By Becky Krystal

The Washington Post

The quest for excellent homemade pizza can sometimes border on obsession. Pizza stones, pizza steels, pizza ovens, rigging your oven to act like a pizza oven, special flours, special blends of flour … it can all be a bit much — enough to prompt the more intimidated among us to just dial up delivery.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

As long as you are OK with not expecting to re-create the pies you might find coming out of a wood-burning Neapolitan oven, you can make good pizza at home with normal home kitchen equipment, even more basic than you might think.

That is what I found with a crust recipe pulled from the reliable King Arthur Flour archives. You can mix the dough with your hands very easily. Instead of a pizza peel, the pies are topped on a rimless baking sheet or overturned baking sheet. No pizza stone? No problem. We still very much enjoyed the crust when the pizza was baked on an overturned baking sheet.

Of course, if you have a peel or stone for baking and would rather knead the dough in a stand mixer or bread machine, by all means use those tools.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you make the most of your pizza experience:

• Heat is your friend. I crank up the oven to 500 degrees and let it preheat for an hour, with the baking sheet (or stone) on the bottom rack. A hot surface helps the crust brown.

• Time helps, too. You can let the dough rise for an hour, and the pizza would be fine. I go with the upper range of what KAF recommends, which is two hours, so the dough has a little more time to develop flavor and expand. You can develop even more flavor by letting the dough rise and/or rest in the refrigerator overnight. Just put it on the counter a half-hour or so before you plan to shape it to take the chill off.

• Don’t go overboard on the toppings. I get the temptation, but putting too much on top of the pizza can make the crust soggy. It can also create a mess when toppings slide off and burn.

• Be confident. Kneading definitely takes some work to do by hand, so don’t worry about being too rough on the dough.

My preferred method involves alternating arms, using the heel of one hand to almost push the dough away from me, then pulling it back before repeating with the other hand.

But do whatever feels natural, as long as you’re not holding back. Make sure you are working all parts of the dough. Similarly, the dough may need some not-so-­gentle nudging to stretch into a 12-inch round.

And when it comes to sliding the pizza into the oven, that is not the moment you want to lose heart. Give the sheet a quick jerk forward so the far edge begins to slide onto the sheet in the oven and then pull the one with the pizza back so the rest of the pie glides off.

You’ll have enough dough for two more pizzas crusts, which makes this recipe excellent for a pizza party (double the cheese and sauce ingredients). Or freeze the risen dough in two portions, which will shorten your pizzamaking session the next time. The dough also makes for fantastic calzones; use 1⁄4 of the extra dough per calzone (or 1⁄8 of the original recipe).

The beauty of this pizza is that it doesn’t require any special equipment. This simple red sauce pizza is just a starting point (so is the amount of mozzarella — add more if you like it cheesy).

We prefer using finer-grained semolina under the rolled out dough to help slide it into the oven, but cornmeal is fine, too. Either fresh mozzarella from the cheese or deli counters or the firmer kind you find in the grocery store aisle will work on top of the pizza.

Especially if your oven is not spotless, be prepared to open a window or turn on the exhaust fan. Smoke can happen once the semolina starts to turn dark or if some of the toppings slide off and burn. Brushing the semolina off the baking sheet in between pizzas (use heavy-duty oven mitts to pick it up) helps.

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