Lppa/Wikimedia Commons A pizza just removed from an oven, with a close-up view of the cornicione (the outer edge).
Yes, every day is some sort of food day and September 5 happens to be National Cheese Pizza Day. As of this writing, I have not yet had anything to eat, so of course you know what I am hungry for: a couple of slices of hot, melty cheese pizza.
Even in this weather. Back in my high-school days, we were allowed to leave campus for lunch, so some of us would trek down the street to our favorite Italian deli. We had only enough time to get there, order and then walk back to campus as we devoured our pizza slices. It was piping hot, and the melted cheese actually did some damage to the roofs of our mouths. But hungry teenagers must have their pizza.
I am far past my teenage years now, but I have never lost my taste for pizza. I know I am not alone in this, so join me in exploring some good recipes for cheesy delicious pizza.
Homemade pizza crust
1 1/3 cups warm water (between 100-110F, or as packaged yeast recommends)
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 standard packet) instant yeast, such as Red Star Platinum
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for hands and surface
Sprinkle of cornmeal for dusting the pan
1. Prepare dough: Whisk the warm water, yeast, and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or paddle attachment. Cover and allow to rest for 5 minutes. If you don’t have a stand mixer, use a large mixing bowl and mix the dough by hand with a wooden spoon in the next step.
2. Add the olive oil, salt and flour. Beat on low speed for 2 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. With lightly floured hands, knead the dough for 3 to 4 minutes. The dough can be a little too heavy for a mixer to knead it, but you can certainly use the mixer on low speed instead. After kneading, the dough should still feel a little soft. Poke it with your finger; if it slowly bounces back, the dough is ready to rise. If not, keep kneading.
3. Lightly grease a large bowl with oil or nonstick spray (just use the same bowl you used for the dough). Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides in the oil. Cover bowl with aluminum foil, plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes or until double in size.
4. Preheat oven to 475. Allow it to heat for at least 15 to 20 minutes as you shape the pizza. Lightly grease baking sheet or pizza pan with nonstick spray or olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with cornmeal, which gives the crust extra crunch and flavor.
5. Shape dough: When the dough is ready, punch it down to release any air bubbles. Divide the dough in half. (If not making 2 pizzas, freeze half of the dough for another time. On a lightly floured work surface using lightly floured hands or rolling pin, gently flatten the dough into a disc. Place on prepared pan and, using lightly floured hands, stretch and flatten the disc into a 12-inch circle. Lift the edge of the dough up to create a lip around the edges. You can simply pinch the edges up to create the rim.
6. Cover dough lightly with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and allow to rest for a few minutes as you prepare your pizza toppings.
7. Top and bake pizza: To prevent the filling from making your pizza crust soggy, brush the top lightly with olive oil. Using your fingers, push dents into the surface of the dough to prevent bubbling. Top with your favorite toppings and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
8. Slice hot pizza and serve immediately. Cover leftover pizza tightly and store in the refrigerator. Reheat as you prefer. Baked pizza slices can be frozen up to 3 months. Makes 2 12-inch pizzas.
Extra cheesy pizza
1/2 recipe homemade pizza dough
1/2 to 3/4 cup homemade or store-bought pizza sauce
8 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 to 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Basil or Italian seasoning, to taste, optional
1. Preheat oven to 475. Place flattened pizza dough on prepared pan; top with desired amount of sauce.
2. Cover sauce with the sliced mozzarella, followed by the shredded mozzarella, then the grated Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle very lightly with basil (fresh or dried) and/or Italian seasoning, if using.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Note: For the last minute, you can move the oven rack to the top, to promote nice browning of the rim of the crust. Slice and serve while pizza is hot. Makes 1 12-inch pizza.
Cauliflower pizza crust
You can use 5 to 6 cups of store-bought riced cauliflower if you wish, to save time.
1 medium head cauliflower, 6- to 7-inches wide
1 large egg
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan or mozzarella cheese, grated
1. Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper or silicone mat.
2. Rinse cauliflower, remove the outer leaves, separate into florets and chop into smaller pieces. Process in a food processor in 2 batches, until a rice-like texture forms (skip this step if using store-bought riced cauliflower). Transfer cauliflower rice on a prepared baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.
3. Remove cooked cauliflower rice from oven, transfer to a bowl lined with a double or triple layered cheesecloth or linen towel, and let cool for 5 minutes. Then squeeze the liquid out of the ball (cauliflower inside the cheesecloth) as hard as you can. Be patient and do this a few times until barely any liquid comes out.
4. Increase oven temperature to 450. In a medium mixing bowl , whisk the egg with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper for 10 seconds. Add cheese and squeezed cauliflower; mix very well with spatula until combined.
5. Line the same baking sheet with new parchment paper or silicone mat (just make sure to scrape off any bits of cauliflower) and spray with cooking spray. Transfer cauliflower pizza dough in the middle and flatten with your hands until thin pizza crust forms. Bake for 20 minutes, carefully flip with spatula and bake for a few more minutes.
6. Top cauliflower pizza base with your favorite toppings and bake again until cheese on top turns golden brown. Makes 8 slices.
Three-cheese bacon pizza
1 pound prepared pizza dough, room temperature
Flour, for dusting
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 can (8-oz.) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, grated or pressed
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded white Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat a pizza stone or baking sheet in oven at 425 for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, roll out the dough into a 9-inch round on a lightly floured surface. Lightly dust a pizza peel or an inverted baking sheet with flour; lay the round of dough on top and set aside.
2. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring, until crisp, about 6 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the tomato sauce, olive oil, garlic and oregano; season with salt and pepper. Slide the dough directly onto the hot stone or baking sheet and bake until lightly golden and puffy, about 7 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, then carefully slice the crust in half horizontally with a serrated knife to make 2 thin crusts. Turn the crusts cut-side up. Spread with the sauce mixture, then top evenly with the mozzarella, white Cheddar and bacon.
5. Slide the pizzas back onto the hot stone or baking sheet; bake until the cheese melts and the crust is golden, about 8 more minutes. Sprinkle with the Parmesan. Makes 2 pizzas, or about 4 servings.