Monday, November 7, 2011

It's a ...Family Tradition

Do you know that old Hank Williams Jr. song, Family Tradition?  Well, I've got a family tradition too.  It's not quite as exciting as Hank's, but it's a heck of a lot tastier.   What is mine you ask?  Pizza.  mmmm.  Hot, crusty, cheesy, chewy pizza.  Our tradition has been a kind of evolution, of sorts.   For as long as I can remember Friday night has been dedicated to pizza at home.  Way back when, lets say 15 years 20 years, well it's been a long time, my family and I would head across the street, literally across the street, for the shopping.  The first stop...Chef Boyardee, all in one "make it yourself" pizza kit.

We also picked up some green peppers, onion, and green olives.  Oh we were living large.  We would come home, my parents would crank up NPR and the stove.  In that order.  TO THIS DAY, I can't hear the theme song of NPR's All Things Considered, without craving that Chef Boyardee goodness.

As time passed, we got an itch to be a little more adventurous. We evolved from the box o'pizza, to a much more classy bag of instant pizza crust.  Something like Martha White.

Somehow, between not being right out of a box, and actually having to buy sauce separately we felt like we were moving up in the world.  Well it wasn't too long after that when we really put our big girl panties on and attempted the ultimate feat...made from scratch, homemade, pizza dough.  Oh my gosh.  We were the talk of the town. You think I'm kidding?  No.  The town paper actually wrote an article about us.  There wasn't much news in this town mind you, but true story none-the-less.  It wasn't long before we were experimenting with pizza peels, quarry tiles in the oven, homemade pizza sauces, there was even talk about making our own mozzarella.  We haven't gotten there yet.  Yes, we were pizza making monsters.  We were searching for challenges, begging for obstacles.  We had a hunger that couldn't be satisfied.

Eventually we began looking into crust recipes that required a long rest period.  We discovered the longer the rest time, the lighter, chewier, and more authentic it became.  I came across this recipe which we have settled on, for the time being.  This is not a crust you can make at the spur of the moment, as it requires at least a 48 hour rest period.  It is SO worth it!

OK... *Disclaimer*...  I found this recipe somewhere on the internet, and can't remember where. So, if you are reading this blog, recognize this recipe as your own, let me know and I will happily give you credit.   FOUND IT!  :)  here it is!

-- 2 pounds flour (This makes quite a bit of dough, I think it is about 3 crusts.  I can't remember how many cups of flour this is, but however many it is, I substitute 2 TBSP of Vital Wheat Gluten per cup of flour. So if it is 8 cups of flour, I take out 16 TBSP of flour and add back in 16 TBSP of the gluten.)
-- 2½ cups cool tap water
-- 2½ tsp (or one package) instant yeast
-- 2 tsp fine sea salt
-- 1 Tbsp sugar
-- 3 Tbsp olive oil (not extra-virgin—use a good-quality normal or mild oil. I use “Filippo Berio” brand.)
-- cooking oil spray


1. Combine water, yeast, sugar, and 2/3 of the flour (but not the salt) into mixer bowl. The water should be cool, although precision isn’t needed with regards to temperature. You do not have to pre-dissolve the yeast in the water. 
Mix on lowest speed for 2 minutes, enough to blend the ingredients into a batter-like mixture.

2. Let the mixture rest 20 minutes (this long rest period is called an “autolyse,” which allows the flour to fully hydrate and the gluten to start developing).

3. Add the salt and olive oil, then add flour gradually while mixing on lowest speed for no more than 10 minutes or so. Near the end of that period, the dough will start grabbing whatever loose flour remains in the bowl and form into a solid ball; mix another 2 or 3 minutes at that stage, slowly adding just enough flour so that the dough ends up as a soft, smooth, slightly-moist-and-sticky ball.

(If it’s too wet and sticky and you come away with gobs of dough when your fingers touch it, you haven’t added enough flour. If it’s completely dry to the touch, you’ve added too much flour. The ideal texture is smooth and satiny, like a baby’s bottom).

4. Remove dough from mixer and divide into two equal balls. Spray the inside of your two metal cookie tins with cooking spray, place balls in the tins, and then leave closed tins inside the refrigerator for at least 24-48 hours (a 4-6 day rise is ideal, to allow fermentation for fullest taste; however, dough can be used after a 24-hour rise with minimally acceptable taste results).

In the colder months we still use the quarry tiles in the oven and the pizza peel.  This provides a wonderful crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside crust.  We also crank the oven as high as it will go. HOT TEMPS + SHORTER COOKING TIME = PERFECT PIZZA every time.

In the summer, we like to grill it.  Yumyum  Yuum  Yuum  Yuum.
If you decide to grill it, preheat grill on high.  When it is hot, oil it well, and turn it down to medium low.  Pat out the dough to the desired size.  Lay it carefully on the grate.  Keep an eye on it.  You want the bottom to brown and crisp slightly, but the top should remain light, and underdone.  This should take about 3-5 minutes.

Remove from grill and flip so that the side with grill marks is now facing up.  Lay the crust on a well floured surface and dress the top.  Then replace the pizza on the grill and grill over low heat until cheese is melted and bubbly, and crust is brown and crisp on the bottom.

 We have collected so many delicious pizza concoctions there are too many to name.  I am going to share our top picks.

1.  Barbecue Chicken Pizza.  This will always be at the top of my All-Time-Favorite-Pizza list.  I put this particular recipe together myself based on several I have seen.

1 14 oz can crushed pineapple
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon finely chopped fresh habanero (more or less depending on your personal spice level)

1 pound boneless skinless thighs (I like to marinate them in the bourbon-pepper marinade from Whole Foods), grilled, baked, or pan-fried...however you want to cook them
1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce of your choice (Although there is nothing better than NC's own Bone Suckin' Sauce for this recipe!)
2 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced purple onion
8 ounces bacon cheddar (from Whole Foods, or any cheddar you would like), shredded
Pizza crust of your choice

In a medium sauce pan, over medium-high heat, combine pineapples, brown sugar, and habanero pepper.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until mixture is thick, syrupy and most of the liquid has evaporated.

Slice the cooked chicken and simmer in the bbq sauce for about 10 minutes.  In the last 2-3 minutes, add the scallions.

Spread chicken and sauce even over the prepared pizza dough.  Top with pineapple, purple onion, and sprinkle with shredded cheese.  Bake or grill pizza until the crust is crispy and brown on the bottom, and cheese is melted and bubbly.  Cooking times and temperatures will vary based on pizza crust recipe.

2.  Sun-dried Tomato and Feta Pizza
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted in water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
Pizza Crust of your choice

Slice the tomatoes into thin strips.

Heat olive oil, garlic, and rosemary over medium heat in a medium size skillet.  Cook the garlic and rosemary for about 2-3 minutes being careful not to burn it.  Add the tomatoes, stir to cover with the oil and remove from the heat.

Spread tomatoes and oil evenly over the prepared dough,  and top with crumbled feta.  Finally, top with shredded mozzarella.  The tomatoes burn fairly evenly once pizza is baking, so be sure and cover them well with cheese.  Bake or grill until crust is crisp on the bottom and brown, and cheese is bubbly and melted.  Cooking temperatures and times will vary depending on crust recipe.

3.  Arugula and Prosciutto Pizza

3-4 cups arugula, washed and dried
2 tablespoons, plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
4 ounces paper-thinly sliced prosciutto
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh figs
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan (I like the American version, Sarvecchio), plus more for finishing
pizza crust of your choice

Toss the arugula with 1 tablespoon olive oil, balsamic, and salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the garlic in a small bowl.   Brush olive oil over the crust.  Layer the prosciutto over the crust, topped with 1/4 cup of Parmesan and figs.  Bake or grill.  Cooking times and temperatures will vary based on crust recipe.  Bake until the bottom of the crust is crispy and brown, and the prosciutto has begun to crisp as well.

Slice pizza into desired sized slices and top with 1/2 cup of arugula mixture.  Finish with a shaving of Parmesan.

Our next move?  We hope to put in an outdoor pizza oven.  Seriously.


  1. Um...yum! I'll be over next Friday! Kim Horner

  2. Ahh, NPR. My father in law loves NPR. And my hubs is a 60 year old trapped in a 28 year old's body and he loves NPR too. I have to admit, it's growing on me, and sometimes I hear it when I'm in the car alone and I don't turn the station. :)