The Art of Pizza, Chapter Three: Cheese
Note: This is the third part of a series on how to make your own pizza written by our very own Kimmi. The first part, on making dough, can be found here. The second part, on making sauce, can be found here.
You can’t have a pizza without cheese. If you do, call it a tomato pie, or something. Because it’s just not pizza.
Now, I heard a lot of you discussing in the comments to Part 2 exactly how much sauce to put on a pizza. There’s only one rule here: don’t make a Fail Pizza. This variant fail pizza is defined as the sauce falling through the crust and onto your hands, causing burns. Don’t Do That. Otherwise, a pizza is like a symphony — harmonize your ingredients. A thinner crust generally wants less sauce, but a Sicilian can take as much as you’ll ever want.
Oh! But we weren’t here to talk about sauce, we were here to talk about cheese. Specifically, cheese and toppings! Now, cheese is the perfect place to do oil-based cooking… that means garlic, oregano, mexican oregano — and especially black pepper. Be creative. It’s pretty easy to tell when ingredients (basil) aren’t working well with oil-based cooking.
You can put toppings on a pizza that aren’t oil-based, but watch how long you cook ’em! Mushrooms, for example, even if cut thin, will take at least ten minutes (and often more like twenty). If you’re putting something delicate on top (basil) either add it nearly at the end, or put it mostly under the cheese (in which case, consider whether you’d have done better to put it in the sauce in the first place).
How much cheese do you put on a pizza? Well, if you want to do it “gourmet” style, you leave a bit of tomato showing through. But real pizzeria style pizza covers the entire pie. This doesn’t mean you need a lot of cheese — I generally get by with less than 4 oz. for a 10inch (two person) pizza.
What kind of cheese should you use? Mozzarella, or American-style Provalone. My favorite is Costco’s 5lb. bags of shredded. Cheap (a bit over $2/lb), convenient, and melts well. That’s the primary point of why you’re using these cheeses, after all.
Yes, if you love asiago, or half a dozen other exotic cheese, use a bit on top as flavoring. The cheese on pizza is mozzarella, anything else is a topping, and to be distributed accordingly.
Like meat on your pizza? Fine and dandy, but please, please, use a good cut of pepperoni (or better yet, season up some sausage.) There’s nothing worse than having a yellow lake of pepperoni grease all over a good pizza. Just my opinion, you understand — but if you’re going to all the trouble of making a pizza yourself — enjoy it.
If you’re going to put garlic on your pizza, chop it fine — or slice it fine. Don’t leave it as cloves, that’s way too much for one bite.
I’ll be straight with you. I don’t have a pizza stone. Yes, I know every marketeer has one, and they all swear it will make your pizza awesome. Well, I happen to think I make awesome pizza (everyone I’ve served agrees).
To make a plain pizza pie:
Put the dough on the pizza plate (cookie sheet works fine), preheat the oven to 400 degrees (I use the convection setting — I’ve done it on grill setting on my Sharp Microwave/Convection oven — folks, you can make a fabulous pizza in an apartment).
Put the dough in the oven for about 5 minutes (may get puffy, don’t worry, that’s kinda expected).
Pull it out, and then add the sauce and the cheese and any toppings.
Put it back in, and in about 10 minutes, you should have golden cheese and a fine pizza that isn’t floppy in your hands.
To make a mushroom pizza pie (or anything else that produces extreme amounts of water):
Put the entire pizza together before putting it in the oven (dough, then sauce, then cheese, then all the mushrooms cut thin and in a flat layer). Cook for about 10 minutes (until mushrooms start to shrivel). Add any additional toppings (pepper and the like, you didn’t want them just on the mushrooms did you?), and cook for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is crispy.
20 cents for the flour
5 cents combined for the salt and the yeast (buy costco yeast, or bribe a friend to do it, it is insanely cheap).
52 cents for the cheese (a bit under 4 oz).
50 cents for the sauce (alright, I’m rounding).
10 cents for garlic and spices
50 cents for the electric oven
7 cents for the gas stove (cooking the sauce)
That’s $1.94 for two people (or makes two meals if you’re dining alone).
[photo: Pepperoni Pizza Fast Food, via Wiki Commons]