Weekend project: Homemade pizza... in your own DIY brick oven

Great homemade pizza? It can be done -- and is even better using your own DIY brick oven

Have you ever lusted after those great brick ovens you see in pizzerias and bakeries? Well, for about $40, you too can bake like the pros. I did a story a few years ago on homemade pizza, and did a bit of research (actually, I got a little obsessed) on converting a normal home oven into a brick oven.

As you can see in the video above, a brick oven conversion is not complicated at all. You'll need to get the right bricks (you need firebricks, as regular bricks aren't made to withstand the heat), but the whole thing comes together quickly and easily. Give those bricks a little time to heat up, and you'll be baking like your favorite pizzeria or bakery in no time. And it makes a fun -- and totally entertaining -- weekend project.

Check out these links for how-to tips on converting your oven, as well as some homemade pizza recipes:

A pizza parlor in your kitchen

Convert your range into a pizza oven

Recipe: Basic pizza dough

Recipe: Pizza Margherita

Recipe: Potato pizza

Photos: Making a brick-oven pizza in your own home

Cooking is fun – at least it should be! No matter how long you’ve been in the kitchen, there is always something new to learn, whether it’s a simple twist on an old technique, or a handy tip to save time and energy. In this series of short videos, I demonstrate a variety of kitchen tips, including how to hold a chef’s knife for maximum control and using a spoon to peel fresh ginger. If you have any gadgets, kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

PIZZA MARGHERITA

Total time: 35 minutes, plus heating time for the oven | Makes 2 (10- to 12-inch) pizzas, about 12 slices

Note: The tomato sauce recipe makes 3 cups sauce, more than is needed for the two pizzas here. The remainder can be covered and refrigerated for up to one week. The sauce also makes a good dipping sauce and can be quickly simmered for use as a pasta sauce.

BASIC TOMATO SAUCE

    1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
    1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
    1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
    1 teaspoon minced garlic
    3 tablespoons pitted and chopped kalamata olives, from about 10 whole
    1/8 teaspoon pepper
    Salt

Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor or a blender and add the basil, oregano, garlic, olives and pepper. Pulse the sauce until thoroughly combined and smooth. Taste the sauce and season as needed (canned tomatoes will vary widely with sodium content, resulting in some sauces that require less salt than others). Remove the sauce to a bowl, lightly cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. This makes about 3 cups tomato sauce.

PIZZA ASSEMBLY

    2 prepared pizza dough disks (see related recipe below, or use storebought)
    1/2 cup basic tomato sauce, divided
    1 cup grated low-moisture mozzarella cheese, divided, plus more if desired
    1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided, plus more if desired

1. Prepare the oven, setting the temperature as high as it will go (most ovens will reach 500 to 550 degrees). It's best to start heating the oven at least 45 minutes before you plan to start baking.

2. Place one pizza disk on a peel sprinkled with extra flour or cornmeal to prevent sticking. Spread one-fourth cup sauce over the pizza, then sprinkle one-half cup mozzarella and 2 tablespoons Parmesan evenly over the sauce.

3. Slide the first pizza into the oven. The pizza will be done when the crust is puffed and rich golden-brown in color, the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling gently, from 6 to 12 minutes depending on how your oven is set up (the hotter the oven, the shorter the time). Remove the first pizza and cool for a minute or two to set up for cleaner slicing, or set aside in a warm place until the second pizza is baked.

4. Allow the oven to reheat while you assemble the second pizza. Bake the second pizza and serve immediately.

Each slice: 137 calories; 6 grams protein; 18 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 5 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 9 mg. cholesterol; 310 mg. sodium.

BASIC PIZZA DOUGH

Total time: 40 minutes, plus overnight chilling and resting time | Makes enough dough for 4 (10- to 12-inch) pizzas

    1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
    2 teaspoons sugar or honey
    4 cups (19 ounces) bread flour, divided, plus more for kneading
    1 package active-dry yeast
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    2 teaspoons salt

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the water with the sugar and 2 teaspoons flour. Whisk in the yeast. Set aside until the yeast begins to foam or bubble, about 10 minutes. (If the yeast fails to bubble, discard the mixture and start over.) Meanwhile, whisk the salt into the remaining flour until evenly combined.

2. When the yeast is bubbly, stir in the oil using a fork. Begin adding the flour mixture, a cup at a time, stirring until combined. As more flour is added, it may become tough to stir the dough with the fork. Continue incorporating the flour with your hands, gently kneading it into the dough while still in the bowl. When all the flour is added, turn the dough out onto a well-floured board.

3. Knead the dough just until it comes together in a smooth, supple mass, 7 to 10 minutes. Flour the dough and board as needed to enable kneading, but do not over-flour the dough or it will be tough; the dough should be very moist and somewhat sticky throughout (the high moisture content will keep the crust from drying out when baked).

4. Clean and lightly oil the mixing bowl. Place the dough back in the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (this slows the proofing process to allow the flavors to develop).

5. About 2 hours before baking, remove the dough from the refrigerator, punch it down and divide it into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place them on a greased baking sheet. Lightly oil the top of each ball and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Set aside until almost doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.

6. Lightly flour each ball of dough to keep it from sticking. Gently stretch each ball into a flat disk, working from the center of the dough outward, then stretching the outer crust to widen the disk. If the dough springs back, set it aside to rest on a floured surface and move to the next ball. Continue to stretch until each disk is 10 to 12 inches in diameter.

7. Place each disk on a well-floured pizza peel or flat baking sheet before assembling to prevent the pizza from sticking before it is moved to the oven. Assemble the pizzas and bake.

Each of 24 servings: 100 calories; 3 grams protein; 17 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 2 grams fat; 0 saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 194 mg. sodium.

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