Few things are better than a slice of pizza pie. And serving home-made pizza at a party has a certain wow factor, and it comes together with very little effort. Everything can be done before hand, and the day of the party, you just need to assemble and bake (or grill).
There are plenty of pizza dough recipes out there, and sure, anything with flour, yeast, olive oil, salt and water will work just fine. I have tried and tested so many pizza dough recipes. But now I am down to 2. One from my tried and tested The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook which is my go to recipe for a quick pizza craving. If I make the dough now, I can have pizza in about 2 – 2.5 hours kind of dough. It’s good, much better than your Domino’s or Pizza Hut pizza. I will give the recipe below. It’s a pretty standard pizza dough recipe.
The other is a more involved dough, you need more planning, with excellent yeasty flavor and it blisters in the oven. It’s from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday, for Neo-Neopolitan Pizza dough. It uses the overnight fermentation method. I don’t think I can give you recipe for this dough without permission but I link to 101 cookbooks where you can find the recipe.
As for the toppings, sky is the limit! I made 4 types of small pizzas, and I will give you the recipe for those. But remember, when making small pizzas at home, with the toppings, less is more. Always use one or two types of toppings, and one or two cheese combos. Sauce usually a tablespoon is sufficient.
Pizza dough (enough for two 12″ pizzas or 4 single serve pizzas)
11/4 cups of warm water
1 teaspoon of active dry yeast
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
31/2 cups of all purpose flour (use high gluten type if you can find it)
11/2 teaspoons salt
1. Combine water, yeast and oil in a large bowl. Add flour and salt and stir until the dough comes together. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 6-8 minutes.
2. Turn the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let rise until the dough has doubled, about 1 hour. Divide dough into four parts (or two) and let the parts rest again for 20 minutes. (You can also put it in the refrigerator overnight at this point, Bring the dough to room temperature before shaping). Now turn your oven on as high as it would go. 500F (250 C for me).
3. Flatten each part into a disk, and slowly rotate the disk, letting gravity stretch the dough, as thin as you desire. I usually go for thin crust.If you don’t have a pizza stone/peel, just use a cookie sheet. Don’t oil the sheet, just sprinkle some cornmeal on it. Place the shaped crust on the sheet.
4. Top and bake the pizza as desired, usually till the cheese bubbles for about 10 – 12 minutes.
Note: For Peter Reinhart’s dough recipe, go here.
Once you get the dough right, the toppings are really easy. But remember, less is more! You need for the flavor of the dough to shine as well.
1. Pizza Margherita
Just a simple simple crushed tomato sauce (use a whole tomato from a can, crush it well with salt, pepper, a bit of olive oil, one minced garlic clove, and fresh basil) and top it with fresh mozzarella (buffalo mozzarella is too creamy and wet for pizzas).
2. Pesto Pizza with cremini mushrooms and goat cheese
Pesto sauce (made in the mortar with a handful of basil leaves, one garlic clove, salt, pepper, and any a few nuts (walnuts, pinenuts, cashews, pistacchios), sauteed mushrooms and goat cheese.
Caramalize onions in a pan, and saute sliced zucchini till it is tender. Top off with grated gouda and cheddar.
4. Goat cheese Pizza with garlicky spinach and black olives
One clove of garlic, and a cup of spinach and wilt it down. Chop olives finely. Top the pizza with these and fresh goat cheese.
1. Pre-cook your toppings. The home oven isn’t hot enough to cook the toppings and the crust at the same time. If you like a crunchy crust, consider pre-baking (or grilling) your crust for 8 minutes and then top it and cook it for another 2 – 3 minutes.
2. One table spoon of sauce is enough for individual serving pizzas. Any more, you’ll have a soggy crust.
3. Go easy on the toppings. 1/2 an onion, 20 thin slices of zucchini or mushrooms.. and stop.
4. Cook toppings, shape the dough, pre-heat oven and as your guests are sipping drinks, assemble and bake the pizzas.