Pizza Party

arugula pizzaPete and I have a routine when we head to the cabin. Gas/bathroom stop in Two Harbors, late lunch & beverages at Grand Marais’ wonderful Gunflint Tavern, and always, at some point in the trip, a stop at the Trading Post, also in Grand Marais. Such a cool store! They have everything you need for spending time in the great outdoors (i.e., packable wine glasses!), plus they have an eclectic selection of books, including lots of Minnesota and Great Lakes-related reads. The best section is upstairs, tucked in a corner: the cookbooks!

I love cookbooks and have quite a collection. We even designed our new kitchen with a special place to keep my favorites. A couple of these favorites have come from the Trading Post, including the one containing the inspiration for my go-to pizza crust dough, Food to Live By authored by Myra Goodman.

Cookbookscookbook

She and her husband started Earthbound Farm Organic in 1984 and it’s now one of the most recognizable sources of organic produce. While her cookbooks aren’t vegetarian, they contain many vegetarian recipes and recipes easily converted to veg, plus, fresh produce is incorporated into virtually all of them. It’s also full of beautiful photographs.

oven proof modeI improvise a bit each time I make the pizza dough, depending on the flours I have on hand, but always like to include whole wheat and regular bread flour. My much-loved Wolf range has a proof mode on the oven that can be adjusted to just the right temp for raising dough—it’s great! No more trying to find a warm, draft-free place in the middle of winter!

The Wolf also came with a great big oblong pizza stone that’s almost fills the entire rack and we had yet to use it. I figured the family birthday celebration was the perfect time for a pizza party and we could christen the big stone and the special “stone” mode on the oven. Since everyone has different preferences for pizza toppings, smaller, personal-size crusts seemed like the perfect solution and everyone could create their own unique pizza recipe with the toppings provided. As much as I love a traditional pizza, I’m also a huge fan of no sauce or a little swipe of olive oil. Recently I’ve become obsessed with arugula, and thought that would make a great pizza topping—tossed with a lemony dressing and added when the pizza comes out of the oven.

To make the create-your-own pizza process for 11 people a little less hectic, I made the pizza dough a couple weeks ahead of time and prebaked each 8” crust for 90 seconds at 500 degrees on a regular round pizza stone.

CrustsThat made it very easy to package them up to freeze until the day of the party. Pizza toppings included red sauce, San Marzano tomatoes, whole milk fresh mozzarella balls; shredded mozzarella, fontina, and parmesan; sliced black and green olives, sliced red onion, chopped green and yellow peppers, sliced cremini mushrooms, and veggie sausage (Trader Joe’s Italian). The arugula pizza toppings are listed after the pizza dough recipe.

pizzaparty7Because I also served salad and pesto garlic bread, I figured not everyone would eat their entire pizza, so I order these cool pizza boxes from Oriental Trading Company and leftovers could be easily carted home. They even include a place to write your name so you know which box is yours. On to the recipes!

Pizza Dough

2 packages active dry yeast (1/4 oz. each)
2 tbls. sugar (or honey, agave, Sucanat, Florida Crystals, pure maple syrup)
3 tbls. extra virgin olive oil
4 cups flour (I used a combination of whole wheat bread flour, white bread flour, whole wheat flour, and white whole wheat)
1 tbls. Kosher salt

Whisk the yeast and sugar in a small bowl with 1 ½ cups warm water (105-115 degrees F) and let sit about 5 minutes until yeast foams. Add the olive oil and stir.
Yeast tempproof yeast

Whisk the flours and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture and stir to combine. When it becomes too stiff to stir, knead in the bowl for a minute or so, then knead on the counter (sprinkled with flour) for about 5 minutes, incorporating more flour if the dough is too sticky, and form into a large ball. Coat the inside of the large bowl with a little olive oil and turn the ball of dough in the bowl until it is lightly coated. Cover bowl with a damp dish towel and place in a warm, draft-free place and let rise until double in size (about an hour or so).

cheesepizzPreheat oven to 500 degrees F. and place a pizza stone on middle oven rack. Punch down dough and divide it into six equal pieces (a kitchen scale comes in handy here). Form each piece into a ball. Roll each ball into a 7 or 8 inch circle (depending on how thin you like your crust).

pizzaparty8I did the rolling on a silicone baking mat sprinkled with corn meal, which made it easy to move it from counter to oven. Prick dough all over with a fork to keep air bubbles from forming in the oven. If you are pre-baking the crusts for later use, bake for about 90 seconds. Otherwise, spread sauce on circles and cover with your favorite cheeses and toppings. Bake about 8-10 minutes until crust is golden and cheese is melted. Slice and serve.

 

Arugula Pizza

Heat ½ cup extra virgin olive oil in a small pan with 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced. Add a few thyme sprigs and some crushed red pepper flakes and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and discard thyme sprigs. Make a dressing for the arugula with 1 part fresh squeezed lemon juice, 2 parts extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground black pepper and salt. Brush pizza with the garlic/thyme oil, top with shredded mozzarella, fontina, and parmesan, sliced red onion, and chopped, cooked veggie sausage (optional). Drizzle with a little more of the garlic/thyme oil. Bake on a pizza stone in preheated 500 degree oven for 5-10 minutes (depending on whether or not your crust was pre-baked), until crust is golden and cheese is melted. While pizza is baking, toss a few big handfuls of arugula with some of the lemon-olive oil dressing. Top pizza with arugula when it comes out of the oven. Slice and serve. Delicious! My new favorite pizza!

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