THE Best Homemade Pizza: Fun and Easy Tips and Recipes!

Forget what the ads say: the BEST pizza is homemade. It’s easy and healthier than the store bought alternatives, to say nothing of fun to put together as a family. The next time you’re in the mood for a pie, pull out these tips for a perfect pizza made at home!

These steps will help you avoid a soggy pizza crust covered with toppings where some are barely warm and others that are charbroiled. Read on, my foodie friend…

The Best Base You Can Manage

Just like the foundation of a house which, if badly built, will crack and break down, the foundation of a great pizza needs to be solid to achieve maximum eatability.

Ideally, whether you make your pizza dough from scratch or buy it pre-made, you want to make sure you are stretching and rolling it out at room temperature. If it was in the refrigerator, let it rest on the counter while you prep the rest of the ingredients, before attempting to roll.

When the dough has dropped its chill, you can flour your rolling surface—more is better here: you don’t want the dough to stick!

Press your dough ball flat with your knuckles from the centre out towards the edges. If it’s still too cold, it will spring back and refuse to stay flat, like an out of control cowlick, so if that happens, just let it rest a few minutes more before continuing.

Whether you use the recipe below, or a store bought dough, it’s better to stretch the dough, rather than roll it. Ideally, you will be tossing it in the air, like you’ve seen at your pizzeria so that it pulls evenly and doesn’t tear. You’ll find it easier to get the round shape, but since we all can’t toss pizza dough in the air without making a mess, a rolling pin is fine to make sure that you get a consistent ¼ inch thickness and VOILA! You’re ready for toppings!

The best ‘from scratch’ recipe is so easy, it will take less time than walking to the store to buy pre-made, though it needs to be put together the day before, so a little planning is required!

This recipe makes four balls of dough—great for making individual pizzas:

Ingredients:

3 and ¾ cups of bread or all purpose flour

¼ teaspoon of active dry yeast

2 teaspoons of salt

1 ½ cups of water

Instructions:

  1. In a bowl, blend all your dry ingredients (flour, salt, yeast).
  2. Add the water to the mixture and mix, preferably with your hands.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it to sit on the counter overnight, at room temperature. It will rise to more than double the initial size!
  4. Generously flour your work surface where you will be rolling out the dough and scrape it out of the bowl. Now you can divide it into four and shape each dough ball. Dust with more flour if they get tacky or sticky.
  5. You don’t need to knead this dough extensively as the gluten needed is activated by the rising process. Just get stretching!

Toppings Galore!

Here’s the fun part for the rest of the family! Quality matters when it comes to toppings. Homemade or high quality crushed tomato sauce, hand shredded cheese and anything your heart, and stomach, desires. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with pre-shredded cheese but like a fine wine, the secret is in the quality of the source ingredients!

Whatever toppings you like on your pizza, just remember to spread them as evenly as possible to avoid clumps that won’t cook through properly.

Other tips?

  • Just like the pie from your favourite take out place, leave a half an inch around the edge to avoid the toppings dripping or bubbling over. Pinch it a little so that it’s raised up to create a sauce barrier!
  • Try and limit your toppings, beyond sauce and cheese, to two or three. Anything more starts to get heavy and thick and might not cook through as evenly. Simple is best!
  • Don’t forget fresh herbs! Basil is the best when handily torn up and thrown over your toppings, right after the pizza has come out of the oven. Chives give that onion-y flavour without overdoing it and are also best popped on post-bake.

Cook It Low And Hot

Whether you have a pizza stone, pan or a perforated pizza sheet, make sure you put your oven rack to the lowest level before pre-heating. This will brown the crust nicely, leaving no soggy pockets.

What you’re looking for is a flat surface to ensure that the crust cooks evenly. If you’re worried about the pizza sticking, just spread a little cornmeal on the pan or sheet before adding the rolled out crust.

The key to home cooking a pizza is high heat—as high as your oven can go! Why? The air bubbles in your pizza dough will expand when they hit the blast of heat, causing a light, soft dough on the inside, which also crisps up nicely on the outside. Win-win!

Better yet, invest in a wood burning outdoor pizza oven. These easy to assemble, and even easier to use, ovens mimic the cooking process from your favourite pizzeria, right in the comfort of your own backyard.

Invest In A Pizza Wheel

Cutting your perfectly cooked pie is in itself an artform! You don’t want your toppings to come off the crust to tear in weird ways by trying to cut your pizza with a standard knife. A super sharp pizza wheel is an inexpensive kitchen tool that you will get value back again and again.

Prepping some dough and having it at the ready means you can have homemade pizza in a flash, so say goodbye to your delivery guy and hello to easy dinners that everyone will enjoy!

5 Things You Should Do To Choose The Perfect Christmas Tree

‘Tis the season for decorations and delights, just so long as you choose… right?

Okay, that was a little awkward: rhyming is not our forte. Trees, however, are definitely in  our wheelhouse! This year, if you’ve decided to eschew the plastic tree that you’ve had stuffed in the basement these last few seasons, we’ve got you covered on the whys and wherefores of a real Christmas tree.

Types Of Christmas Trees

There are a couple of species of tree that make the best holiday decor for any home or office, each with their own merits.

  • Fraser fir — Well watered, a Fraser fir can last up to eight weeks in your home and has that most distinctive of Christmas-sy scents. The silvery tint to their needles and less dense branches are the perfect complement to your ornaments.
  • Balsam fir — These very popular trees will typically last six to seven weeks and have good fullness, needle retention and that classic pine scent that screams: “Pass the eggnog!” Their more slender look with dark green needles make these the perfect tree for smaller spaces.
  • Scotch pine — With needles that vary from bright green to blue/green, these bushy trees have strong branches and excellent needle retention, which is important if you have heavy or simply many ornaments AND hate vacuuming the needles!
  • White spruce — The full, dark green branches are just part of the appeal. These trees are some of the most symmetrical, with very consistent shape all around. These are great trees if you are using them as a central decoration in a room, rather than placing it in a corner, as it will look beautiful from every angle. The downside? Their needles are VERY prickly, which can be unpleasant for wee ones, when decorating!

Before Buying A Tree

Measure your ceiling height, taking into account the tree stand AND any top of tree ornaments, like a star. You don’t want to end up with a National Lampoon Christmas tree, bending at the top!

Also, take a look at the area where you plan to place the tree: you need enough width, as well as height, and if you are getting a tall tree, you might want to consider whether you will be able to anchor it to the wall, for safety. In addition, you want to make sure to place it far from heat sources, which can be a fire hazard. If you are using lights, make sure there is an easily accessible plug or switch on a power bar so that you can be sure to turn off the lights when you aren’t home and before you go to bed. Again, this is in case of a short or overheating.

Don’t forget to dig out your tree stand and make sure all the parts are in good working order or your decorated tree could topple like Uncle Art after a couple of hot toddies!

What To Look For In Your Tree

Whether you are buying your tree at a garden centre, a tree lot or going to a farm to cut your own, there are a couple of things you should look for when selecting your tree:

  • Check for broken branches, bare spots and dead branches to assess the health of the tree and how well it survived transportation (if you’re not at the farm yourself).
  • Look for a fairly even colouring of the needles. Dull or brown / rusty needles may speak to the freshness of the tree.
  • Check for pests and insects: you don’t want to be bringing these into your home!
  • Run your hands over the needles by grasping a branch about six inches in and pulling forward gently: the needles should stay put and be flexible. A few may drop off but if a lot of the needles are dry and come off in your hand, the tree might not be fresh.
  • Check the branches to see that they are strong enough to hold up ornaments and lights and flexible, which is another sign of a fresh tree.

Setting Up Your Tree

First, cut about an 1-1.5” off the bottom of the stump: the fresh cut will allow your tree to soak up water more easily.

Second, place a plastic tree bag or garbage bag IN the water compartment of your stand and lay it open—don’t worry, you can cover it with a tree skirt so no one has to see the bag, but it will make disposal at the end of the holidays a little easier, with a lot less needle dropping on the carpet. It can also help to prevent water spills soaking up into your carpet or staining your hardwood, in case the stand gets overfilled a little.

Third, leave your tree in the tree stand a full 24 hours before decorating it. Some of the branches will fall naturally as the tree acclimates to the room temperature, so premature decorating can end up looking a whole lot different a day later! Don’t forget to water it! A tree will go through a lot of water, particularly in the first day it is in your home, so make sure you keep an eye on the water line in your stand.

Disposing Of Your Tree

Sadly, the holidays WILL come to an end and it will be time to dispose of your tree. Most areas across the GTA have curbside pick up service in January so check your local recycling schedule and see when yours is. Too often, we’ll see trees with sad bits of tinsel on them, stuck in a snow bank in February.

When it’s time to move the tree, make sure someone is holding by the trunk, towards the top, while someone else undoes the tree stand clamps or retention mechanism. Then pull up the bag that we mentioned earlier, up and around the tree, so you can move it out the front door with a minimum of needles dropping everywhere. Remove the bag and keep it for next year, as most recycling trucks will not pick up a tree that is in plastic.

If you miss the collection dates, you can hold onto your tree and put it out with the yard waste in the Spring, in lengths of about four feet.

Now that you’re ready to bring home your tree, armed with all the information you need, we at Toemar want to remind you that with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s important to take a step back, smell the Christmas tree, and enjoy the moment. Have safe and happy holidays!

 

 

A Simple Guide to Decorating Your Christmas Tree

A decorated Christmas tree is a sure sign that Christmas celebrations with friends and family around this joyous season is near.

See our infographic below as we’ve looked at 3 styles of Christmas tree decorations through the years that will keep your home looking warm and inviting.

If you still need more inspiration check out Pinterest page where you can check out real trees and decorated Christmas trees.

From all of us at Toemar Garden Supplies and Firewood, thank you for your support and loyalty in 2015 and we look forward to serving you in 2016!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

fresh-christmas-tree-decoration-style

Firewood Guide – An Infographic

We have been in the business of supplying firewood to the Greater Toronto Area for more than 35 years to all homes small and large. In these 30 plus years, many things have changed such as home construction and fireplace regulations. What hasn’t changed is our meticulous methodology in preparing our firewood to make sure that it burns properly, providing the great wonderful heat with as little smoke as possible. All of the firewood that we sell goes through a 2 year aging process and manually stacked compared to some lots that sell their product after 6-8 months and/or dump the firewood into a large pile (which means the wood doesn’t dry out properly and may get moldy) with little to no airflow.

firewood-stack-vs-pile

We recently found a simple, yet excellent infographic on firewood and what to look for when you head the firewood lot or the questions you need to ask.

firewood-infographic
Credit Sara Plourde / NHPR

6 Tips + 3 Myths to Keeping Christmas Tree Spectacular until New Years

IF YOU HAVEN’T PURCHASED A TREE YET, READ OUR QUICK GUIDE TO SELECTING A REAL CHRISTMAS TREE

Here is how you can extend that Christmas spirit well into New Years with these 6 easy to remember tips and 3 myths or things that you should not do with a real Christmas tree.

Let us know what you think below.

tips and myths to keeping your Christmas tree alive

A Guide to Selecting a Real Christmas Tree

We know selecting a fresh Christmas Tree can be a daunting task so we’ve created a real simple and easy to use guide to help you through this process. In this infographic, we talk about the 3 most common types of fresh Christmas Trees that you can purchase from your garden center or from your local tree farm.
Tell us what you think below.

From all of us at Toemar Garden Supplies and Firewood, thank you for your support and loyalty in 2014 and we look forward to serving you in 2015!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

guide-to-selecting-the-right-christmas-tree

Christmas Trees: Real vs Fake – What is better?

We hope that you enjoy this infographic on the ongoing debate of Christmas Trees: Real vs Fake. We had fun researching it and we hope you enjoy learning more about the issues.
We think that Christmas is more than just about Christmas trees and gifts (although we do appreciate gifts!), it is a wonderful reminder of the important things in life are such as family and friends.

Whatever you decide on, a real Christmas tree or an artificial Christmas tree, you need to make a choice that best fits your needs. However, we think the smell of evergreen in your home is priceless and irreplaceable.

From all of us at Toemar Garden Supplies and Firewood, we want to thank you for your support in 2013 and we look forward to serving you in 2014!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

christmas-trees-real-or-fake

Christmas Trees: Around the World

We hope that you enjoy this infographic on Christmas Trees around the world. It is fitting that we live in a multicultural society that we understand how people celebrate Christmas here and around the world. We had fun researching this and thought that you would enjoy this too!

May you and your family have a wonderful and safe Christmas and Happy New Year!

From all of us at Toemar Garden Supplies and Firewood, we want to thank you for your support in 2012 and we look forward to serving you in 2013!
christmas-trees-around-the-world