Perfecting pizza

When I was a kid, "homemade pizza" meant buying pre-packaged, pre-cooked pizza crusts at the grocery store, picking our own toppings, and assembling the pizza ourselves. This was lots of fun, I'll admit.

As I started cooking for myself, I saw how expensive these crusts were, and looked for other options. We used the pizza crust "Just Add Water!" mixes for a while, but found them sub-par. Frozen pizza still tasted better than the bready crusts that the mixes made.

As I started to tackle yeast breads, I tried making crusts from scratch, kneading and waiting for them to rise and even making bigger batches and freezing the dough in crust-sized balls in hopes of making the process a little bit more convenient. I still wasn't 100% happy with the recipe, and to this day try to tweak it. I feel like I've gotten to the point that my crusts are as good as a marginal pizza place and better than frozen. I'm getting there. On the upside, making pizza at home costs way, way, way less than ordering out. Here's what I did tonight to make my best pizza crust yet:

Pizza Crust, modified from Crystal's recipe
1 Tbsp yeast
1 C warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp oil
1 C whole wheat flour
1.5 C white flour (plus more for dusting the counter while kneading)

Combine yeast, water and sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Let sit until the yeast is "activated"- a few minutes. Add salt, oil, and flour, and stir to combine.

When the dough comes together, turn it out onto a floured surface. Knead for 10 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl and let rise 1 hour. While it's rising, preheat the oven to 450. Punch down the dough when it's done rising.

At this point, you can make one BIG pizza or two smaller pizzas (or one smaller pizza, with one dough ball leftover to freeze for later) The big pizza will be 14 or more inches across. If you're making two pizzas, cut the dough in two right now.

Press the dough ball into a circle on a pizza stone. Brush with olive oil. Bake the crust for 8 minutes, and remove from the oven. Deflate any bubbles that popped up by poking them with a fork. Top the pizza as desired. (The above pizza is 1/2 pizza sauce-cheese-pepperoni, 1/2 cheese-tomato-basil) Bake for another 12-15 minutes, until cheese starts to brown.
Notes: Parbaking the crust tonight worked better than topping the pizza before it went in the oven- when I've put ingredients on the raw dough, the dough in the middle of the pizza stays soggy. This pizza had a more-crunchy crust, and that was a welcomed change. Also, I've overdone the whole wheat flour before, which results in the crust not rising much. Here, the whole wheat flour was about 40%, and it worked well.

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