Two pizzas, hold the fire

When I make pizza, I usually pull off a chunk of the dough for the kids’ cheese -only pizza (they don’t appreciate good food). I put ours in first, and while it sets, I’ll cook the kids’ pizza. Last week they were particularly cranky, and I was rushed to get theirs done before they had to leave for swim class. I brain-farted and put their pizza on the pan with holes in the bottom rather than the usual cookie sheet.

About five minutes into the cooking cycle, I see smoke streaming outside the oven. Olive oil had dripped down onto the burner, pooled and had ignited.
I pulled the pizza out, shut off the oven and applied baking soda to put out the fire. My youngest daughter was still asleep, sprawled out in the middle of the kitchen, taking a rare, but much-needed nap. The smoke alarm peeped while I was pulling the power, but she slept through that. Next, I went around the house and opened up the house to air it out. Our neighbor let us use her oven to finish our pizza and thought it looked so good, she asked for the recipe. So here it is.

Pizza Dough — recipe from Cook’s Illustrated

4 C whole wheat pastry flour

1 t active dry yeast

2 T olive oil

1 2/3 C water

  1. Dissolve yeast in 2/3 C of warm (105°F) water and let sit five minutes or until the yeast swells.
  2. Mix the yeast goo, remaining water, olive oil and flour with a dough hook four minutes, or until it works into a ball.
  3. Put in oiled bowl, cover and let rise about 2 – 3 hours, or until doubled in bulk.
  4. Preheat oven to 500°F
  5. Divide into the number of pizzas you need. In a circular motion, flatten into a disc shape 1/4′ thick. Work around again, stretching the dough the diameter of your pizza pan.
  6. Sprinkle corn meal/semolina on the pan, place dough on top, and add a thin layer of olive oil to cover the crust.
  7. Add toppings (see below). Cook until cheese is melted, or about 7 minutes.
  8. Let sit for about five minutes before cutting.

Variation: reduce the amount of yeast to 1/2 teaspoon, then letting the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight, taking it out about three hours prior to cooking. The cold refrigerator mellows the flavor of the yeast.

Toppings (my recipe)

  • Artichoke Pesto —
    The artichoke pesto can be found in the deli section of your grocery store, or you can make your own. (Here’s a recipe)
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced or grated very finely
  • 1 lb crimini mushrooms — I slice these in my food processor using the thinnest blade. The effect is the mushrooms won’t dominate the pizza, but you get the great flavor.
  • 1 red, orange or yellow pepper, sliced thin — for more color, alternate pepper colors. Red peppers are the sweetest. Do not use green.
  • 1/2 C feta
  • 10 Kalamata olives, sliced (optional)
  • 1/4 C Reggiano Parmesan (optional)

Spread the pesto on the crust in a thin layer. Put the feta on top, spread evenly. Now add the thinly sliced crimini mushrooms.
Put the mozzarella on top. (It doesn’t have to cover everything, just space it regularly.) Now arrange the pepper slices in a nice radial pattern (or if you feel like it, spell a dirty word). Sprinkle the optional olives and parmesean on top.

Cook at 500°F until the cheese is melted, about 7 minutes.


This has the pre-cooked crust, pesto, and mushrooms.

We’ve added a layer of mozzarella. I prefer using a very fine grater for this.

Ring with red pepper.

Add kalamata olives and some parmesean cheese.

Voila! It’s done!

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