Go-To Pizza Dough

Pizza night is a fairly regular thing  for us. Whether it’s take-out from Glass Nickel (we like the Boaris Karloff and the Sacre Bleu) or a homemade favorite, pizza gets five stars in our kitchen. And ever since Fester came into our lives, homemade pizza has gotten an upgrade.

In my never-ending search for ways to use sourdough discard, I stumbled on a recipe for sourdough pizza crust from King Arthur Flour. Not only does it keep me from pouring my sourdough discard down the drain, but it mixes up easily, AND it freezes well. Plus, KAF includes the weights for the ingredients, so I can use my kitchen scale and not million measuring cups and spoons. It’s a win-win-win all the way around.

The sourdough gives the crust a flavor boost that takes homemade pizza to the next level. It’s a great crust for traditional pizza toppings (pepperoni, pineapple, onions, and banana peppers, please), and it’s just as good with less traditional fare.

I’ll mix up a batch when I feed Fester, and then freeze it until our next pizza night. And with crust like this, pizza night happens a lot more often. 😉


Sourdough Pizza Crust

8 ounces (1 cup) unfed sourdough starter (discard)
4 ounces (1/2 cup) hot tap water
10 1/2 ounces (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast (KAF calls for instant, but I have the active dry yeast in my fridge, so that’s what I use.) 

Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Turn the mixer on low to combine all of the ingredients. Then knead the dough on medium speed until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky.

If you’re making pizza that day, place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in bulk. This usually takes a few hours, but it could be shorter or longer. (A lot will depend on how warm your house is and how active your sourdough starter is.) You can also put the dough in the refrigerator to slow down the rise. When the dough has risen, gently shape the dough into a pizza crust. (This usually makes enough dough for one regular (not deep dish or thin crust) pizza for me.)

Preheat your oven to 450°. If your crust is on the thicker side, you can par-bake it for about 7-8 minutes to give it a head-start, then remove the crust from the oven. Top the par-baked crust with your desired sauce and toppings, and then return the pizza to the oven and bake until it’s done.

If you’d like to freeze the dough, wrap it well in plastic wrap and place it in a ziploc bag in the freezer. To use the dough, simply let it thaw and then bring the dough to room temperature. Shape the dough as desired, and then proceed with your pizza recipe.

Note: KAF suggests letting the dough rise in the pan after you’ve shaped it. I generally don’t do that, but I do par-bake the dough before topping the pizza. Check out the KAF page for additional pizza tips. 

From King Arthur Flour

Click here for a printable version.

Pizza Win!

I’ll admit, I’ve been slacking off the last few weeks. First Andy was out of town, and then we had out-of-town guests, then we took a mini-vacation, and then things got busy for me at work. All of that translates to almost no time to blog (although, thankfully, there has still been time to make dinner).

In the middle of that whirlwind, I was able to finally take a road trip with some girlfriends to the nearest Trader Joe’s. I figured it was time to see what all of the fuss was about. (It’s about a two-hour drive to get there from my house, and I know people who make the pilgrimage trek trip regularly. I needed to know why.) I have to say, I wasn’t blown away. I did pick up some orecchiette (since I have a hard time finding it for a reasonable price at my standard grocery store) and a couple other items (dried apricots and roasted red peppers), but overall, I was underwhelmed.

The real “win” of the Trader Joe’s trip (aside from the quality time with some of my all-time favorite people) was the asparagus. It was decently priced, and since I am SO ready for spring, I bought a bunch. And thanks to a fantastic pizza that we had in Bayfield (Brie, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and chicken, anyone?), I couldn’t stop thinking about a pizza with caramelized onions. How about a shaved asparagus pizza with caramelized onions? With bacon too, because, well, it’s bacon. Who’s with me? 🙂

I’d made an asparagus pizza once before, with my usual hand-tossed style crust, and I felt like it was too much crust. So, this time around, I decided to try a thinner crust, and while I’m typically a more-bread-is-better girl, I felt like the thin crust was just what this pizza needed. (Does this mean there’s room in my life for more than one kind of pizza crust? What’s next? More than one chocolate chip cookie?)

I don’t know if it was the onions, the crust, the bacon or some magical quality in the Trader Joe’s asparagus, but the pizza was an all-out success. As in, the best thing we ate all week. Maybe I need another road trip. 😉

asparagus pizza

Shaved Asparagus Pizza with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

For the crust: 
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups/190 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
olive oil for the bowl and pizza pan
cornmeal for the pizza pan

For the toppings:
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
1/2 lb. fresh asparagus spears
4 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
4 ounces of mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 ounce shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 200 degrees, and then turn the oven off, keeping the door closed to retain the oven temperature.

Pour the warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top of the water. Let the mixture stand until the yeast is dissolved and foamy, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and the salt to the bowl and attach the bowl to the mixer. Using the dough hook, mix the dough on medium speed until it comes together in a large mass. Increase the speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Take the dough out of the bowl and wipe out the mixing bowl. Brush some olive oil in the mixing bowl and return the dough to the bowl.

Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and place in the warmed oven. Allow dough to rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

While the crust is rising, prepare the toppings. Melt the butter and one teaspoon of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. When the butter has melted, add the onion slices, salt and sugar.  Cook the onions over medium low until the onions are soft, golden brown and caramelized, only stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, “shave” the asparagus. Hold the large end of the asparagus and run a vegetable peeler down the length of the stalk, creating thin ribbons. (Some of mine were thinner than others, and it all worked out OK.) Discard the tough, woody ends of the asparagus stalk.

When the dough has risen, remove it from the oven and preheat the oven to 425. Lightly oil a pizza pan with olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal. Stretch the dough out into a 12″ round and brush the crust with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Spread the caramelized onions all over the crust. Pile the asparagus ribbons on top of the onions. Sprinkle with the crumbled bacon, and then cover the pizza with the mozzarella cheese. Top with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake until crust is golden and cheese is melted, bubbly and browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, slice into wedges and serve immediately.

Crust from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, toppings inspired by the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and Maggie’s in Bayfield, Wis.

Click here for a printable version.

BBQ+Chicken+Pizza. Yes Please.

We had an amazing stretch of weather this week. We’re talking sunny with highs in the 70s. Pretty much perfect, if you ask me. (Of course, as one of my coworkers pointed out, we’re pretty easy to please this time of year. After more than five months of cold, gray weather, any amount of sunshine makes us happy. Details.)

With weather like that, firing up the grill was a no-brainer. (Don’t get me wrong – we grill out year round. It’s just so much more enjoyable when you don’t have to wear a coat, hat and snow boots while you babysit the burgers.) I grilled kabobs last week, then fish on Monday, and when the rain held off yesterday afternoon, I knew that our BBQ chicken pizza was about to become GRILLED BBQ chicken pizza.

Oh yeah. I was pumped. I came home from work, rolled out my crust and got to work. (I make my pizza crust the night before and freeze it overnight. Then, it goes from the freezer to the fridge before work, where it hangs out all day until Andy takes it out of the fridge to warm up. By the time I get home, it’s ready for action. No waiting around on a weeknight for me!)

Shredded BBQ chicken. Check.
Chopped peppers and onions. Check.
Full bottle of BBQ sauce. Check.
Cheese. Check.

We’re good to go! I was halfway through grilling the crust when I discovered that the flame was gone. Guess there wasn’t as much propane in there after all. Whoops…

I finished the pizza under the broiler. It was still good. Grilled or baked, this pizza combination is always a win at our house. (And we may or may not fight over the leftovers for lunch the next day.)

BBQ Chicken Pizza

I realize that I just hyped grilled pizza, and the recipe I’m giving you below has the oven directions. I learned most of what I know about grilled pizza from Annie’s post. If you’re interested in grilling the pizza, I’d recommend reading what she says to say.

The only change we make (sometimes) is to do a full-size pizza, rather than mini ones. When that happens, I just roll the pizza out onto a cookie sheet and flip it onto the oiled, preheated grill grates. We have a giant grill spatula, which allows me to flip the crust over after a few minutes, ensuring that the crust is almost completely cooked before I pull it off the grill. Then, I add my sauces and toppings, slide the entire thing back on the grill and close the lid. After a few minutes, the cheese is bubbling, the crust has beautiful, smoky grill lines, and your pizza has gone from “good” to “THIS IS THE BEST PIZZA I’VE EVER EATEN.” (It’s true.) 

I also realize that my recipe doesn’t tell you to preheat a pizza stone in a screaming hot oven, or do anything fancy with a pizza peel. I’m sure those things would be great, but this oven method seems to work for me most nights. If you have a “right” way to make pizza, by all means, go for it. Just be sure the grill has plenty of gas first. 😀

BBQ Chicken Pizza 

1 batch pizza dough (Use your favorite; I like the version from the cookbook that Kitchen Aid sends with the mixer!)
4 oz. cooked chicken breast, shredded
2 ounces baby spinach, chopped
½ cup BBQ sauce (Again, use your favorite!)
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ jalapeno, deseeded and finely chopped
¼ cup bell peppers, chopped
½ cup onion, chopped
Pinch of oregano
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425. Brush a pizza pan with a little olive oil, then sprinkle with cornmeal.

Roll out the pizza dough into a 14” circle and place on the pizza pan. Spread the BBQ sauce on the pizza dough and place the chicken pieces on top of the sauce. Top pizza with veggies, and then cover the veggies with cheese. Sprinkle with a hearty pinch of oregano.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is done and cheese is browned and bubbly.

Inspired by the many BBQ chicken pizzas I’ve had over the years; this combination is a Beth’s Blue Plate Original!

Click here for a printable version.

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…

There’s nothing quite like a good pizza. Everyone has their favorite combination of sauce and toppings, which is one of the things that makes pizza great. What I love (pepperoni and banana peppers) Andy you might not. And that’s OK.

So how -do you make sure that you have four happy campers when it comes to pizza in the campfire? Personalized pie-iron pizzas! We spent the weekend camping with some friends, and decided that we would have pizza for dinner every evening. (And this is one of the perks of being a grown-up. You can eat pizza for dinner every night. And then more pizza for breakfast. Or perhaps a pie.) And everyone was happy. (Mostly, anyway. Sorry about forgetting mushrooms, Mark!) 

So here are my tips for pie-iron pizzas:

First, use cast-iron pie irons. I’ve decided that ours have been seasoning for the last few years, and I think the pizzas taste better every time we use them. Second, use salted butter for your pies. I’m a big fan of unsalted for baking, but save it for your buttercream. This is also the time to relive your childhood and break out the WonderBread. As much as I enjoy a slice of honey wheat on a sandwich (or with homemade jam), it just doesn’t work as well in a pie iron.

Finally, bring all of your favorite toppings (and make a list so none get forgotten)! This year, we brought these goodies:

Basil pesto
Marinara sauce
Mini pepperoni
Chopped onion
Pickled banana peppers
Chopped green peppers
Chopped Swiss chard
Fresh basil
Mozzarella cheese
Fresh garlic
Chopped cherry tomatoes

(I realize this isn’t technically a recipe, and that there’s no picture to go with it, but it is what we’ve been eating lately!) 

Fruit Pizza?!

No, not that kind of fruit pizza. I’ve made that one before, with the cream cheese over cookie dough and the fresh fruit on top. And while I love that kind of fruit pizza, it’s not really one that I feel I can justify having for dinner. Breakfast, maybe, but dinner, not so much.

As soon as Annie posted her recipe for strawberry balsamic pizza, I was intrigued. I love a spinach salad with strawberries and balsamic dressing, so taking that flavor combination to a pizza definitely had my attention. Andy was skeptical, but since he’s a willing test subject, he agreed to give it a go.

I scaled back the sriracha in the sauce because I wanted Andy to like the pizza, but I think I went too far the other way, as the spice wasn’t prominent at all. So next time, I would use 3/4 of a teaspoon, instead of just 1/2 a teaspoon. I’d also scale the chicken back to 1/2 a cup, rather than a full cup, and I think I’d like to try it with some feta or blue cheese as well. And next time, I think I’ll try it on the grill, since almost everything’s better grilled!

I realize this is a terrible picture, but I decided that eating dinner was more important than the perfect picture.

Strawberry Balsamic Bacon Pizza

1 batch pizza dough (I use the recipe that came with my Kitchen Aid mixer. It comes together quickly and hasn’t failed me yet!)
olive oil, for brushing the crust
1/2 cup cooked chicken breast, diced or shredded
4 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp and then crumbled
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
2 ounces parmesan cheese (or feta)
2-3 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, chopped
1/4 balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup strawberry jam
3/4 teaspoon sriracha chili sauce

Pour the vinegar into a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Simmer until the vinegar has thickened and reduced by about half. Stir in the strawberry jam and chili sauce. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and place a pizza stone (if you have one) in the oven to preheat. If you’re not using a pizza stone, simply brush a pizza pan with the oil and dust with cornmeal.

Build your pizza! Roll out the dough to a 12-14″ circle (do this on parchment paper if you’re using a pizza stone, otherwise, simply roll it out in your pizza pan). Brush the edges of the dough with olive oil, and then spread the strawberry sauce on the pizza crust. Sprinkle the pizza with chicken, bacon, onions and cheese, then top with the strawberries and cilantro.

Transfer the pizza to the preheated stone, if using. Bake for 12 minutes or so, or until the crust is browned and the cheese in bubbly. Allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting and serving.

From Annie’s Eats

What I learned this weekend…

Saturday was a “date day” for Andy and me. We spent the day in Kohler, Wis. at a demonstration kitchen. Kohler brings in chefs from its various restaurants, and you spend two hours watching them cook and listening to them share tips and techniques. Saturday’s topic was pizza, and the chef made three different thin crust pizzas: a traditional Margherita pizza, a bolognese pizza and a chicken artichoke pizza.

I have to admit, I wasn’t too fond of the bolognese pizza (although the balsamic onions that were on top of the pizza were awesome), but I loved the pesto alfredo sauce that he used on the chicken artichoke pizza. My plan is to repurpose the pesto sauce into a pasta dish at some point in the not-too-distant future. However, I think the knife tips I picked up were the most helpful.

1. Chopping basil. He suggested that you stack the basil leaves on top of each other and roll them up, burrito-style. Then slice the little basil burrito, and presto! Nice, thin slices and no bruised basil. Win!

2. Dicing onions. He had a couple different techniques for this, so I’m still trying both to see which I like best.

3. Alfredo sauce on pizza. Instead of using a bechamel sauce as the base, he thickened the cream by simmering it. This way, the sauce won’t separate when you bake the pizza.

(Our education continued even after the demo was done: We got schooled in some German curling, thanks to Kohler’s Winterfest. Think bocce ball/shuffleboard on the ice. No brooms needed!) All in all, it was a great day – and Andy says that he still prefers my pizza rather than the fancy ones he sampled Saturday. He’s a good man. 😉