Sunday, January 16, 2011

Homemade Pizza Party

My one year old son adores pizza above almost anything else.  Adores it.  Like "can eat two full slices (torn into bite-sized pieces) in one sitting" adores it.  And if any of said pizza pieces find themselves fallen to the floor or in the crevices of his highchair, you can bet that he will be trying to swipe them up and shovel them into his mouth before I can get them cleaned up.  Therefore, we knew it was a must to have pizza for his Birthday.  We served "build your own mini English muffin pizzas" for his Birthday/dedication with our church family (a fun idea in themselves: just toast the muffins a little beforehand, top with sauce, cheese and desired toppings and bake until cheese is melted and browning!) and after the last English muffin was consumed and all the cake crumbs were swept up, we still had a lot of toppings remaining.  To use them up, I made one with "The Works" (pictured: pepperoni, chicken sausage, ham, spinach, banana peppers, mushrooms, black olives, green peppers and red onions).

Making your own pizza really is easy and it's nice to be able to control the quality and quantity of your toppings (no getting charged $2 for extra cheese and getting to adorn your pizza with organic chicken basil sausage? Yes, please!).  Also, it can be cranked out pretty quickly!  Letting the dough rest will really improve the texture and the workability, but you can assemble the pizza as soon as the dough is formed if you're in a rush.  Also, it won't hurt my feelings if you want to try some not-so-run-of-the- mill combinations (listed below) on a pre-made crust.  Any way you slice it up, who doesn't love pizza?

Homemade Pizza Dough
makes 1 12-16” pizza, depending on thickness
2-2 1/2 cups flour (can use up to half whole wheat and up to 1/2 cup corn meal)
1 envelope quick rise yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
6-8 oz. warm water (around 110 degrees)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Optional: 1 tsp. herbs or garlic

    In a glass measuring cup, add yeast and sugar to warm water.  Stir and allow to sit for about 5 minutes to proof (it will grow in volume and be bubbly).  Meanwhile, in a food processor or stand mixer, blend together flour, salt and olive oil (and herbs, if using).  While processor is running, pour in water-yeast mixture and continue to process until a solid ball of dough is formed (you may have to add a little more flour or water).  Allow to run 30 seconds more.  Turn off machine and pull out dough.  Place in a greased bowl and cover with a dish towel or greased plastic wrap.  Allow to sit at least 30 minutes.  Punch down dough and turn in on itself a few times. 
    Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  When ready to assemble, on a well-floured surface, roll out dough to desired size and thickness.  Transfer to pizza stone or pan sprayed with cooking spray and dusted with cornmeal.  Drizzle 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil around edge of dough and brush oil over surface of the unbaked crust, focusing on the edges.  Top with desired sauce and toppings.  Bake at 500 degrees for 9-13 minutes or until golden brown and cheese is bubbly. 

Pizza Suggestions:
BBQ Chicken Pizza: Made famous by California Pizza Kitchen...
    Mix together equal parts barbeque sauce and pizza sauce and spread on crust.  Top with cooked shredded chicken.  Use combination of mozzarella and provolone cheese (use smoked if you can find it for extra flavor).  Sprinkle diced red onion on top of cheese.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Once out of oven, scatter chopped cilantro over the top. 

Taco Pizza: I had no idea this combination existed until a I moved to Iowa.  You really haven't lived until you've tried a Casey's Taco Pizza (or so my husband would say!). 
    Use cornmeal variation on crust.  Spread refried beans and salsa or taco sauce on dough.  Add cooked taco meat, if desired.  Top with mixture of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Once out of the oven, top with shredded lettuce and crushed nacho cheese flavored tortilla chips (i.e. "Doritos" no one said this was very authentic!).  Pass more taco sauce for additional spice.

Balsamic Salad Pizza: My husband's former youth pastor and his wife made this combination and I nearly fell over it was so good.  It looks really classy, too.  Perfect for a book club meeting!    
     Omit pizza sauce.  Drizzle additional olive oil over entire pizza.  Sprinkle 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder over top.  Use Italian cheese blend (mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan, etc.).  Bake until golden brown (8-11 minutes).  Top with 3 cups baby salad greens tossed with 1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette. Sprinkle crumbled feta cheese over top.
Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette:
    4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    pinch of salt
    1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    2-4 tablespoons olive oil
   1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    fresh ground black pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a plastic container with a lid.  Shake vigorously until ingredients are combined.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.  Shake again immediately before using. 

Chicken, Canadian Bacon and Green Olive (with red sauce): My brother, Peter, worked as a delivery guy for a Minnesota pizza chain, Davanni's (Pizza AND Hot Hoagies), and he would bring home pizzas with this combination.  Fantastic.

Pepperoni and Banana Pepper (red sauce)s: Buca di Beppo's has it right on this combination...Paired with a red wine (try a Sangiovese)...heaven!

Pineapple and Black Olives (red sauce): don't knock it till you try it, I was introduced to this combination in high school by a dear friend, Abigail, and it is really good.  It's something about that salty-sweet combination...

p.s. I know this is a really looonnngg post, but I just wanted to share a sweet pizza memory from my life.  When my (now)husband and I were dating, we went out on a date for pizza.  I love vegetarian pizzas and especially love black olives.  Jay, my husband and previous olive-hater, happily ate a vegetarian pizza with black olives on our date and told his mom that he had had pizza with black olives and that they were actually pretty good.  And, that, dear friends, is the moment my now mother-in-law knew that her son with in love because he ate olives on his pizza for me.  : )


  1. Cute story!!!

    Have to chime in my fave pizza toppings from life in Italy:

    -red sauce (bake with pizza)
    -arugula (after baking)
    -halved grape tomatoes (after baking)
    -fresh thick shavings of Parmesan cheese (after baking)


  2. Oh, yes!!! Marco's Coal Fired Pizza in downtown has a pizza exactly like that (except they also add prosciutto) and I used to love it and recreate it at home all the time until morning sickness with Judah put my love for arugula on serious hold (almost two years later and I'm still struggling with it...).

  3. So sad about the arugula! I LOVE it. =)

    Yum with the prosciutto -- haven't tried it that way!