Give Pizza This Holiday Season

Are there any pizza makers on your list (experienced or novice) this holiday season? Why not feed their love of pizza for those special cooks on your list?

Pizza for any season Give Pizza This Holiday SeasonThe pizza makers on your list love having complete control of the available combinations, including the crust.

(I’m thinking of home cooks. Those who dial and order take-out are another category of pizza lover.)

When you add to their repertoire of ingredients or tools, happy recipients might even invite you over for a pizza feast!

Thin or thick crust, sauce variations, and the panorama of toppings will be available to explore when they make their own pizza at home!

Top Gifts for Pizza Makers

The possibilities fall into two major groups:

Ingredients. A special sauce that they might have never tried, special pizza sausage that’s not easy to find, some Double 0 flour, or special artisan cheese for pizza. Is there another ingredient that they talk about, but have never tried?

Tools. A pizza stone will help them raise their pizza-making game. (Make sure it will fit into their oven.) Or a pizza peel to move their pie in and out of the oven. Or one of those pizzeria-style cutters will make slicing that pie a lot easier.

Cookbooks: There are as many ways to make a pizza as there are cooks.

A “pizza gift basket” can include several items, depending or the kind of gift you need, and the combination that your pizza maker will enjoy.

Pizza gift recipients will have opportunity to use their gifts right away, if they wish, to put their new pizza making tools to work. The holiday season is a great time to make a simple and quick pizza to feed the family and guests.

New pizza makers will love developing a practical skill, and experienced makers will enjoy expanding their pizza repertoire. Almost everyone loves pizza, and those who don’t…should!


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Tips to Cook Mushrooms for Pizza

I love mushrooms on my pizza. I’m one of those double mushrooms lovers. I’ll go with canned or fresh. And I’ve also made pizza with both canned and fresh mushrooms, to enjoy the goodness of both.

Mushrooms on pizza Tips to Cook Mushrooms for Pizza

When it comes to mushroom pizza, bring it!

Now I’m testing sautéed fresh mushrooms, vs. plain raw ones. While it is an extra step in pizza making, I want to know whether it’s worth the effort.

The reason for sautéing the mushrooms ahead of time is to concentrate the mushroom flavor and get rid of the excess water that they bring to the pizza

I found that the details are important, when pre-cooking my mushrooms. Here’s what I know for now:

  • Choose clean and firm mushrooms from the market, with no dark spots, and plan to cook them within a few days. When you’re ready to use them, brush them well and slice evenly.
  • Use olive oil to sauté mushrooms that will be a pizza topping. Have it hot enough for the mushrooms to sizzle, but in the middle range, so they can cook for about 10 minutes, and get golden brown on both sides.
  • Add some salt at the start of cooking. I didn’t add enough, so don’t be shy, but season according to your taste, too.

Mushrooms in saute pan Tips to Cook Mushrooms for Pizza

  • Sauté one layer of mushrooms at a time, and turn as needed for even cooking. You want them to brown and caramelize, and if you pile them up, they’ll just steam. Do them in batches if needed.
  • Let them drain and cool on paper towels, while you get the rest of the pizza ready for topping.

Mushrooms ready for pizza Tips to Cook Mushrooms for Pizza

I found that you can do the mushrooms ahead – a day or two – and keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to add them to your next homemade pizza masterpiece.

Pizza with mushrooms Tips to Cook Mushrooms for Pizza

When your pizza comes out of the oven, hot and ready to eat, you’ll enjoy the rich, earthy mushroom flavor even more.

I’m sure I’ll still make pizza with my “other” mushroom ways from time to time, but I’m a fan of sauteed mushrooms now, and we’ll be enjoying our pizzas this way, too.


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Pizza As A Negotiating Tool

Homemade pizza negotiation tool 300x300 Pizza As A Negotiating ToolJust in case you need another reason to make a pizza. Negotiations go better over food!

Pizza can make everything go better! (Fans know this already.)

Jean Chatzky was on the Today show, talking about a Babson College business study. The researchers found that both sides come out with a more profitable deal if they work over lunch, or dinner.

Pizza was her first thought, too. Her example: Have pizza when you need to negotiate with your spouse.

My pizza dough was ready to go, by the time I heard this.

Then I tracked down a report on the Babson study. that said, “…eating while deciding important matters offers profitable, measurable benefits through mutually productive discussions.”

The report didn’t say what they ate. But, I have to wonder, will Macy’s and JCP have pizza with Martha?

Meanwhile, my pizza crust is rising in a bowl on the kitchen counter. It’s warm indoors, and cold outside. When I turn on the oven, it will do double duty. Give us extra heat and bake us a pizza for lunch.

More Pizza On My Mind

I’ve been thinking about grilling pizza, when more of the snow melts. My pizza stone is ready for that, too. I’ve been looking at how other grillers assemble their pie, and what ingredients they use.

There are lots of examples where pizza makers use no sauce, just fresh tomatoes, cheese, and a few other toppings.

I love my favorite sauce so much, I’ll be experimenting with using it, just less of it, to balance the factors. I want the pizza to slide easily off the peel. Cornmeal helps, but if it’s too heavy with toppings, that could defeat the purpose.

Even so, I don’t want to leave off the sauce. It tastes so good, it won’t be pizza without my sauce.

That means experiments are to come! We’ll enjoy eating and rating the results.

Eating pizza needs no reason. What’s for lunch, or dinner, at your house?


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Did You Search For Pizza This Weekend?

Homemade pizza time to eat 238x300 Did You Search For Pizza This Weekend?I just heard that lots of people searched online for pizza this past weekend? Were you one of them?

No need to wait for your pizza order to be delivered, or to go out into the dark or bad weather to get your favorite hot and tasty pizza, when you make your own at home!

Just a few simple steps in preparation, and you can be pizza-ready at your place:

Flour and yeast for the crust. A good bread flour keeps well in an air-tight plastic container. I keep it in my cupboard. I keep my extra whole wheat flour in the fridge, and it’s in an extra large zip bag.

Same with the yeast. I keep my big supply in a plastic container in the freezer, and a smaller snap container in the fridge where I can get to it easily.

Olive oil. We always have a bottle in the cupboard, because we use it for cooking many different dishes.

Pizza sauce. I love my favorite brand, Pastorelli, and I keep several cans around at all times.

Cheese and mushrooms. If I have fresh mushrooms, I’ll put them on pizza, but it’s so much easier to keep canned ones around. The big can, please. The convenience makes that an easy choice most times.

Mozzarella and Parmesan are in the fridge. The fresh mozzarella cheese does have a shorter life span, but you can freeze it if necessary. We have pizza often enough that cheese does not go to waste around here.

Pizza dough 300x225 Did You Search For Pizza This Weekend?Those are the main components. It’s that easy! Basic pizza from your own kitchen.

For a pizza with more toppings, get your other favorites when you shop for groceries, and you’ll be ready to add them to your pizza, too.

Just make your dough an hour ahead, or longer if you need to. Slow down the rising by putting your bowl of pizza crust to be in the fridge. (Lightly oil the dough ball, and cover the bowl with plastic.)

A good, hot pizza is as close as your own kitchen, and ready to eat, straight from the oven, make your own at home!

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Sunday Night Pizza Time

Pizza Sunday Night 2 300x225 Sunday Night Pizza Time

Any night is a good night for homemade pizza. Sunday is often an easy time, because you can be relaxed about making the dough, prepping the toppings, and putting it all together to bake.

My homemade pizza crust can easily be made in the morning and put in the fridge to rise. Or if you’re starting after lunch, leave it on the counter.

Always oil the ball of dough lightly, and cover the bowl with a clean towel to prevent it drying out.

If that happens, just punch it down, knead a few times, add a few drops of oil to the surface, and let it rise a bit longer.

You may have to let the dough rest part way through stretching it out on your sheet or baking stone. It will relax in 10 to 15 minutes and let you finish.

And that’s about all the time it takes to preheat your oven to 500 degrees.

You can bake your pizza as soon as the oven is up to temperature. Pizza stones do not have to be preheated along with the oven, but if you do, it makes for a crispier crust.

Then you’ll need to use a peel or perhaps a sheet of parchment to transfer the unbaked pizza to the hot stone. Some cornmeal helps the pizza to slide. Be careful! That pizza stone will be hot!

Get your plates and drinks ready so that you can enjoy a hot, homemade pizza, fresh from your own oven!

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Homemade Pizza Rules

Homemade sausage pizza rules 300x207 Homemade Pizza RulesYour own homemade pizza can beat the pants off anybody’s. IMO.

Saw Hoda and Kathie Lee tasting Naked Pizza on the Today Show this past week.

It didn’t look naked to me. It looked pretty good, with a crust that looked whole grain and some good toppings. Best I could tell from TV.

But they’d just had some wine, which they were excited about.  Apparently it was aged in stainless barrels. So the pizza was not getting their full attention.

I understand convenience. Well-made homemade pizza can be just as convenient. The notion of “naked” pizza, as in “just plain pizza” appeals to me. I just put it through the lens of “homemade.”

Homemade pizza that rules them all

  • Make your crust with the balance of whole grains and flours that suit your taste
  • Select your toppings the same way: massive mushrooms or sausage sensation, or…
  • Bake it round, square or any other shape
  • Serve it HOT from the oven, no transport delays

Homemade pizza: well topped and always tasty!

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Homemade Sausage Pizza | Inspired by Castle

Sausage pizza basil Castle 300x300 Homemade Sausage Pizza | Inspired by CastleHomemade sausage pizza is a favorite at my house. I’ve written about it several times, and how much I love our local pizza sausage.

Add fresh basil? Sounds good. Let me get some green on my pizza.

Here’s how:

  • Choose fresh basil leaves
  • Rinse the leaves and pat dry
  • Stack several leaves together
  • Roll the stack
  • Use a sharp knife to thinly slice the leaves (cut across the width)

This will give you long thin strips of fragrant and tasty basil, what chefs call a chiffonade. Then arrange on your pizza, after the Parmesan and sausage, before the mozzarella.

Some people like to put on the whole leaves, but I like to have the dusky flavor spread out, so that every slice has some.

I used 8 medium sized leaves for my 14-inch pizza, and this was the ordinary basil variety that is common in farm markets and specialty groceries. You could experiment with other varieties, as you wish. I used smell as my guide, and I wanted to be sure and get an herb that would complement (and not overpower) the sauce and sausage.

I’ve seen recipes for basil on sausage pizza before. But what pushed me to try it?

I got the idea from an episode of Castle, and it just struck me as something that would be delicious. Castle is one of my top three favorite TV shows. It was a program from Season 3, “A Slice of Death.” This is the episode where the plot plays out against the intense rivalry between four New York pizza restaurants, with names so similar it adds another layer to the mystery.

In the end, Castle goes “across a bridge” to get a special sausage basil pizza for his daughter. He’s such a good dad! (I’ll forgive him not making it himself.)

Any night that Castle is on is a good night for homemade sausage pizza, too!


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Make a Spooktacular Pizza Buffet

Pizza3 300x225 Make a Spooktacular Pizza Buffet

Feed your hungry goblins and ghouls some healthy pizza when they return from their candy collecting and parties on Halloween.

It’s easy to be ready to serve hot, fresh pizza made at home with a few simple steps in preparation.

  • Shop for pizza-making supplies. You’ll need some good bread flour and yeast for the homemade pizza crust.  Or you can purchase frozen dough in balls at the grocery. Stock up on pizza sauce, cheese and other toppings, too.
  • Prepare the pizza toppings. Cook sausage, slice onions, fresh mushrooms, peppers or olives. Shred or slice the mozzarella as needed.
  • Make the dough for the pizza crusts. It will rise slower in the refrigerator, so you can make it several hours ahead of when you’ll need it. Or, freeze your own homemade pizza crust ahead of time. Let the dough return to room temperature before you try and stretch it out.

When the tired kids of all ages return, you’ll be ready to assemble and bake them some nourishing homemade pizza.

A spooktacular pizza buffet will put a satisfied smile on their faces as they relax after their Halloween haunts.

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National Sausage Pizza Day – Bake a Homemade Pizza

Sausage pizza loaded 300x225 National Sausage Pizza Day   Bake a Homemade PizzaHomemade sausage pizza has become one of our favorites due to discovering the great pizza sausage from our local Hollywood Markets. No surprise to find there’s a National Sausage Pizza Day today to celebrate this good food.

No affiliate relationship, just a tasty sausage that goes wonderfully well with our favorite pizza sauce by Pastorelli (which I keep tabs on which markets carry it… I’ll drive to a different grocery store for it).

I’m very loyal to particular products when I find one that’s outstanding, one that I’d recommend to family, friends and others. The Hollywood sausage and Pastorelli sauce both qualify.

It’s easy to enjoy a hot sausage pizza several times a week. I’ve already written about how to cook your sausage for pizza. Our favorite Hollywood sausage is not too spicy, not too bland, just right.

Tips for easy sausage pizza:

  • Purchase sausage in bulk, without casings
  • Precook and crumble the sausage before adding to your pizza
  • Drain the sausage on paper towels if there is excess grease
  • Freeze sausage if you won’t use it promptly, in pizza-sized batches
  • Plan to use your frozen sausage within two or three months
  • Thaw package of frozen sausage in the refrigerator overnight, the day before you’ll make your pizza
  • Add cooked sausage to your pizza after the sauce and Parmesan cheese, before the mozzarella

A good pizza sausage adds lots of flavor to your pizza, complements your sauce and other ingredients. It can make your pizza baked at home extra good.

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Best Flour To Use For Homemade Pizza Crust

I love bread flour for pizza crust. Guess we’re fortunate at our house, because no gluten allergies here. (I am exploring gluten free pizza crusts, for future use. Why should an allergy get in the way when you love pizza?)

Pizza crust flour 300x213 Best Flour To Use For Homemade Pizza CrustGot some bread flour from Hampshire Farms at the Royal Oak Farmers Market.

This is a whole grain bread flour, milled locally from local wheat. One of the photos shows a comparison, regular bread flour to this flour.

I found that ¼ cup, up to not more than ½ cup of this flour in my usual pizza crust recipe worked well to give the crust some more “tooth” which makes the pizza even more satisfying in this cooler weather. My recipe for pizza crust is on this page.

Pizza crust crusty 196x300 Best Flour To Use For Homemade Pizza CrustThe corner pieces are almost like a slice of pizza with a bread stick on the side. Something crunchy to munch. I could see making this crust into a batch of bread sticks and using the pizza sauce to dip. Could be a good game-day buffet item. Just keep the sauce warm in a small crock pot or chafing dish.

In the quest for a great pizza crust, the importance of having a hot, pre-heated oven comes up over and over. Give your oven 10 or 15 minutes to heat up, so that the pizza goes in to a fully hot oven. As for temperature, it’s 500 degrees in my case. That’s as hot as my ordinary home oven goes.

As I write, I’ve got another batch of dough for pizza crust rising in the kitchen. I can already smell the yeasty goodness. Ultimately this will be a sausage pizza, of course. Another tasty pizza coming up soon, crust and all!

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