Pizza. It's seen you through your best and worst times. It was there during your first relationship and the subsequent dumping. It got you through college, and maybe even your twenties. Domino's phone number is programmed in your speed dial, and though you won't admit it out loud, you love pizza, you really do.
So what do you do when it's three o' clock in the morning and you need it bad, but your favorite takeout place is closed? You can make it at home, you reason. You have cheese, you have sauce, you can throw together toppings... but what about the dough?!
Let's be real for a second: I have no need to knead and if I can keep my fingers out of the flour jar, great. Besides, doesn't a good crust require yeast and resting and all that? No thanks.
I have great news for you. You can make pizza in your own home using ingredients you most likely already have, in less than fifteen minutes from start to finish (excluding deep dish, which is about thirty, but so worth the wait).
Your pizza is your blank canvas. Besides the crust, which we'll get to, you'll need your favorite toppings and good cheese, preferably mozzarella (if you're a real champ, smoked mozzarella, dairy's greatest gift to humanity).
You'll also need a decent tomato base. Pizza purists know that sauce can make or break a pizza, but for these easy hacks, a decent store-bought marinara will suffice, especially if you know how to make it taste better. You can also opt for good-quality tomato paste—yup, that thick stuff that comes in small cans.
There is no rule of thumb here. Any flat form of bread can morph into a substantial pizza crust. It's not uncommon to have english muffin pizzas or crescent roll pizza, but I personally never have those items lying around. What I do tend to have on hand fairly often are four bread-type products that work wonderfully as pizza crusts. So without further ado...
Yup, good old-fashioned bread. Now, you could just dump all your pizza ingredients onto this puppy, slide it into a toaster oven, and call it a day, but you can elevate this slice of bread by turning it into a crunchy pizza roll-up.
Start by using a rolling pin to flatten the slice of bread. If you don't have a rolling pin, place a clean paper towel on the slice and use a bottle to roll it out. It should end up like this:
Smear a thin layer of tomato sauce, cheese, and whatever toppings you desire.
It's important not to overload the bread with too much stuff, because we're about to do something wild to this bread-pizza.
Say what? Yup, we rolled that baby. Looks good, doesn't it? But the fun is just about to start. Heat a little bit of olive oil or butter in a non-stick frying pan, and when the oil is hot, place the roll into the pan, like so:
Brown it evenly on all sides until the cheese begins to melt. Once it's done, you're free to consume it whole as is, or you can turn it into pizza-roll-sushi by cutting it into slices.
How easy was that?
If you've ever had Domino's thin crust pizza, you'll know what I'm talking about when I say the crust is the consistency of a divine cracker. It's so thin you almost can't believe it could hold any toppings, but it can and does, and you can do it, too.
The best crackers to use for this hack are matzo because they're fairly large, but if you can find any other sheet-type crackers, they should work just as well.
For this hack, it's best to use tomato paste rather than a very liquidy sauce because you don't want to get your crackers too moist. Start by spreading a thin layer of tomato paste, salt, and a drizzle of olive oil on your cracker.
Next, lay out your toppings. Since this is a simple, light snack, I think the cracker pizza is best served with minimal toppings. Instead of overloading it with a lot of stuff, choose a few good quality ingredients. This would be a good time to try out that smoked mozzarella I mentioned earlier.
Place this directly on the oven rack (preheated to 450°F/232°C degrees) for about seven minutes. You'll know it's ready when the cheese is bubbling and almost browning.
The pita or flatbread pizza is very similar to the cracker pizza, and the humble pita is quickly becoming a staple in many households. This is probably the easiest of the four crust hacks, and one that is a common weeknight dinner in my house.
Similar to the cracker pizza, you want to go with a few good ingredients so as to not overload the bread. I used the same ingredients as I did for the cracker pizza, and, similarly, it cooks for about seven to ten minutes in an oven preheated to 450°F/232°C.
Be sure to place it directly on the rack, and if you're smarter than I am, you'll remember to place a cookie sheet or a layer of aluminum foil on the rack below to catch any cheese drips.
In my opinion, the pita pizza tastes just as good as anything from a fancy restaurant, and you have endless options with toppings and flavors. Try going tomato-less and make a mushroom flatbread using good parmesan cheese and wild mushrooms, or make a pesto-vegetable flatbread by spreading a thin layer of pesto and roasted eggplant.
Once you go pit-za, you'll never go back.
I'll admit, I saved the best for last. To be honest, until very, very recently, the idea of deep dish pizza was kind of gross to me (sorry, Chicago!). Then I ate a really good one and I've been converted. What I loved so much about it is that it's essentially a savory pie: a buttery, delicious, crispy pie filled with everything that makes a pizza a pizza.
To that end, our final crust hack involves store-bought pie crusts. I always have a couple of these lying around my freezer because, well, you never know when you might need to make a quiche.
Unlike the other crust hacks, this pizza does not shy away from toppings, and lots of them. I used onions, peppers, pepperoni, mozzarella, and a store-bought marinara.
The trick is to create many layers. Mozzarella, green peppers, and then onions.
Then a layer of pepperoni.
Then pour the sauce on.
Then more cheese, more veggies, and more pepperoni!
Pop this into a 450°F/232°C degree oven for 30–45 minutes, until the crust is crisp and the cheese bubbly and starting to brown.
As you can see, I let mine cook a little too long (I blame Scandal), but it still tasted amazing.
Which of these crust hacks do you think you'll try? Share your own pizza hacks in the comments.