Pizza, how do we love thee? Thy golden crust, thy gooey cheese, thy toppings: meaty, cheesy and veggie.
There are so many variations of pizza; that sauce and cheese covered flat bread baked to perfection in a hot oven. Some like the thin, crackery crust while others prefer a bready crust. No matter. If you make your own you can have it just the way you like it! And if you’d rather use a store bought crust, you don’t have to wait for the dough to rise!
Pizza fantasy night is a favorite for us. We create a bunch of toppings, make a batch of dough and go for it! It’s a great activity for a weekend if you want to get children involved. They can help make the dough, shred cheese if necessary and prepare the toppings. If you make your own tomato sauce, it’s a great opportunity to share your “secrets” with the next generation. In the past we’ve set up a “make your own” buffet where everyone gets to create their own pizza with their favorite toppings.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Our favorite at the moment is a BBQ Chicken Bacon Ranch pizza. We either buy the salsa barbacoa from the grocery or make our own. The ranch dressing has to be homemade because I haven’t seen it for sale anywhere in Valladolid. The chicken is a poached and shredded breast. The BBQ sauce is used instead of tomato sauce, then topped with the chicken, onions, cheese and whatever else. When it comes out of the oven we squeeze the ranch dressing over top. When we’ve made this pizza for our Spanish friends they seem to like it, although in their opinion we overcook the bacon.
For our cheese toppings we’ll purchase a standard shredded cheese blend as well as fresh mozzarella that we’ll slice or shred. We’ve also discovered a source for a delicious feta cheese which we’ll combine with black olives and green peppers to make a Greek style pizza. Rick likes it best when the cheese is the star, so he’ll literally paint the tomato sauce onto the crust before adding the toppings.
If you love pizza you can find it in Spain. There are chains like Telepizza and Dominos as well as family owned restaurants with authentic wood ovens. What makes the pizza here unique are the toppings. You’ll find seafood like octopus, anchovy and tuna. During the fall mushroom season you can find an awesome pizza made from the local mushrooms (you’ll see them listed as setas and hongos on menus). There are specialty pizzas with fruit, nuts and goat cheese like Pizza Irina. And of course, there are pizzas made from jamón. Ours also had onions and pineapple and some leftover peppers.
We like to make at least two (or more) pizzas at a time with different toppings on them. Rick prefers to make his own dough and has been experimenting with various flours in an attempt to create the perfect crust. We each have our own method and we think our own way produces a better crust. Try them both and see which you prefer.
- 3 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 – 3 teaspoons yeast (use one packet if your yeast is premeasured)
- 1¼ to 1½ cups warm (body temperature or cooler) water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Whisk yeast with the sugar and water in a large bowl. Set aside to proof.
- When the bubbles form add the salt and olive oil and begin stirring in the flour about a cup at a time until a ball forms.
- The dough will be very wet so sprinkle a generous amount of flour on a board and knead. Add more flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Eventually the dough will change texture and become smooth and elastic. Rinse out the mixing bowl, rub olive oil over the dough and put it in the bowl. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until doubled (it will take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour)
- When doubled, punch the dough down and knead briefly. Cut into portions and roll, stretch, form the shape of whatever you're going to cook the pizza on.
- Set aside about ¼ cup of flour
- Mix the flour, sugar, salt and yeast together in a large mixing bowl.
- Make a well in the center and pour the olive oil in.
- Add a cup of the water, hold the rest in reserve
- Use a wooden spoon to mix everything together. Add more water if necessary to help the dough form a ball.
- Put a small amount of the extra flour onto your kneading surface and turn the dough out onto it.
- Knead for about 10 minutes. The dough will be sticky. Keep adding small amounts of the extra flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking. If it seems too dry, sprinkle it with water.
- Continue to knead until the dough changes and becomes smooth and silky. Form it into a ball.
- Rinse out the mixing bowl, rub olive oil over the dough and put it in the bowl. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until doubled (it will take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour)
- When doubled, punch the dough down and knead briefly. Cut into portions and set aside, covered with a damp towel for about 20 minutes. (To me, allowing the dough to rest makes it easier to shape).
- No matter which method you choose, make sure the oven is very hot, 450°F/230°C.
- If you use a stone, place it in the oven while it's heating.
- Top the pizza, taking care not to overload it. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until the bottom is cooked through.
I like most pizzas, even anchovy and octopus. My favorite is a thin crusted pizza with fresh mozzarella or fresh ricotta, sliced tomatoes and basil…for which I’m willing to wait for Summer and good tomatoes. How about you? What would you serve on your Pizza Fantasy Night?