Pizza time: arguably the best, most wonderful time ever, right?
Making pizza from scratch: scary? Difficult? Impossible?
Making pizza dough is wonderful. It’s fun. It’s relaxing. It’s basically my favorite way to spend a lazy Sunday.
This month’s Recipe Swap was for–yep, you guessed it, pizza! I love getting the chance to re-interpret a vintage recipe each month with this group, and I’ve missed out on the last few because of the wedding and the honeymoon. Sadface. So when I opened my inbox and saw that we were making pizza, it was so on.
One of my favorite classes I’ve taken thus far in culinary school has been the bread class. There’s just something so inherently magical about baking bread. Maybe it’s the allure of delicious carbs? Or the unmistakable perfect scent of freshly-baked bread?
Seriously, can someone please make a freshly-baked bread perfume? Get on it, people. I need this in my life!
Maybe what I love most about baking bread is how simple the entire process really is, once you strip it down to the fundamentals. All you really need to bake a loaf of bread is flour, salt, yeast and water. Mix it, knead it, let it rest. Knead it some more, let it rest. Shape it up, bake it off. That’s it. That’s bread, my friends. Simplicity at its best.
I really think I could spend my whole life kneading dough, shaping loaves and baguettes with my hands and baking bread and be totally, completely happy. Anyone wanna buy me bakery?
Okay, back to pizza. This is my personal favorite pizza dough recipe–the dough has the slightest hint of sweetness, thanks to a little honey and sugar in the mix. The exterior is crisp, giving way to chewy pizza perfection. Heavenly!
You can top your pizza however you like. You can keep in classic, with fresh tomato sauce, a bit of mozzarella cheese and plenty of fresh basil for an authentic pizza Margherita. Or maybe you get a little wild and use some barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese and smoked chicken or pulled pork on top. The greatest thing about pizza is how easily you can customize the flavors–it’s a delicious edible blank canvas, so create your own masterpiece!
For these adorable little pizzas, I combined sweet thyme-infused caramelized onion, fresh Buffalo mozzarella, perfectly melty fontina cheese, and prosciutto. Oh dear. As soon as they came out of the oven, I showered the pizzas in a ticker-tape parade of thinly sliced ribbons of basil. Who doesn’t love a good parade?
I like to make mini pizzas, especially to serve when we have friends over for a casual meal. I’ll make the dough ahead of time, so by the time everyone arrives we can hang out in the kitchen, roll our our dough and make our own personal pizzas. Everyone gets to make their own pizza, exactly how they want it. Who doesn’t love that?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that throwing a grown-up pizza party is awesome.
Mini pizzas + a fresh garden salad + plenty of wine + good company + laughter = perfection. I really can’t think of a better way to spend an evening.
mini pizzas with prosciutto, fontina & caramelized onions.
Yield: 4 mini pizzas
For the pizza dough
8.5 ounces water
0.25 ounces active dry yeast
14 ounces bread flour
0.25 ounces kosher salt
0.05 ounces honey
0.33 ounces extra virgin olive oil
0.13 ounces granulated sugar
For the caramelized onions
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 medium sweet white onions, halved, chopped into thin slivers
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stems
For the pizzas
4-5 slices prosciutto, sliced thin, torn into pieces
1/2 cup fontina cheese, cubed
1/2 cup fresh Buffalo mozzarella, sliced into thin rounds
fresh basil, for topping
For the pizza dough
Combine the yeast and water in a small bowl and stir gently. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
Combine the bread flour, salt, honey, olive oil and granulated sugar in the bowl on stand mixer. Attach the dough hook to the mixer, and pour in the water and yeast mixture.
Turn the mixer on low and allow to mix for two minutes.
Using a bowl scraper, scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Increase the speed to medium-high, and mix the dough for 5-8 minutes, or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The dough will make a slapping sound in the bowl, and that’s how you’ll know it’s ready!
Lightly flour a wooden cutting board and scrape the dough onto the board. Cover completely but loosely with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes, until the dough has doubled in size.
Test the dough to see if it’s ready by lightly flouring your knuckle and lifting the plastic wrap off the dough. Press your knuckle into the dough and if the indentation remains after you remove your knuckle and is slow to come out, it’s ready to go.
Fold and press the dough into the work surface to remove air bubbles. Knead it for about 1 minute, folding the dough into itself and onto the work surface, pressing out air bubbles along the edges of the dough.
Using your kitchen scale and a sharp knife (I like a bench knife!), measure the dough into three equal portions. they should weigh around 4 ounces each.
Place the heels of your hands together to make a 'V' with your hands. Place a ball of dough in the bottom of the 'V' and gently push the ball of dough forwards and into the work surface. This is called rounding. Bring the dough ball back to where you started and push the ball again with the heels of your hands in the 'V' shape a few more times, about 10-15 until your ball is round, smooth and elastic.
Repeat with remaining dough balls.
Once all the balls are formed, cover loosely with the plastic wrap and allow to rest for 15 minutes while you caramelize the onions.
For the caramelized onions
Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Check the pan to see if it’s ready by flicking a few droplets of water into the skillet. If the drops sizzle and dance about the surface, we’re ready to go!
Add the butter and olive oil to the sauté pan, swirling the pan to melt the butter.
When the butter has melted, add the onions, salt and pepper, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula to combine.
Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the onions begin to soften and become slightly translucent.
Add the brown sugar and thyme, and stir to combine.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally, or until the onions are very soft and caramelized and only a small amount of reduced syrupy liquid remains in the pan.
Remove the sauté pan from the heat and allow the onions to cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the ingredients for the pizza.
Assembling the pizzas
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, with a rack in the center of the oven.
If you have a pizza stone, now’s the time to place it in the oven to get hot! Allow the stone to heat up for about half an hour.
If you don’t have a pizza stone, you can sprinkle a large sheet tray with cornmeal and set aside until time to bake.
Lightly dust a wood cutting board with flour and place one of the small rounds of pizza dough on it. Using the heel of your hand, press the dough in the center and along the edges a few time to allow some of the gas bubbles to escape.
Flip the dough over and repeat.
Lightly flour a rolling pin, and starting from the center of the dough, work your way to the edges to flatten the dough. Flip and repeat.
Pick up the flat disk of dough and gently place your knuckles underneath it. Working from the center, gently pull the dough outwards to the edges. Turn the dough over and repeat.
When the dough is about 6” in diameter, lay it onto the prepared baking sheet (or preheated pizza stone, just sprinkle some cornmeal on top before laying the dough on top of it!) and using a fork, prick the surface of the dough all over. This prevents air bubbles from forming!
Repeat with the remaining three dough balls.
When all four pieces of dough are formed and on the baking sheet, brush each one generously with olive oil.
Place the baking sheet or pizza stone in the oven on the center rack and bake for 5 minutes at 450 degrees, or until the mini pizzas just begin to get some color on them.
Remove from the oven and add a layer of cooled caramelized onions, a few pieces of sliced Buffalo mozzarella and fontina cheese on each pizza. Arrange the pieces of prosciutto on each pizza and return the pan to the oven.
Bake for 5-8 minutes longer, or until the crusts are golden brown, the cheese is melted and the prosciutto is slightly crisp on the surface.
Remove from the oven and immediately top with the chopped basil.
Allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.
Place any leftover mini pizzas in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to three days.
dough recipe adapted from Gisslen's Baking Fundamentals