Pizza Pizza

Pizza has single-handedly transformed our food life over the last couple of months. We’ve gone from a diet of vegetables and meat served over pasta to a diet of vegetables and meat served on bread, occasionally mixed with vegetables and meat rolled into a burrito. But vegetables mean variety, and the more vehicles you have for delivering them, the more exciting your menus seem.

For us, the revolution started with the amazing chicken liver pizza I made in June. But the dough, though excellent, was a barrier. Like most of us, I don’t have the time or the patience on a weeknight to wait for all that rising and resting.

That’s where five-minute no-knead boule dough comes in. Quietly gurgling away in the fridge most days of the week, this dough is ready to leap into action whenever pizza is called for. You just pull off a chunk, roll it out, and have homemade pizza in just a little more time than it takes for the oven to heat up.

Be forewarned that if you are a pizza snob, you won’t find perfection in this crust. It lacks the tender softness of the best doughs and often veers too far into the realm of the crispy. But if you are looking for a quick and better than average supper on a pretty darn good crust, this dough is your faithful friend.

A side note: Don’t be intimidated by the amount of writing in the recipe below. It takes only a couple of times through to get the technique down and do it from memory.

Here’s the basic dough recipe again.

Five-Minute No-Knead Boule Dough

NOTE ABOUT FLOUR: The important thing is not so much the amount of flour but the final consistency of the dough. The range given here should allow for the many different types of flour you might use at home. Note that bread flour will also work in this recipe. The amount used will tend toward the lower end of the range.

6 1/2 – 8 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
3 c. lukewarm water (test on the inside of your wrist)
1 1/2 tbsp. yeast
1 1/2 tbsp. kosher salt

Add yeast and salt to water in a 5 quart bowl and stir. Add 6 1/2 cup flour with a wooden spoon and stir until uniformly moist. Dough should be soft and conform to container. If it is too thin (e.g., the consistency of thick cake batter), add more floor until it just holds together into a ball but is still soft. Cover loosely with towel and let rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse or flatten on top, 2 – 5 hours. At this point you can refrigerate dough in lidded but not airtight container for up to two weeks. (Refrigerated dough is easier to work with.)

Topping Preparation

Have toppings prepared and oven preheated before working with dough.

It’s a good idea to roast vegetables that are “wet” ahead of time (squash, broccoli, zucchini, etc.)–and all other vegetables are good roasted as well. To roast, cut up vegetables to desired size and put in a bowl. Add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Scatter over cookie sheet and place under broiler, on top rack, on high for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Vegetables are ready when they have begun to brown.

Here are some favorite combinations we’ve tried lately.

Anchovies, onions, chopped fresh cayenne or other pepper, and a mix of gorgonzola and cheddar cheeses

Roasted squash, onions, garlic, red pepper, and Parmesan cheese

Sliced leftover steak, chopped fresh jalapenos, onions, and white cheddar cheese


Place baking stone on bottom rack of oven and preheat to hottest temperature possible. (In the case of my oven, this is 550 degrees.) Sprinkle cornmeal on pizza peel. Dust a rolling surface with flour. (I use a non-fuzzy kitchen towel.) Dust your hands with flour and pull off a piece the size of a small grapefruit. For very thin crust, pull off a smaller piece; for thicker, pull off a larger one. Sprinkle dough with flour and roll out to desired size.

Rolling out pizza dough. If you’d seen my hair in the original photo you’d understand why I cropped my head off.

Transfer dough to peel and repair damage than will inevitably ensue until you get more practice. Make sure there are no holes in the crust and that the shape roughly conforms to what you imagined (e.g., round or square). Brush surface of crust with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. If using tomato sauce, spread sauce over surface. Add toppings.

Slide pizza onto baking stone–a few forward shakes, and pretending that you are trying to pull a tablecloth out from under a table loaded with dishes, might help. And remember that even disasters like this still taste good.

If you don’t have a pizza peel or a baking stone, transfer the pizza dough to a cookie sheet, add your toppings there, and cook on the bottom rack of the oven.

Bake for 8 – 10 minutes. Add cheese toppings. Bake 2 – 3 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes before slicing and serving.

Chicken Liver Pizza

We love Rockwood Filling Station deeply and the idea of their chicken liver pizza even more. But I’ve never been entirely satisfied with their version, in which whole fried chicken livers are scattered over the top of the pizza in a grand clash of North Carolina-meets-Italy. The fried livers are too big to munch in a respectable bite of pizza, and there are too few of them to imbue the entire pie with their rich livery goodness.

Last weekend I solved the problem. I chopped up the livers and sauteed them in carmelized onions and spices before adding them to the top of the pizza. I won’t say that you’ll like this even if you don’t like chicken liver, because people who don’t like chicken liver never like chicken liver no matter how it’s served. But I will say that this tastes a lot like sausage, and that everyone needs to learn to like liver a lot more.

I have included a crust and sauce recipe if you need one.

Pizza with Spicy Chicken Liver and Carmelized Onions

Crust (from Cook’s Illustrated: The Best Recipe, p. 333)

I like to keep homemade pizza crust in the freezer, then put it into the refrigerator to thaw a day or two ahead. In this case, “a day or two” turned into a week, and the crust was gluey on one side and stiff on the other by the time I went to bake it. Still Fred declared it the best pizza crust he’s ever had, and even I have to admit it was quite good–thin and crispy, without a hint of sogginess.

1/2 c. warm water, at about 105 degrees
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
1 1/4 c. water, at room temperature
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 c. bread flour, plus extra for dusting hands and work surfaces
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Vegetable oil or spray for oiling bowl

Measure warm water into 2 c. measuring cup. Sprinkle in yeast; let stand until yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add room-temperature water and oil; stir to combine.

Pulse flour and salt in workbowl of large food processor fitted with steel blade to combine. Continue pulsing while pouring liquid ingredients (holding back a few tablespoons) through feed tube. If dough does not readily form into a ball, add remaining liquid and continue to pulse until ball forms. Process until dough is smooth and elastic, about 30 seconds longer.

Dough will be a bit tacky, so use rubber spatula to turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead by hand with a few strokes to form smooth, round ball. Put dough into deep oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Punch dough down with your fist and turn out onto lightly floured work surface.

Roll out dough to about half desired size. Let rest while preparing other ingredients. Continue to roll out and let rest until dough is desired size. Roll edges in to form edging. Brush with olive oil just before adding toppings.


1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper

Mix together in large bowl. Extra will keep for several days in refrigerator and can also be used as a base for pasta sauce.

Chicken Liver Pizza Topping

1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. thyme
2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Coarse kosher salt to taste
3/4 to 1 lb. chicken livers, drained and chopped
1/2 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese

Saute onions in olive oil over medium high heat until carmelized, about 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except cheese. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated, about 10 – 15 minutes. Reduce heat about halfway through cooking time to prevent burning.

Place oven rack on bottom level and slide in pizza stone. Preheat oven to 550 or hottest temperature possible. Place rolled out dough onto pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal. (I use a cookie sheet without edges.) Spread tomato sauce over crust, leaving about 1/4 inch around edges to prevent spillage. Spoon chicken liver mix evenly over crust. Remove pizza stone from oven and slide pizza onto stone. (Imagine you are trying to pull a tablecloth out from under a fully loaded table without moving anything and you might avoid disaster.) Return to bottom rack of oven and bake for 6 – 12 minutes, until edges of crust begin to brown. Add cheese to pizza and cook for 2 – 3 minutes longer, until cheese has just melted. Transfer to cutting board. Slice and serve.

And the Pork, You Ask?

Perhaps avid readers will recall that in an earlier post I mentioned that we had pork chops on hand for future use. Perhaps you wonder, “What tasty concoction did she come up with for those?”

Well, dear readers, our pork chops were not all we had hoped. I fried them in the lard, and while the lard did produce a fine texture (Joey, I restrained myself from using the word “lovely” there just for you)–the spice rub left a great deal to be desired. (For the record, it consisted of cumin, coriander, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Might have worked with some chipotle pepper thrown in.)

So, hoping to redeem the sad bits of pork hanging around in my fridge, I tried chopping up the leftover chops and putting them on a pizza. But in case you were wondering: pork, carmelized onions, olives, fresh oregano, and cheddar cheese do not go well together. The pizza wasn’t bad–just not . . . great.

Plus my utter incompetence at making a pretty pizza was, once again, made painfully obvious:

Can someone tell me how to get burned cheese off a pizza stone?

Pizza Art

The reception for Fred’s art show was last night at his studio/gallery. He gave a talk and reminded me again why I married him (because he’s sweet, smart, sensitive, and a wonderful painter).

Still, none of this helped the pizza I made on Friday.


I didn’t realize how scary that was until I posted it. Perhaps I should send it to the Saatchi Gallery to put next to the pig in formaldehyde.

Now that no one has any interest in eating this pizza, I’ll tell you what’s on it because despite its dreadful appearance it was QUITE TASTY.

Blue Cheese
Cherry Peppers

And be careful when you slide the pizza into the oven.

Can anyone tell me how to remove burned blue cheese from a pizza stone?