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Perk Up Your Pizza

P izza is always quite the crowd pleaser. Instead of ordering in become a pizza chef for the night. Making your own pizza is great for a fun family dinner or as the basis of a themed party.

Perk up your Pizza - Everyday Food – Dartagnan.com

The Crust
Since pizza crust is a yeast-risen dough, it needs to be started before you prep your other ingredients to allow time to rise. Dissolve a package of active dry yeast in 2/3 cup warm water. Add 1 tablespoon honey and 2 tablespoons olive oil to the yeast-mixture as well. Stir well and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. The mixture will get foamy.

Place 2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a food processor with a dough blade. Pulse to combine. With the machine running, slowly pour the yeast mixture through the feed tube. Process until the mixture pulls away from sides of the food processor and forms a ball of dough. Continue processing for 30 seconds.

Knead the dough gently with your hands until it forms a smooth ball. Place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover with towel and set somewhere warm. Let the dough rise for at least 30 minutes. Divide in half; this recipe will make enough dough for 2 pizzas.

The Sauce
A basic tomato sauce is classic on pizza, but consider some gourmet alternatives:

  • BBQ sauce
  • Olive oil with garlic and herbs
  • Basil pesto
  • Olive tapenade
  • Sweet chili sauce

The Toppings
Pizza just wouldn’t be pizza without lots of cheese. Try the following cheeses or combine them to make your own blend:

  • Fresh or shredded mozzarella
  • Provolone
  • Smoked cheddar
  • Feta or goat cheese
  • Parmesan
  • Romano
  • Fontina
  • Gorgonzola
  • Gouda

There are countless fruits and vegetables that can top a pizza, including old stand-bys and fresh picks like,

  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Olives (pitted, of course)
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Fresh basil or other herbs*
  • Zucchini
  • Fresh corn
  • Pineapple
  • Roasted garlic
  • Spinach
  • Roasted eggplant
  • Shaved truffle

*When assembling your pizza, place fresh herbs under the cheese. The cheese will act as a protective barrier so the herbs don’t burn.

For meat lovers, an array of options awaits:

How to Cook Your Pizza
To cook your pizza, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. If you have a pizza stone, allow 20 additional minutes to let it get up to temperature. Assemble your pizza on a pizza peel. Spread out a layer of coarse corn meal before laying out your crust. This will allow the pizza to slide off the peel easily. Assemble your pizza. Give the peel a shake to make sure the pizza is loosened from the bottom of the peel. Gently slide the pizza off onto the pizza stone. Bake for 8 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown and the crust is firm. If you don’t have a pizza stone, assemble the pizza on a sheet tray or pizza pan. Place the entire pan into the oven to bake.

For the warmer months, try grilling your pizza. Put the dough directly on the grill. Grill for just a couple minutes on the first side. The pizza crust will be puffed and will have nice grill marks. Flip the crust over onto a cooler portion of the grill and top your pizza however you choose. Close the lid of the grill and let the grill work like an oven. The pizza is ready when the ingredients are hot and melted.