Nine Pizzas That Deliver
First things first: Stop thinking of pizza as fast food. Even if you order one, it can take 30 minutes to arrive―and who hasn't waited even longer than that? Then it's lukewarm and scented with the delicate aroma of cardboard. In my experience, the only part of the process that's fast is the time between thinking of ordering a pizza and making the phone call. And the only warm, savory pleasure―the true promise of pizza, after all―belongs to the delivery guy as he pockets the tip.
So I make my own pizza in my own home. It isn't difficult, but I won't claim it's always speedy enough for a last-minute dinner. If you want to shorten your cooking time, use store-bought doughs―refrigerated, focaccia, pita bread, Italian bread, and English muffins. Not that making dough, sautéing onions, or slicing mushrooms is difficult or time-consuming. Far from it. All the vegetable toppings can be prepared while the dough is rising, or even in advance. The point of making and eating a good pizza, or any other food worth passing over your tongue, isn't to get in and out of the kitchen in a hurry. It's to cook something really good and enjoy eating it―preferably with someone else.
There are many paths to pizza right in your own kitchen. I have a good friend who makes extraordinary pizzas piled high with delicious, complex toppings. Maybe I'm lazier, but I enjoy keeping the toppings simple. That way they can be mixed easily with one another or become big and complex if you want them that way. For a party, an array of toppings lets your guests combine as they see fit.
My main advice about homemade pizza is to have fun. Use the phone to call your mom.
In most Cooking Light pizza dough recipes, there's enough for two 11- to 12-inch pizzas. I use a portion of whole-wheat flour―a little less than 1/3 of the total amount. But if you want a lighter crust, leave it out. For the tomato pizza, I especially like an all-purpose flour dough. If you want to make your dough in the morning, use half the yeast, then set it in the refrigerator for a long, slow rise while you're away. You'll come home to dough that's ready to go.
A baking stone, while not absolutely necessary, bakes a pizza with a crust that's crisp and dry on the bottom. A metal peel makes it easy to deliver your pizza to the back of the stone, where it is then neatly slid off. You can also improvise a peel by using the back of a sheet pan dusted with cornmeal. Pizzas like hot ovens (these recipes call for 500°). Allow a good 25 minutes for the oven and stone to preheat.
Should you have leftover dough, punch it down and refrigerate it for the next day, or freeze it for another time. If you do the latter, just be sure to take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge in the morning so that it can defrost slowly.