Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ringing in the New Year with Pizza!

Hey everyone! Hope your 2012 is treating you well so far.. As you well know about me, by now, I like traditions.. Creating them, parttaking in them, enjoying them with my family. This year for our New Year's Eve celebrations, I decided to throw a pizza party dinner. We prepped and baked 6 different smallish pizzas - even pizza for dessert..!

It all came about because I had two orders due last week, one actually on New Year's Eve. So I wanted a dinner that was fun and memorable but easy to throw together. Pizza was the winner by far, but not just your run of the mill cheese pizza. The pizzas we decided on were: pepperoni, margherita, ham & pineapple, buffalo chicken with blue cheese, and we needed to throw in a plain pie for the kids, just in case. That's only five, you're saying...? Well, the final pizza was the piece de resistance - a dessert pizza a la Max Brenner's Chocolate Bar in NYC. (they have locations elsewhere, too -

Needless to say, we all had such a fun time assembling and consuming these pizzas that we've all voted on making this the *new* New Year's Eve dinner tradition! Each year we'll bring back old favorites as well as try a few new pizza combinations. It's a much needed easier, less fussy, more casual dinner to the festive, more elaborate Christmas one the week prior.
Below is the recipe I use for pizza dough. I've made it several times and it has never failed me. Homemade pizza is such fun to make, since I love working with yeasted dough. I think I'm addicted to yeasted doughs. They smell amazing both in preparation and while in the oven. When I see my dough rising as it should, I feel like an accomplished chef (far from it in reality)! Yeast is not difficult, it is merely particular in it's process. So don't be afraid and try homemade pizza today!

Pizza Dough
(Makes 4 1-lb crusts)
(Adapted from My Baking Addiction)

2 3/4 c water (temperature: 115 - 120F) *Use a Thermometer!
1 1/2 T granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 T Kosher salt
1 T sugar
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
6 1/2 c All Purpose flour

Combine the water, yeast, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix to incorporate the ingredients. Then add in the olive oil and mix. Using the scoop and sweep method, so as not to get too much flour into your dough, measure 6 1/2 c of flour into the yeast mixture. Using your flat beater, mix on medium speed until the dough starts to look uniform. You may do this by hand as well or with a wooden spoon, but be sure to mix until just combined and not to knead the dough at all. Once the dough is uniform, transfer it to a large (5-6 quart) container that has been slathered with a little olive oil. Let it sit in a warm place (I usually place my towards the back of my stovetop), lightly covered for about 2 hours. It will have at least tripled in size. At this point, transfer it to the refridgerator for use within 1 day. If you plan to use the dough after 1 day, place the dough in a doubled-up airtight plastic bag and freeze it. You may divide the dough however you need it and freeze it that way as well. When you are ready to use the dough, take it out of the freezer and let it sit on your counter for a few of hours to defrost.
Preheat your oven to 495F.
Dust your working surface liberally with flour and plop the dough on it. Using floured hands, stretch and form your shape, leaving a little lip for the crust. Top it with whatever toppings you desire. If you are using savory ingredients, brush some olive oil onto the crust of the pizza. Bake the pizza for 10 - 12 minutes. Remove and serve.
If you are using sweet ingredients, brush the pizza with melted butter and bake for 10-11 minutes. Take out the pizza and add your sweet ingredients and bake for an additional 3-4 minutes just to melt the ingredients. Enjoy the fruits of your labor! :-)

Homemade Pizza Sauce:
1 28oz can of chopped tomatoes
1/4 c olive oil
1 T red wine vinegar
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 T dried oregano
1t dried basil
1t dried parsley
1t salt
1/4 t pepper

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until well combined. This sauce can be frozen in individual packets for up to 3 months or refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Tried and True Pizza Variations:
1. Ham and Pineapple: Top pizza with pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese as you would for an original pizza. Then chop up pieces of ham and canned pineapple and toss over the cheese. Bake as directed above.
2. Blue Cheese & Buffalo Chicken: To make the buffalo chicken, toss precooked chicken (I used storebought rotisserie chicken) with the buffalo sauce (2 T melted unsalted butter, 1/4 cup hot sauce such as Frank's). To make the pizza sauce, combine 1 T mayonnaise, 1 T sour cream, 1 T yogurt with a 1/4 t garlic powder. Spread this sauce on the rolled-out pizza dough. Top with the buffalo chicken, mozzarella and 1/4 c blue cheese crumbles. Bake as directed above.
3. Margherita: Top pizza with pizza tomato sauce. Then place slices of fresh mozzarella atop and bake as directed above. When you take the pizza out of the oven, lay basil leaves over top. Let sit for a few minutes until the basil wilts. Serve.
4. Dessert Pizza: Brush the rolled-out dough with butter and bake for 10-11 minutes. Remove pizza from the oven and spread peanut butter on crust. Then top with milk chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, marshmallows, chopped up bananas, and toffee crunch (or any other toppings you prefer). Bake for an additional 3-4 minutes. Enjoy!

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