After much contemplating, I decided to make pizza as the first Budget Bytes meal in my new home. I know it sounds cheesy, but pizza really is my favorite food. It has endless possibilities and usually includes my favorite things: bread, tomatoes and cheese.
I’ve made a few pizzas for Budget Bytes already but I used pre-made pizza dough to save time. One ball of the pre-made dough cost me $2.79… now that I’ve actually crunched the numbers and figured out how much it costs to make that same ball of dough, I’m kinda kicking myself. Yeah, I knew it would be less expensive to make my own but… wow, less than 50 cents?!
Sure, it takes a little bit of work (my triceps are sore from kneading three batches during my recipe experimentation) but you can make a few batches at a time and freeze it for later use. Plus, all of the sweat inducing kneading will make you feel less guilty about eating the pizza later!
The recipe that I finally went with was the most basic (from Alton Brown) and is very close to what I used when I worked in the pizza world. Basically, all you do is combine yeast, sugar, water, flour salt and olive oil. That’s it. If you want you can use some whole wheat flour, high-gluten or bread flour or mix in some herbs like garlic or basil. This recipe begs for experimentation.
The kneading process may take a little practice but if you mess it up all you’ve lost is 37 cents and burned a few calories. Not a bad deal. So lets get to it!
- 1 tsp yeast $0.11
- 1 Tbsp sugar $0.01
- ¾ cups warm water $0.00
- 2 – 2½ cups flour $0.15
- 1½ tsp salt $0.05
- 1 Tbsp olive oil $0.05
- Combine the yeast, sugar and warm water in a bowl. Stir well to dissolve the yeast and sugar. Let sit for 3-5 minutes to let the yeast bloom (or “wake up”). You’ll see foam on top when it’s awake and ready to go.
- While you’re waiting for the yeast, combine 2 cups of the flour and salt in a large bowl. Stir well to evenly distribute the salt. Add the olive oil (it will get sired/mixed in during kneading). The remaining half cup of flower was an allowance for what might be needed during kneading. In actuality, you probably won’t use a whole half cup.
- Once the yeast water is foamy on top (see photos below) stir it into the flour mixture. Stir it with a spoon until it forms a loose ball. Turn it out onto a counter and begin to knead the dough. Knead well for 10 minutes. Sprinkle flour on the countertop sparingly as you knead. If you add too much flour the dough will end up dense (more like a bagel) rather than light like a pizza dough. I found that as long as I kept my hands and the dough moving quickly, it did not stick and did not need more flour. If you have never kneaded dough before, watch this video for help.
- At this point you have three options: use the dough tonight (one hour after kneading), use it tomorrow (allowing it to rise in the refrigerator over night) or within a month (freezing the dough).
- To use the dough the same day, form the kneaded dough into a ball (or cut and form into four small balls for individual pizzas). Spray a bowl with non stick spray, place the dough inside and turn it to coat with oil. Cover the bowl loosely and let it rise in a warm place for one hour. After it has risen, punch it down to release some gasses and stretch it into a 16″ round.
- Many people say that the dough develops a better flavor if allowed to proof (rise) slowly over a day or so, either in the refrigerator. Every pizza establishment that I have worked at also made their dough at least one day ahead of time. Form the dough into a ball and coat with oil the same way as in step 4a but place the dough in the refrigerator. The dough can be used up 8-24 hours later.
- You can also freeze the dough. After forming it into a ball (or multiple smaller balls) coat it with oil, wrap tightly in plastic wrap then place in a freezer bag. When you are ready to use the dough, simply place it on the counter for one hour prior to use. The dough should be at room temperature before you begin to stretch it into shape.
- Once you stretch the dough into shape, place it on a perforated pizza pan coated with non-stick spray and a light dusting of cornmeal. Bake in a preheated (completely preheated, no short cuts here) oven at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are brown and crispy. Making sure the oven is well heated before hand will ensure that the bottom cooks and gets nice and crispy.
Step By Step Photos
Yeast purchased in a jar is a much better value than the individual packets. Keep the jar in the refrigerator and it should stay good for at least a year.
Place the yeast and sugar together in a small bowl.
Pour in 3/4 cup of warm water.
Stir it well to dissolve the yeast and sugar. Make sure no clumps of yeast are stuck to the bottom… it gets really sticky when wet.
Let it sit for 3-5 minutes so that it wakes up and starts to munch on all of that sugar. When it eats the sugar, it produces gases and will form a foam on top (this is also what makes the bread rise).
While the yeast is doing its thing, combine the flour and salt. Stir them well so the salt is evenly distributed. Add the olive oil then the foamy yeast mixture.
Mix the dough with a spoon until it is just combined. Turn the mixture out onto a clean surface and begin to knead. Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Add flour if needed but try not to add too much during the kneading process or you’ll end up with a dry, tough dough.
After you have kneaded it for 10 minutes, form it into a ball. It should be nice and smooth. At this point you can either let it rise and use it an hour later, refrigerate it and use it tomorrow or freeze it and use it within a month!
I made mine the night before but if I had let it sit on the counter for an hour it would look like this too. Punch it down to release some of the gasses, pull it out of the bowl and press it down into a circular shape. Stretch the dough until it reaches a 16″ round.
This is actually 1/3 of the dough stretched into a 10 inch circle. For individual portions, dividing the dough into 4 to make 6-8 inch pizzas would probably be best. This was a tad large for a single portion. Place the dough on a pizza pan with non-stick spray and a light dusting of cornmeal. Finish it off with your favorite toppings.
Bake the pizza in an oven that has been fully preheated to 450 degrees (I know you want to put it in before it’s done preheating BUT DON’T). Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the edges are nicely browned and crispy.
See how nice and crispy the bottom got? That is pizza success.
NOTE: I don’t have a pizza stone despite the fact that they really do make a HUGE difference in how the pizza bakes. I just think it’s a rip off to pay $30 for a piece of stone. BUT, while I was doing recipe research for this post, I got a little tip from the wonderful Mr. Alton Brown. In his pizza episode he disclosed that he just uses a 12″ x 12″ piece of unglazed quarry tile which can be purchased for about 99 cents. I will definitely be checking into that!
A couple of weeks ago I also stumbled upon a link to a site that describes how an upside down cast iron skillet can also be used as a pizza stone. If you aren’t a fan of my facebook page and missed it, here is the link.
Happy pizza making everyone!