Showing posts with label fast pizza. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fast pizza. Show all posts

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pizza Margherita

Last Friday, I set out to make homemade pizza.  It's one of my go-to dishes, so it shouldn't have been a big deal.  But I decided to mix things up a bit:  I wanted to try a different crust than my normal recipe, and I wanted to make a pizza Margherita (with very fresh-tasting, simple toppings).  Again, shouldn't have been a big deal, but I messed things up a bit.

See, I got home at about 4 PM and started to make the crust recipe I'd found on the Cooks Illustrated website.  I had combined all the ingredients when I came to a line in the instructions advising me to place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.

In the immortal words of my governor, "oops."

That put a wrinkle in our dinner plans.  But since the Margherita part of my pizza equation came from a recipe on Epicurious that actually called for store-bought refrigerated pizza dough, I decided to follow that path.

The result was that we had the pizza Margherita from the Epicurious website on Friday night ... complete with the dough from a cardboard tube.  It was actually surprisingly good.  The only things I didn't love:  first, the tomato sauce called for a little crushed red pepper, and I thought it was a bit too spicy; and second, the crust was OK, but nothing to write home about.

Thin, store-bought dough

Thick, homemade dough
Still, I had that ball of homemade dough sitting in the refrigerator.  So I pulled it out on Sunday evening, and we did Pizza Margherita Redux.  And it was DELICIOUS.

Thus, I present you with this recipe for pizza Margherita, a mash-up of two recipes with a few of my own modifications to boot.  The store-bought crust option will yield a smaller, thinner pizza; the homemade crust is thick, but remarkably flavorful.




Toppings, ready to go
3 c. (scant) all purpose flour
3 Tbs. vital wheat gluten
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/3 c. ice water
1 Tbs. olive oil + extra for bowl
1 1/2 tsp salt


1 13.8 oz. tube refrigerated pizza dough

Rustic sauce
Tomato Sauce:

1 Tbs. olive oil
12 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes (stems and leaves removed)
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds (coarsely crushed)
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
dash black pepper

1/3 c. chopped fresh basil
4 oz. fresh mozzarella, drained and chopped
4 - 6 oz. shredded mozzarella
1/3 c. shredded parmesan

To make the homemade crust:  Mix flour, gluten, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Mix until combined.  With mixer running on low, slowly add ice water and continue mixing until the flour is all absorbed into a ragged dough ball.  Allow dough ball to rest for 10 minutes.  Then add olive oil and salt; turn mixer back on and let run on low until oil and salt are combined and dough comes together in a smooth ball.  With floured hands, remove dough and shape into a nice, compact ball.  Transfer to a large bowl, cover tightly (with a lid to the bowl or plastic wrap) and refrigerate for 24 - 72 hours.

To make tomato sauce:  Heat a large skillet over high heat for at least two minutes.  Add oil to hot skillet and then, immediately, tomatoes.  Saute over high heat until tomatoes start to char and break down.  Transfer tomatoes to a large bowl and crush with a fork or the back of a spoon (until all tomatoes are mushed but the sauce is still chunky).  Add garlic, fennel, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Stir.

To make pizza:  If you made your own dough, remove it from the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to bake the pizza.  Shape dough into a tight ball (eliminating some of the air), place it in a greased bowl, cover lightly with plastic sprayed with cooking spray, and allow to sit for an hour.

Move oven rack to top third.  Preheat oven to 425.  If you made your own dough, go ahead and put a large cookie sheet in the oven to preheat.

Combine cheeses and basil.

If you are using store-bought dough, roll it out onto a cookie sheet and press it out to a 12 x 8 rectangle.  If you are using homemade dough, coat hands in flour.  Place dough on a large sheet of parchment paper and flatten/stretch until it's a 10 x 15 rectangle.  Top dough with cheese/basil mix and then dot with the tomato sauce.

Sauce dotted on top of pizza.

If using homemade dough, slide the parchment paper onto the preheated cookie sheet.  Place/return cookie sheet to oven and bake (20 minutes for either type of crust, oddly enough - until the crust is golden brown).

Allow pizza to sit for about 5 minutes before cutting it.


Wendy is the author of the Mysteries a la Mode. Visit her on the web or on Facebook. She also writes the Pet Boutique Mysteries under the name Annie Knox; you can follow Annie on Facebook, too!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Writer's Snack: Crust-Free Pizza from Cleo Coyle

Yes, you're right. I promised you crust free pizza, and I aim to deliver. 

I'm showing this little pizza first for those of you who really, really need that crust.

In that case, this baby should make you happy. The pizza pictured is actually a frozen, grocery store pizza "doctored" with fresh mushrooms and sausage.

To read my Frozen Pizza Doctor post, which gives you tips on an Rx for your favorite frozen pizzas, click here and have fun...

For those of you up for a
"crust-free" pizza, well, here's what
I'm talking about today...

Cleo Coyle, fan of faux pizza,
is author of The Coffeehouse
Cleo Coyle's
Crust-Free Pizza

What is pizza? At its most basic, the tastes in your mouth are bright tomato sauce topped by sweet cheese and lively herbs like oregano and basil, both of which are carried on a bed of bread--three ingredients that go so well together. But, when you write for a living, spending hours and hours in front of a computer screen, a steady diet of pizza would be deadly. And the spirit of "two out of three ain't bad," comes my crust-free solution.

This easy (and healthy) snack idea came to me when I was enjoying a delicious pizza bianca from a local pizzeria. The Italian cooks put fresh ricotta on the "white" pie, and I absolutely loved the combination of tangy tomato and sweet, fresh cheese.

First we'll need tomatoes. Yesterday was the first full day of Spring. Living in the Age of Irony (not to mention a town that never stops with the practical jokes), I actually watched snow fall on New York City. Oh, to see the sun again. :) Sadly, as winter lingers, so does the dearth of fine produce.

Tomatoes may be blah at this time of year, but even the blandest of tomatoes can be transformed into a truly delicious treat by the simple addition of caramelizing heat. That's why I make these babies year round, and that's the best thing of all about this healthy snack...

Cleo's Crust-Free
Pizza Bites

To get a free, illustrated PDF of this recipe that you can print, save or share, click here.

Makes 8 mini crust-free pizza bites


4 tomatoes
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (whole milk or part skim)
Dried oregano (sprinkling)
Sea salt, to taste
(optional additions) dried basil, dried rosemary, or an Italian Seasoning mix
Grated finishing cheese like Pecorino Romano or Parmesan

Step 1 - Slice and prep tomatoes: I like to use plum tomatoes because they slice into little oval boats that remind me of potato skins... (see picture below). Roasting these babies will create a bit of a mess. To make clean up easy, simply line the pan with aluminum foil and coat the foil with non-stick cooking spray. Place the tomatoes on the foil and coat the them with non-stick spray, as well. (You won't need to add extra oil if you do this.)

Step 2 - Sprinkle on spices and salt: I use sea salt and plenty of dried oregano. Certainly dried basil and rosemary would be delicious, too. Or try a pre-made "Italian Seasoning" mix from the spice aisle, whatever evokes the flavor of pizza sauce.

Step 3 - Roast the tomatoes: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and roast the tomatoes for at least an hour. Do not UNDER roast these babies. You are not simply baking them, you are roasting them to the point when they caramelize and become sweet. Trust me, I've done this many times. If you do not reach a point where the tomatoes' acidic nature transforms into something sweet (as you would taste in a well-cooked pizza sauce), the combo of ricotta and roasted tomato just won't taste as good.

Step 4 - Finish with ricotta: Remove the sizzling, caramelized tomato halves from the oven. Plate them and add a tablespoon of fresh ricotta on top of each half. Garnish with another sprinkling of oregano (or Italian Seasoning mix) and your favorite salty, finishing cheese like Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, and...

Eat with joy!
 ~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To get more of my recipes, win free coffee,
or find out more about my books, visit me
 at my *virtual* coffeehouse:

Click on the book covers above
to learn more about Cleo's culinary mysteries.


A final, quick note for our mystery reading fans.
The latest Mystery Readers Journal with the theme Hobbies, Crafts, and Special Interests is now available.

The issue, edited by Mystery Fanfare's Janet Rudolph, includes many mystery authors who have guest posted for us over the past year. You can check out the contents by clicking here, which will also give you info on how to purchase a copy (hard or electronic) for yourself.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Cleo Coyle: Frozen Pizza Doctor and Pizza Toppings Poll!

Super Bowl Sunday is almost here. In order, I am looking forward to (#1) the half-time show because I love, love, love The Who, Who, Who and they’ll be performing Live, Live, Live... (#2) all those crazy, creative commercials; and (#3) the game. 1 Plain Cheese Frozen Pizza
(The Steelers are my team and they’re not in it this year, hence the game has fallen in priority.)
So...what’s to snack on?! While there are loads of delicious ideas around our blog, I’m sure many households will simply order pies from a local pizzeria.
Oh, sure, pizza delivery is fast and easy, but those $$$ can really add up, and the convenience isn’t always worth it. If you’ve ever had a pie arrive cold at your door with toppings that are less than spectacular (canned mushrooms on your pie, yikes!), then consider my quick & easy prescriptions for doctoring frozen pizza. (Unless of course there’s someone in your house who wants to flirt with the cute pizza delivery person, in which case these ideas are moot!)

The patient: Frozen Pizza
The diagnosis: No Pizazz (ok, no groaning!)
The perscription (Rx): See options below...

FROZEN PIZZA DOCTOR Rx #1: Start with a good brand. My favorite is Mystic Pizza. Yes, the same “slice of heaven” that inspired the screenwriter of Julia Roberts’ 1988 movie. I’d love to know your favorite brand. Just leave a note in the comments section below.

(If you never buy frozen pizza, I’ve got you covered. Check out the wonderful homemade pizza crust recipe from our recent Guest Blogger, Mary Jane Maffini, by clicking here. Or try Julie Hyzy’s solution—Caprese flatbread by clicking here.)

FROZEN PIZZA DOC Rx #2: Best tip of them all. Drizzle olive oil around the rim of your frozen pizza before putting it into the oven. You want to drizzle it against the inside rim of the crust (not on the crust). During the high-temperature baking, the oil will seep into the crust and help keep it moist. It adds great flavor, too!

FP DOC Rx #3: Fresh mushrooms! Add 1 cup of fresh, sliced Baby Bella mushrooms to your frozen pizza. These young Portobellos are meaty and chewy—adding texture as well as flavor. Button mushrooms are fine as another option or mix your mushrooms. Sauté in olive oil and a bit of butter before putting on your frozen pie and popping it in the oven.

FP DOC Rx #4: Jimmy Dean Sausage. What?! Not Italian sausage? No. I'm not kidding here. A mild/sweet breakfast sausage is delicious on pizza! Break up about 1/3rd of the 1 pound package with your fingers into a pan on the stovetop; cook it through completely and drain the fat before spreading over the frozen pizza. You’d be surprised how many people assume that the sausage should be put on the pie raw. Not a good idea! Even if the raw sausage does cook through (and it probably won’t, given pizza’s quick bake time), you’ll end up with a lot of grease. So cook, drain, top, bake, and enjoy!
FP DOC Rx #5: Freshly shredded mozzarella cheese and leaves of fresh green basil. Just spread them on the top and bake. The floral fragrance of the basil cooking is really lovely. It brightens and enlivens a frozen pizza and takes no time at all.

Finally, I’d like to learn about your favorite pizza toppings. According to industry sources gathered by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, here are some favorites from around our planet…

Australia: shrimp and pineapple, BBQ
Brazil: green peas
Costa Rica: coconut
France: a combo called “Flambe” with bacon, onion, and fresh cream
Japan: squid and eel
India: chicken tikka, Tandoori chicken, pickled ginger
Netherlands: “double dutch” double cheese, double onions, double beef
Pakistan: curry
Russia: red herring
Saudi Arabi: Hold the pork—all meat toppings must be 100% beef!


Click below to vote on what pizza
you would order if given this list.

Yes. This is my Doctored Mystic Pizza. It started out frozen in a box. We inhaled it last night. :)

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of 

To get more of my recipes,
enter to win free coffee, or
learn about my books,
including my bestselling
Haunted Bookshop series,
visit my online coffeehouse:

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
culinary mysteries set in a landmark Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the ten titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.

LIAR, LIAR: Still wondering what was true and what was false in our "Creative Writer Bald-Faced Liar's Award"? Congrats to Lesa Holstine for guessing the truth! My very first lie was true. I was a cub reporter at The New York Times and I did indeed interview a group of interfaith peace activists who were taken hostage by Nicaraguan rebels. They all came home, I'm glad to report, safe and sound!

TRUTH IN FALSEHHOODS: My other two lies were based on a bit of truth, which is the best way to consturct lies, as most writers know! My sister was indeed the Community Health Director for Bethel, Alaska, and I did visit her there and meet a female musher and her dogs, but I didn't participate in the Yukon-Kuskowkim 300 Dog Sled Race (although I wanted to)!Finally, although I did attend Carnegie Mellon U., my internship was in journalism (via American U. in Washington, D.C., and not in the creation of SF film concepts). I do love SF, however, and although I didn't contribute any ideas to the original, cutting-edge movie Tron, I'm adapting the screenplay of the upcoming sequel Tron: Legacy into a junior novel for Disney Books. Click here for an awesome Light Cycle ride!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ghost Potatoes, Monster Eyeballs, Halloween Pizza -- Oh My!

Halloween is such fun! I'll be writing a Domestic Diva Mystery that takes place at Halloween next and I can't wait. But don't look for it until the fall of 2011.

Since so much candy and sugar is consumed on Halloween, I figure the important thing is to let the little ghosts and goblins fill up on something semi-healthy before they head out the door. The quickest way to do that is to incorporate Halloween into lunch or dinner. I started thinking about potato ghosts on a pizza, but honestly, a Halloween pizza is the fastest meal for a busy mom or dad to fix, so I decided to do them separately after all. If you're pressed for time, you're probably not going to be inclined to mash potatoes. Ghost Potatoes are fabulous, though, and can be served for an adult dinner party, too. The best news is that you can mash the potatoes in advance and store them in your fridge until you're ready to bake them.


3 pounds white potatoes
3/4 cup milk (I used skim)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

2 egg yolks

1. Peel potatoes and cut into large cubes. Place in large pot with enough water to cover them. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. When they boil, turn down the heat a bit and cook them until easily pierced by a fork, about 15 - 20 minutes.

2. Drain the potatoes. Mashed potatoes are best when the potatoes are put through a ricer. However, in the interest of laziness, I usually put them in my KitchenAid mixer to mash them.

3. Pour the milk into a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup, add the butter, and microwave until nicely warm, but not hot.

4. Whisk the egg yolks a bit with a fo
rk, then add just a bit of the warm milk to them and whisk again so they won't seize when added to the hot potatoes. Add the yolks to the milk in the measuring cup.

5. Mash the potatoes in the mixer, slowly adding the milk mixture. Mix until mashed, but don't over-mix, or they'll get gummy. Salt to taste.

6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

7. Butter a shallow baking dish. I used a glass Pyrex pie pan.

8. Spread about 1/3 of the potatoes on the bottom of the pan. Spoon the potatoes into a pastry bag with a large tip. Don't have one? Use a plastic freezer bag and snip a hole in the corner. Squeeze out ghosts!

9. Cut the raisins lengthwise and slice into little bits. Place two
raisin pieces on each ghost as eyes.

20. Bake about 20 minutes. The tops should have a tiny golden tip.

NOTE: I had some leftover potatoes that had not been baked, so I scooped them into a container and stuck them in the fridge for two days. When I took them out, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees, and found they were very malleable. Your imagination (or in my case, lack of artistic talent) is your only limitation. I pressed the potatoes into a funky goblin shape, decorated him with almonds, and popped him into the oven. He tasted just as good as the ghosts had days

And now, for the very busy --

Halloween Pizza

1 frozen pizza (Cheese works best, but
almost any will do.)

Use anything you happen to have in the freezer,
the fridge, or the pantry.

olives (excellent for eyes and nostrils)
hard cheeses
red or orange peppers

pecans or walnuts (make great teeth!)
Canadian bacon

Cut into eyes, nose and vicious teeth. If you're using cheese (I used Gouda for the eyes), heat the pizza before adding the decorative cheese or it will melt out of shape.

Monster Eyeballs

What kid could resist these bloodshot monster eyeballs?


frozen peas -- or -- marshmallows

Use a melon baller or an ice cream scoop to carve eyeballs out of watermelon. Add a slice of olive. Place a frozen pea or a piece of
marshmallow in the center of each olive slice. (The frozen peas will thaw and be perfectly edible. If you need them in a hurry, heat a few in a pot of water.) These can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. A fun way to start the day at breakfast!

~ Krista

to all our readers from the whole gang at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen!