DIY Gourmet Pizza: Cheaper than Take Out

If you’re good at starting something, forgetting about it, coming back to it hours later, then homemade pizzas are just the best. They’re so affordable to make, and you can put ingredients on you want on them. Best of all, you can make two pizzas with one batch, and freeze one for those days you’re broke and don’t feel like cooking. Depending on your ingredients, your homemade pizza can cost less than those frozen, cardboard flavoured things you find in the frozen food section of the grocery.

Does it take long? Not really. To be honest, if you start the dough in the morning, or leave it overnight to be rolled out and baked the next day, it’s not too bad. The dough takes about an hour to rise and be rolled out.

Do you need special equipment? Nope. You don’t really need a speed mixer or a food processor, but if you have one – great! It does cut down some of the time mixing the flour and yeast, if that’s an issue. For this experiment, I just used my stand mixer to blend the dough at the beginning.  As for rolling, I didn’t even have a proper rolling pin. I used an empty wine bottle.

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As you can see, rolling pins are optional. 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon quick-rising instant dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, yeast and salt) together in a bowl, and pour it all out onto a counter. Make a well in the center, so you have what should remind you of a high school volcano diorama.

Next, run your hot water tap and fill your measuring cup until its 1/2 full: Make sure it’s just a little warmer than room temperature, but if you’re that worried, use a thermometer: It should be 120 F or 50 degrees Celcius. Add the oil, and pour this mix into the hole of your volcano. Instant lava!

Now, here comes the fun part. If you were the kid who loved playing with plasticene in kindergarten, you get to relieve your youth again. Start mashing the sides of the flour-volcano towards the centre of the lava pit, and start kneading. Knead it for at least eight minutes straight, or through the duration of three songs from your favourite album. You really can’t over-knead the dough at this stag.e

If you doubt your stamina or your strength, it’s okay to use a food processor with the pastry blade if you have one, or the dough hook on a stand mixer. The proportions of the dough remain the same.

The first stage of kneading will yield a ropey and raggedy dough, but that’s okay. It’s all part of the plan.

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The first stage of kneading: It doesn’t look like it now, but this will become a nice, smooth ball of dough.

You can put it in a greased bowl, and cover it in plastic wrap, or just cover it with a large bowl. Put this in a draft-free place and forget about it. Clean up a bit. Vacuum your home. Run an errand or two. Call a friend and invite them over for custom made pizza. The rising stage should last an hour: check it to see if it’s doubled in size.

Cut the dough ball in half. You now have the choice of the following:

  1. Wrap the dough balls in plastic wrap. Put the frozen balls of dough in the freezer for thawing and rolling out later.
  2. Keep the plastic wrapped dough balls in the fridge if you want to bake pizzas within the next 24-48 hours.
  3. Roll out the dough – without the plastic wrap, of course – and dress them.

I’ve rolled out the dough of one of the balls for immediate use. I decided to partially bake the other. By baking it halfway, it means the dough is slightly raw, and perfect for cooling and freezing. When you put the frozen (half-baked) pizza in the oven, it thaws and bakes perfectly, just like a store bought frozen pizza. Except this version tastes good.

Sprinkle two 12 inch pans with flour or cornmeal, if you want a crunchy crust. Put the flattened round of dough down, and start topping it any way you want.

I added the following toppings to mine:

  • Pesto, brushed over the top of the dough
  • Kalamata olives
  • Slices of spicy pepperoni
  • Sliced mushrooms

My significant other, Dominic put three kinds of meat on his

  • Tomato paste to coat the dough
  • Dried oregano, thyme and marjoram (to give the flavourless tomato paste some “oomph”)
  • Spicy pepperoni slices
  • Half cooked bacon (it would burn if placed fully cooked on top of the pizza)
  • Salami

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees Farenheit. Here’s the trick to getting the cheese all ooey and gooey: Put add the cheese after you take it out of the oven. Really. Don’t put it on the raw pizza, it will overcook and get crusty. If you like crunchy brown mozzarella, then go ahead, but trust me, half the joy of a good pizza is the way the cheese melts into soft strings as you pull a slice away.

So: Put your veg, meat or other toppings (pineapple? Anchovies? Sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions?) on the pizza and bake the whole thing in the bottom third of your oven, for about 10 minutes. My oven was slow, so this process was 15 minutes. It needed another minute in the oven after I added shredded mozzarella.

trust me, half the joy of a good pizza is the way the cheese melts into soft strings as you pull a slice away.

Result: Two pizzas. The flour was approximately 50 cents, and the most expensive part of the toppings were the meat slices. We bought an immense brick of cheese that was on sale for $5.00, and we only used a third of it. In all, both pizzas cost about $6.00, and yielded four slices each. That makes it $3.00 per meal since we each ate two slices for dinner, and had the other two for lunch the next day.

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If I were going to make frozen pizza, I would still bake them in the bottom third rack of the oven at 500 Farenheit, but for only 5-7 minutes. Let them cool, then wrap in plastic, or use a re-sealable frozen food bag.Add the cheese and follow the same rules for cooking. The only difference is that with the par-cooked pizzas, you can put those directly on the oven rack as it cooks.

Here are some other recommendations for pizza toppings:

  • Shrimp
  • Caramelized garlic
  • Seared scallops and béchamel sauce
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Red onion rings
  • Green peppers
  • Grilled zucchini
  • Hot peppers
  • Feta cheese
  • Smoked cheese, like Applewoods smoked cheddar, or smoked Gouda
  • Smoked meat (Pastrami, if you’re American)
  • Marinated, grilled tofu

The options are endless.

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