Gourmet Pizza at Home - This time... "Italian Sausage and Cheese Pizza"
Well, maybe calling it "gourmet" is a bit of a stretch, but this is DARN good pizza and I make it a home! I've been making homemade pizza for nealy 20 years... since my sister gave me a bread machine for Christmas. The bread machine had a "dough" setting and my sister also sent along a great bread book with a basic pizza crust recipe. The old bread machine has come and gone. My newer "Sunbeam" brand bread machine from WalMart (cost about $44.00 a few years back) also has a "dough" setting. I was not happy with my homemade pizza for many years. I made the pizza on cookie sheets and I even tried a pizza stone but the crust was never what I hoped for. I was about to throw out my pizza stone several months ago but, before I did, I went back to the drawing board. The result was this recipe for two thin crust pizzas. Pizza at home is a bit of work, so I do all of the work once and essentially make kits for two pizzas so we can have pizza two times in one week. I am intending for this to be a post about how I make a good pizza at home... more about technique than a specific recipe.
For this recipe, I use a bread machine (to make the dough) and I use a pizza stone to bake the pizza.
If I only use my bread machine for pizza dough and if I only use my pizza stone to make pizza, both are worthwhile investments. The pizza is that good!
Of course, lots of folks also use stand mixers with a dough hook to make pizza crust. Do whatever you prefer for the pizza dough. This is more of a post about my technique using the pizza stone...
Bread Machine Pizza Crust (makes 2 large, thin pizza crusts)
1 cup warm water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons yeast (I use Fleishman's bread machine yeast; keep in in the fridge)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Place ingredients in the bread machine in the order listed. I put the yeast on top of the flour and I put the salt, yeast, sugar, and oil, in the corners. Set to "dough" setting and start (according to your bread machine's instructions. My dough cycle takes 1 1/2 hours.
Toppings: Of course, you can use whatever toppings you like. We routinely make pizza with sausage and cheese. (I have some other recipes; I'll post about them another day). For sauce, I used jarred pasta sauce. Our favorite is Bertolli Brand Tomato and Basil which comes in a 24 ounce jar. I use a generous cup of sauce on each pizza so we nearly use 1 jar for two pizzas. For sausage, we use 1 to 1 1/4 pound packages of Johnsonville brand Italian Sausage (hot, sweet, or mild... you can't go wrong; they are all good). I also use pre-shredded mozarella cheese. Additionally, I use dried Italian herbs, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper flakes.
One of the tricks to making pizza at home is allowing the dough to rest for at least 20 minutes. When the dough is done kneading and resting/rising in the bread machine, I turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide the dough in half.
If I am not making pizza right away, I dust each ball of dough with a little flour and place each ball into a gallon sized zip closure plastic bag. The dough will continue to rise in the refrigerator so a big bag (or container) is necessary. When I am ready to make the pizza, it's important to let the dough come up to room temperature. I get the dough out of the fridge an hour or two before I want to make pizza.
If I am making pizza right away, I let the dough rest for at least 20 to 30 minutes while I preheat the oven and prepare/assemble the other ingredients. Often I make one pizza right away and put the remaining dough in the refrigerator for use later in the week.
Ready to make pizza? Let's go!
- Move your oven rack to the highest position available.
- Place your pizza stone in the oven on the top rack.
- Preheat your oven and pizza stone to 485 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Assemble all of you ingredients and have them ready; you want to work rather quickly once the dough hits the hot, hot, hot pizza stone.
Here you can see I have my grated mozzarella cheese, jarred tomato sauce, seasonings (garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, and dried Italian herbs), and also some cooked, crumbled pork Italian sausage, draining on some paper towel. (Note: if your sauce has been refrigerated, warm it up for about a minute in the microwave).
I have my pizza crust rolled out into a sort of round shape about the size of my pizza stone. I used a little flour on my sheet pan and rolling pin to keep it from sticking. You can also put a little cornmeal under the dough.
Oh, here's a close up of those ingredients...
Once your pizza stone and oven are preheated to 485 degrees, put your smokin' hot pizza stone on the
counter top every hot pad you own to protect your counter top. Carefully put the dough on the pizza stone... shape the dough a little if you need to but it pretty much starts to cook the second you put the dough on the stone so you don't have a lot of time to mess with it. Top the pizza with the sauce, ground sausage, cheese, and generously sprinkle garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, and dried Italian herbs over the entire pizza. If I am adding other ingredients such as finely sliced red onion or bell pepper, I put them on top of the cheese. Quickly and carefully get this pie in the oven.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. I like it a bit on the crispy side. Just keep an eye on it after 10 minutes. A lot can happen in 1 minute in an oven cranked up to 485 degrees.
Carefully slide the pizza back onto the sheet pan, slice, and enjoy!
One pizza down; one to go. Here I have a ball of dough and the remaining sauce, cheese, and cooked/crumbled sausage ready for pizza another day later in the week.
I try to use up the dough within 2 or 3 days.