Sometimes I set goals, and they take longer to accomplish than I intended. Three years ago I wrote about 5 cooking techniques I wanted to learn in 2011. One of them was how to make a decent pizza crust. I am finally on my way.

I was sent the cookbook “Kitchen Workshop Pizza: Hands-on Cooking Lessons for Making Amazing Pizza at Home” by Ruth Gresser to check out, and if the pizza I made last weekend is any indiciation, this book will help me accomplish all my homemade pizza making goals (with the exception of getting a brick, wood-fired pizza oven built in my back yard).

Gresser is the owner of Pizzeria Paradiso in Washington, D.C. The book includes the recipe for Pizzeria Paradiso’s signature dough, plus recipes for New York style dough (she acknowldeges that there is quite a controversy over what exactly defines New York style) and Neapolitan style dough. Other dough recipes include gluten-free, whole wheat, multigrain and deep dish.

There are several sauce recipes, too, including a Winter Tomato Sauce to be used on the Paradiso dough and a Slow-Cooked American Pizza Sauce for the New York dough, although you are of course free to use whatever sauce on whatever crust you please.

These dough and sauce recipes are included in Level 1 of the book, and I would be happy with just these basics to help take my pizza making up a notch. There’s much more in the book, though. Level 2 has recipes for Itlaian standard pizzas – Margherita, Marinara, and more. Leve 3 includes seven pizzas from Paradiso’s menu. From there the book goes on to give recipes for creative sauces for pizza like black bean sauce or ricotta cheese spread, what types of proteins, vegetables and even fruits work well on pizzas.

I started last weekend with the New York style dough and the Slow-Cooked American Pizza Sauce. Every one at the table agreed; it was the best pizza I ever made at home. I kept it simple. Dough, sauce and mozzarella on one of the pizzas I made. I addeed onions and red bell pepper as toppings to the other pizza.

The New York style dough was simple to make in my stand mixer. The book suggested weighing the ingredients instead of measuring them, so I did. The results were fantastic. I made the dough on Friday night and after the first rise, put it in the refrigerator to rise until the next evening. For a quicker, same day rise, you could leave it out at (a warm) room temperature and the dough would be ready in about 3-4 hours.

I made the sauce (pictured above) the night before, too, although it could be made the day of, also. It smelled heavenly while it was cooking. It was a very good sauce, but I think next time, I’ll let it cook longer than recommended to make it a bit thicker.

It’s very difficult to get a pizzeria quality pizza from a regular oven, even when using a pizza stone like I did. I did get closer than I’ve ever gotten before with this dough and sauce. The recipe made enough dough for two pizzas. It rolled out easily and could have easily made two 12-inch pizzas. My stone is only 10 inches, so I made it fit the stones. I think I’ll be buying a larger stone (and maybe a pizza peel) because this pizza was so good, and I know I’ll be making it regularly. And, I’ll be tryng other dough recipes and topping combinations from the book, too.

Before Gresser gets into any recipes, she goes over “the what and how of making pizza.” She recommends what equipment you’ll need, what methods you’ll want to master – including stretching the dough (very helpful) – and choosing good ingredients. Her suggestions made a marked improvement in my pizza making skills after the first try.

I estimate I spent about $14 to make two pizzas that fed four people. Next time will be less expensive because I have plenty of yeast and flour leftover. Also, there was enough sauce leftover to freeze for two more pizzas.

I’m looking forward to my next pizza making experience from “Kitchen Workshop Pizza.” I think next I’ll try Pizza Margherita using the Neopolitan dough. At some point, when I want to be totally decadent, I’ll make the pizza with ricotta cheese spread and wild mushrooms, onions and garlic. 

Also on MNN

The opinions expressed by MNN Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of MNN.com. While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, MNN is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.