Pizza generally consists of a crust covered in sauce, layered with toppings and finally with a layer of cheese on top.
A pizza's crust can be made using almost any dough or bread recipe. White flour is commonly used for a soft crust that won't crumble, which is usually considered desirable. Whole wheat flour can be used to make a firmer crust. Cake flour can be useful if a crumbly crust is desired. Other common ingredients in crusts include Olive oil (usually extra virgin), active dry yeast, sugar, and salt. Less often crusts will include ingredients like malt-syrup, vital wheat gluten, and various dough activators to help the yeast ferment and the crust to brown while baking. What type of crust to use is matter of taste.
There are several types of pizza crust that are constructed differently and have (sometimes) wildly different textures, though the taste remains fairly consistent. The most common styles are Neapolitan, thin, New York-style, deep dish, Sicilian, and pan pizza crust.
There are many different techniques for preparing dough, most largely dependent on the type of crust you've decided to make. Because pizza crusts almost always contain yeast they must be allowed to rise at least once, though some recipes recommend improving the flavor and texture of the dough by allowing the crust to rise 2 separate times. Higher quality recipes also often recommend that you deflate the dough after the first rise and refrigerate it overnight to help improve its flavor and texture. Depending on the recipe dough docking or pre-baking might be necessary as well.
A simple sauce consists of tomato paste, basil, and oregano. Using tomato puree will give a runny sauce that must be spread thinly to prevent the cheese and toppings from sliding off. Diced, dried, or crushed tomatoes may be added for extra flavor and texture. A tiny bit of anise or fennel can make the sauce more interesting. Onions, pepper, peppers, garlic, and sugar are often used as well. Spices are more flavorful when ground right before use; a bit of salt is helpful when grinding.
- a pair of sauce recipes
- (another sauce recipe belongs here; the one above should be split)
Commercial pizzerias almost always use a blend of various cheeses, the most common of which are mozzarella, Parmesan, and Romano.
Toppings go on top. Put plenty of topping near the edges to protect the cheese from burning there. A pizza without toppings will cook much faster than one with toppings.
Pizzas are typically baked directly on special surfaces for short periods at temperatures in excess of 500 degrees F (260 degrees C).
Coal and brick ovens are preferred for baking pizza because of their even heat and superior heat-retention. Some pizzerias prefer to use a wire-mesh pan though, as working with pizza peels can be difficult for some.
Home bakers can attempt to duplicate the effects of a brick oven by using a baking stone (also called a pizza stone), a slab of porous stone that evenly heats the pizza and leeches moisture away from the dough, helping it develop a better crust. Baking/pizza stones become "seasoned" after frequent use, a characteristic that is said to improve the flavor of crusts baked on them.