Michael’s Pizza

My friend Sara’s idea of a gourmet meal is pizza with two toppings from the local pizzeria.  I, however, was never a pizza aficionado until my husband began making his own pizza dough and garnishing it with all fresh ingredients.  He devised a couple of techniques that guarantee a crispy crust and caramelized toppings.  The result is a pizza that is worlds apart from what you pick up in that big square box.

The highlights of this recipe are partially baking the dough rounds before adding toppings and sautéing the toppings before adding them to the pizza (The pizza doesn’t bake long enough to give the raw ingredients a caramelized taste).

Pizza dough:

1 package (2 ¼ t) active dry yeast

1 ½ c warm water (110 degrees)

4 c all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting

2 t salt

2 T extra virgin olive oil

Toppings (go nuts, prepare your favorites):

Suggestions:

Avoid prepared pizza sauce.  Instead, chop up a tomato or handful of tiny tomatoes and sauté in a nonstick pan with a teaspoon of olive oil, pinch of salt and pepper.  Mash as tomato softens.

½ cup sliced mushrooms, sautéed

I c thinly sliced sweet pepper (think yellow, red or orange for color) lightly sautéed .

1 small sliced Vidalia onion sautéed until beginning to caramelized

4 cloves of thinly sliced garlic added to caramelized onion

One hot and one sweet Italian sausage, crumbled and sautéed

1/2 c pitted Kalamata or Turkish olives sliced in half

2 T fresh basil, chopped

½ t red pepper flakes

¼ t dried oregano

½ t salt

¼ t freshly ground black pepper

¾ lb. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced*

The dough:

Proof the yeast by dissolving it in warm water.  It should foam up.  Put the flour and salt in a food processor using the steel blade. Pulse briefly and then add the yeast mixture in a slow stream.  Stop processor, add oil and pulse a few times.

On a lightly floured surface knead dough briefly and form into three balls. * * Place on a baking sheet, cover with a towel and let rise about 45 minutes until double in bulk.

Place baking stone in a 450-degree oven.

Shaping, Topping and Baking:

Press dough with your fingers from the center out on a marble slab.

Shape dough into three 12” rounds about ¼” thick preferably on a marble slab.   Allow a lip on the edge.  Poke a few holes in the dough to keep it from puffing up.  Lift onto a peel, slide onto hot baking stone and bake one at a time, unless baking stone can accommodate more, for four minutes until lightly baked.  Take out of oven and add toppings divided among crusts. Arrange slices of cheese on top.  Return to oven and bake another 6 minutes, just until cheese is melted and starting to bubble.  Run under the broiler for a couple of minutes to brown the top.  Don’t overbake or cheese will become leathery.  Cut into wedges with a pizza cutter.

*Place cheese in freezer for 20 – 30 minutes to make slicing easier.

** At this point dough can be refrigerated or frozen for use later. Each ball will make pizza for two.

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