a tribute to him. Our mission is to teach people to make pizza while also involving their friends and family," Grande says. "Making pizza is certainly a joy."

He shares the following tips for making great pizza:

  • Make your dough the day before and let it proof in the refrigerator overnight to enhance the dough's flavor.

  • Liberally dust your hands and your mixing surface with flour as you work the dough.

  • Try oyster mushrooms instead of white mushrooms for a flavor burst. Saut them in a little olive oil with garlic before putting them on your pizza.

  • Less is more. Use fewer toppings so you can truly enjoy the flavor of the dough.

  • Invest in a pizza stone and a pizza peel. A peel is a paddle used to slide the pizza in and out of the oven. A pizza stone, which is used to cook the pizza, will mimic a stone or brick oven, allowing the pizza to cook quickly and evenly.

    "The best pizza I have ever tasted was cooked in a brick oven," Grande says.

  • Preheat your oven to between 450 and 500 degrees at least 45 minutes to an hour before you put in your pizza. Preheat at least an hour if you're using a pizza stone. You want your pizza to cook quickly and thoroughly.

One of Grande's favorite pizza cooking methods is to grill it, he says. His Web site gives extensive directions on grilling pizza.

"I am not a purist," he says. "I think there are many ways to enjoy making your own pizza. You can even buy dough from a local bakery, pizza place or supermarket and make you own pizza. Of course, it tastes a little better when you make your own dough."

Grande uses his father's dough recipe, which calls for such simple ingredients as yeast, sugar, flour, salt, olive oil and water. He enjoys sharing his dad's recipe with others but encourages pizza makers to try a myriad of dough recipes to find the one that best suits their taste. Dough can be frozen for months before being used, but thawed dough doesn't rise quite as well as fresh dough, Grande says.

Homemade Pizza with Your Favorite Toppings

Make dough:

  • 2 packages yeast (or 4 1/2 teaspoons of yeast)

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • 4 cups of flour or more

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

Put yeast and sugar in a cup. Add 1/2 cup of water, which should be between 100 and 110 degrees. Mix well. Wait about 5 minutes for the yeast and sugar to activate. In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, salt, olive oil, 1 cup of warm water and the yeast mixture. Mix with a fork to get all the liquid absorbed by the flour. Place a handful of flour on a pastry board or mixing surface. Dust your hands and spread out the flour. Empty the contents of the bowl on to the flour. Knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes or until the texture is smooth and uniform. If the dough seems a little sticky, add a little more flour. Place the dough in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Place bowl in draft-free area and cover with a cloth. Let the dough rise for about an hour. Punch down the dough and wait about 45 minutes. Your dough is now ready.

Makes two large pizzas or four smaller pizzas.

Assemble pizza:

Cut the dough in half. Dust a rolling pin with flour and gently roll out dough on a floured pastry board until it is the desired shape. Keep using flour, as needed so the dough won't stick. Dust a cookie sheet with cornmeal. Use a spatula and slide the dough onto the cookie sheet or preheated baking stone. If you have a peel - a shovel-like baking tool used for sliding bread in and out of ovens - assemble the pizza right on the peel dusted with cornmeal. Then use the peel to place the pizza on the stone or cookie sheet. (If the pizza is sticky and won't slide easily, slide some dental floss under the dough.)

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