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Friday, April 17, 2009

make your own pizza night

My mother had some true strokes of genius. Case in point: when she noticed that my three little brothers and I were sharing-impaired, she created Make-Your-Own-Pizza Night. Make a little extra dough, and everyone is happy.

The tradition endures to this day. Kaytie first met my brothers on a Make-Your-Own-Pizza Night. Everything was going swimmingly until she pilfered a pepperoni from someone else's pizza, which, of course, violated the entire premise of Make-Your-Own-Pizza Night. (We brothers still aren't very good at sharing.) Tyler has since forgiven her, which is a testament to how much a part of the family Kaytie has become.

I'm just going to give you a recipe for the pizza dough, because I think that pizza toppings are a deeply personal choice. I believe that anything and everything (especially bacon) should be thrown on top of a pizza, creating a pizza slice that sags under the toppings' weight, making a fork necessary. Kaytie, on the other hand, combines toppings deliberately and comes up with much more refined pizzas.

Often what we put on our pizza is simply a function of what we have in the kitchen. (Pizza's flexibility is one of the reasons I like it so much.) While developing this dough recipe, we've tried several combinations of toppings.

Pepperoni, bacon, green & black olives, sauteed onion, feta, and mozzarella with a red pizza sauce.

Bacon, sauteed onion, black olives, roasted garlic, sauteed spinach, pine nuts, and mozzarella with alfredo sauce.

Basil, green & black olives, and sauteed onions with an alfredo sauce.

Pizza Crust
(makes enough for 2 12-inch pizzas)

1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
4 Tbs olive oil (plus a little more)

Stir the yeast into the warm water. Let it sit for about 5 minutes.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and other spices together in a mixing bowl. Pour in the yeast-water and stir with a wooden spoon. Just when the dough pulls away from the bowl and forms a ball, stop stirring.

Dump 4 Tbs olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Use your fingers to spread the oil all over the sides of the bowl. Use your oiled fingers to move the dough to the oiled bowl, and roll the dough around so it is completely coated by the oil.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let it sit at room temperature for an hour.

Move the bowl to the fridge for 5 or 6 hours.

Thirty minutes before you want to make the pizza, get the dough out of the fridge.

Put a baking stone (or upside-down iron skillet or cookie sheet) on the bottom shelf of the oven. Preheat the oven to 475.

Pour about 1 Tbs olive oil onto each of two 12-inch pizza pans and spread it around. Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a smooth round in the center of a pizza pan. Let the dough sit for 10-15 minutes.

Spread the dough to the edge of the pan, rotating the pan to spread evenly.

Apply toppings.

Cover the pizza loosely with aluminum foil. Place the pan on the baking stone, and cook for 6 minutes.

Remove the foil and bake for 6-8 minutes more. The edge of the pizza crust should be crispy, and you can use a fork to lift the edge to see that the bottom of the crust is lightly browned.

We prefer to eat pizza sprinkled with salt and Louisiana hot sauce, but you don't have to.

P.S. This dough can be frozen after it has risen in the fridge. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and put it in a plastic container. To thaw, remove the plastic wrap and place the dough-sicle in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let it sit at room temperature for 3-4 hours until it is completely thawed. After freezing, the crust won't be quite as fluffy, but it's still good.


  1. I am so glad you (1) cut your hair, (2) shaved the Abe Lincoln beard, and (3) hit puberty.

    I love you. And your delicious pizza. And your siblings, too, but in a different way.

  2. pesto sauce, sauteed leeks, mushrooms, olives, mozarella & goat cheese—my & pat's fave...