Experimenting with Pizza

I did not come from a family of cooks. When I was a kid, Friday night meant pizza. This would probably thrill most kids, but I never liked the greasy take-out pizza with flavorless cheese and a thin spread of canned tomato sauce. As a grown-up, pizza heralded some sad un-apology by the company for working through lunch or dinner. So, I hope you’ll understand why I’ve strayed so far from the traditional pizza.

experimental pizza

L: Rosemary Potato Bacon Pizza R: Pumpkin Walnut Pizza

I owe my new-found love for pizza to my good friend Kendra. She loves pizza, and when she left Somerville for the slightly less frigid DC area, we held a party in her honor, and she insisted that we make pizza.  We laughed, we drank, everyone had an opinion about what combination of toppings would be best, and everyone agreed at the end of the evening that this was the best pizza we had ever eaten. So, thank you Kendra for changing my opinion on pizza, and for the dough recipe I now use all the time!

If you’re going to make your own dough, and I really believe that you should, start it the night before as it needs to rise twice.  I find it easiest to assemble and let rise overnight in the fridge (it will keep for 3 or 4 days), then rise again the day you’re going to be baking the pizza.

Basic Pizza Dough
makes 2 medium crusts

2 1/4 tsp or 1 packet instant yeast
3 cups flour, more for dusting
1 cup water, warmed to 100-110F
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

Proof your yeast: Warm water to 110-100f. Add sugar and yeast, stir to combine. Let sit for 5 minutes. Your yeast mixture should bubble.

proofing the yeast

proofing the yeast

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Pour yeast mix into flour, and stir until fully combined. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, turn it onto a low setting (like 2) and let it knead until dough is elastic and gathers onto the hook. If you’re hand kneading, press and fold in quarters, turning 90 degrees each knead, until dough is elastic and does not stick to the lightly floured surface. Use olive oil to lightly grease the bowl, and turn the dough within the bowl to coat the surface.

Let rise – cover and sit in a draft free place for at least 4 hours (like an oven or microwave), or if you’re letting rise overnight, cover with plastic or a tea towel and place in your refrigerator.

punching down the first rise

punching down the first rise

Second rise: Punch dough down (always fun).  Form into two even sized balls. You can eye this, or use a kitchen scale. Set in a warm, draft free place for 1 hour. If you need to speed this up, heat your oven to 200F, then turn off. Place the bowls in the oven and let the dough rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. You want the yeast to warm, but you don’t want the dough to cook.

second rise

second rise

Preheat your oven to 375F. Roll out each dough ball into a rectangle or circle. Move your dough onto a baking sheet or baking stone, which should be dusted lightly with cornmeal. Now add your prepared toppings!

This first topping idea I took from veggie lasagnas I have made in the past. If squash and nuts worked so well with lasagna noodles, why not on pizza?

Pumpkin Walnut Pizza
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1/2 lb mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Spread pumpkin puree across the top of dough. Top with walnuts, then cheese. Bake at 375F for 15-20 minutes.

pumpkin pizza with walnuts and mozzarella

pumpkin pizza with walnuts and mozzarella

This next pizza is almost a galette, but I don’t think you’ll hear too many complaints once you explain there’s bacon in there too.

Potato Bacon Rosemary Pizza

2 large yukon potatoes, sliced thin
1/2 lb ricotta
6 slices bacon, crumbled
1 tbsp freshly diced rosemary
black pepper to taste

In a fry pan, cook 6 slices bacon over medium heat. Don’t let brown, as you’re going to bake these again.  Set on paper towel to drain. Crumble when cool to the touch.

Slice potatoes thinly with a mandolin. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil.  When water comes to a boil, blanch potatoes for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and set aside.

Layer potato slices onto rolled out pizza dough. Top with pepper, crumbled bacon, rosemary and ricotta.

Rosemary Potato Bacon Pizza

Rosemary Potato Bacon Pizza

Bake at 375F for 15-20 minutes.

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