There’s nothing especially tricky about making pizza at home. If you can make a bread dough, you can make a pizza dough. While it takes practice to make perfectly shaped pizzas consistently, even the lumpiest, most pear-shaped pizza has its charm (and tastes good). If you absolutely can’t get the hang of shaping pizzas by hand, you can always roll them out with a rolling pin and accept the somewhat denser crust that results.

The recipe for pizza dough here makes enough for 4 small pizzas, which may be more than you need. The extra dough makes great breadsticks, or you can shape it into a round or oval loaf of pane all’olio (olive oil bread).

A few special tools are helpful to home pizza cooks though not essential. All of them are also useful for baking rustic breads. A pizza stone, a large flat square or circle of unglazed ceramic, turns the bottom shelf of an oven into something like the brick floor of traditional pizza ovens, and makes an especially crisp crust. I use a square of four 6-inch unglazed quarry tiles, which are available and cheap at any tile shop and most building-supply stores, but this limits me to 11-inch pizzas. A baker’s peel, a big flat hardwood paddle with a narrow edge, is handy for assembling the pizza and sliding it onto the stone (but not for getting it out again, which will scrape up and burn your peel in short order). Lacking a peel, you can use a rimless cookie sheet for the same purpose. I draw the line at a pizza spatula, which is essentially a metal version of the peel used for getting pizzas and breads out of the oven; the same large offset spatula I use for grilled fish fillets works fine.

If you don’t have all this stuff, you can still make delicious pizzas on an ordinary baking sheet, set on the lowest rack of the oven to get the most heat underneath.

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From The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook, Copyright © 2002 by Jay Harlow. Used by arrangement with Jay Harlow.

 Photo: fritish/Flickr

Pizza Tools and Techniques
Intimidated by homemade pizza-making? Don't bust out the frozen pies just yet.