I have been trying to perfect a pizza for a while now.  Pizza is one of my favorite comfort foods, second only to eggs over medium with toast.  In my college days I loved ordering a large pizza and having it for lunch and dinner over the next couple of days.  We are spoiled in downtown San Jose where there are quite a few great pizza kitchens.  Even when I was growing up, ordering pizza from the town’s go-to pizza place made the night special.  However, pizza was often home cooked by my mom who could whip up a pesto pizza from scratch faster than any nearby delivery.

As for Hubby, it took him a while to warm up to eating pizza.  Like most things that are completely non-Indian, he assumed he wouldn’t like it and only took a slice of my mom homemade vegetarian pizza out of politeness.  He was surprised however to find it was “rather good” as he put it.  From then on, he was adamant that he still did not like pizza…except for my mom’s homemade vegetarian pizza.

“You’ve got to learn to make this” he constantly reminded me.  I agreed, but pizza always fell by the recipe wayside.  Why would I spend time on pizza when there were so many delicious Indian recipes to learn?

Well, Hubby’s persistent insistence finally forced me to attempt my first homemade pizza.  From then on, it snowballed into an obsession of finding just the right one.

I made thin crust pizzas, white flour crusts and whole wheat. We tried store-bought gluten-free crusts from whole foods, jalapeno pizzas, tomato with sliced mozerella…

thin crust whole wheat pizza

I also tried making “Indian style” pizzas, This one is a Paneer and Chili Chutney Pizza:

Paneer Chili Chutney Pizza…not too great…

(word to the wise: paneer (Indian style hard cheese) does not go well on pizza.  Rather than melting, it crusts and hardens.)

Thus began “Project Pizza”. The quest to find a really great go-to pizza recipe, a real crowd pleaser.  Since this obsession began, we have used up our fair share of flours.  Now, I can proudly claim to have found a REALLY good pizza recipe.

absolutely amazingly delicious pizza

You can put whatever you want on this pizza and it won’t matter much because the main star of this pizza is the crust.  Thick, puffy, savory and yet sweet at the same time. This is not a pizza meant for a diet.

This recipe actually happened completely by accident.

One day, I decided to try my first yeast-risen recipe.  For my first attempt, I chose cinnamon rolls. I was learning them for a big family brunch for the upcoming Easter weekend.  I made the dough well ahead of time and soon got sidetracked into a kitchen deep cleaning.  When I remembered to move the dough to the refrigerator, I looked and saw it had more than quadrupled in size.  It had pushed the lid up and off and was spilling over the sides.  So, now I had enough cinnamon roll dough to feed an army…or at least Hubby’s family.  I took what I needed and without having a clue of what to do with the rest, I just stored it back in the refrigerator until I could think of something.

As you can imagine, rising dough waits for no one.  With my dough ever-increasing and my energy depleted from cooking over the weekend (plus having no leftovers), I decided I might as well try making a pizza.  Cinnamon roll dough for a pizza crust? I figured it would be a failure but it couldn’t hurt to try (it couldn’t be worse than my Paneer Pizza attempt). If it was truly disgusting, I could just throw it out and we could order the real thing from down the street.

Thirty minutes later Hubby and I were rewarded with the most delicious pizza we had ever tasted!  This pizza is like combining dinner and dessert together.  Why didn’t I think of that sooner?  I have since made it for my whole family (a few times now). It is a crowd pleaser every time.  It’s also what I like to call a great food for “refrigerator crumbs”.  Refrigerator crumbs are all the little tidbits of ingredients that didn’t get used which have accumulated from recipes throughout the week. You can throw them together on a pizza and it will taste great.

After making this pizza a few times, Hubby told me he is not a fan of the regular tomato sauce that is usually used on pizza.  So I tried using the Indian tomato sauce I make as a base to most of my creamy dishes (it’s a spicy tomato sauce with all the basic Indian spices used in most Indian dishes).  This makes for a wonderfully flavorful and spicy “Indian” style pizza.

Colleen’s Pizza

Total time: 3 hours

Actual effort time: 30 minutes

Makes two 10 x 15 inch pizzas

To make the dough:

Put 2 cups milk, 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of vegetable oil into a pot and bring to just below a boil.  Then let it cool off until it is only slightly warm to the touch, just a little above room temperature (about an hour).

Pour in .25 ounces of dry active yeast (1 packet), let it bubble in the warm sugary liquid for around 5 minutes.  It should bubble up.

a tip on using yeast: test the yeast first by mixing a little bit of yeast with warm water and a bit of sugar.  In a few minutes it should bubble up.  If it doesn’t, your yeast is probably expired and your dough will not rise.  The water cannot be too hot or it will kill the yeast but if it is too cold it will not activate the yeast either.

Mix in 4 cups of all-purpose flour, a heaping 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, a scant 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and mix well.

Cover and keep on the kitchen counter to rise for at least an hour.  The dough should double in size.

Once the dough has doubled, add one more 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour.  You can begin making the pizza at this point or leave it for later.  If you leave it, it will continue to rise (on the counter or in the refrigerator) so separate it into two containers where it will have room to grow.  I like to make the dough well ahead of time to allow for the second rise as I feel I get more pizza out of it, but if you’re in a hurry you can make the pizza now.

To make the pizza: 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Divide the dough in two and roll or hand stretch the dough to fit in your pizza pans. If you choose to roll it out, lightly flour your rolling surface and the dough to prevent sticking.  I like to hand stretch it in the pan I use and then lift it out of the pan by rolling it onto a rolling-pin (to lift it off the pan) and then spreading some corn meal (less than a 1/4 teaspoon) and a large pinch of salt on the pan, then roll the dough back onto the pan.  The salt is for flavor and the corn meal will help create a crust for the bottom of the pizza, otherwise it remains soft like cinnamon rolls rather than becoming a pizza crust.

Now add your favorite toppings.  For the sauce I like to use my tomato tadka recipe but you can use your favorite tomato sauce.  When I was growing up, my mom always used Classico brand tomato sauces in different flavorings so these are my personal favorite.  You can find them at any grocery store. I like to add about 1/3-1/2 a cup of tomato sauce, drizzle on a bit of olive oil, sprinkle in diced garlic, a whole chopped onion, two chopped bell peppers (any color bell pepper is fine) and enough shredded mozzarella cheese to cover the whole pizza. Shower the top with a pinch of salt and ground black pepper (as much as you like).

Place the pizza in the center rack of the oven. Cook for 15-20 minutes.  Cook times vary for every pizza and oven so the crust should look puffy and golden. Once you can smell “pizza” in the house, it’s about done. It should not look dark brown (aka burnt).

If making 2 pizzas, place them side by side on the same rack. If they cook with one pizza below and one above, the lower pizza will cook much faster and the upper pizza will not get enough heat.  If you must do it this way, make sure to rotate the pizzas after 10 minutes. Cooking time may take longer this way. You can also keep an eye on the pizzas and remove the lower one once it is cooked and continue to cook the upper one till it is done.

Remove the pizzas, let cool for a few minutes and serve hot!

If you try the recipe, let me know how it goes.  Write me a comment or send me an email here.

Colleen’s Pizza

Total time: 3 hours

Actual effort time: 30 minutes

Makes two 10 x 15 inch pizzas

 

Ingredients:

2 cups milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 packet active dry yeast (.25 ounces)

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (4 cups at first, 1/2 cup after first rise)

heaping 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

scant 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon corn meal

salt (to taste)

Toppings (proportions for each individual pizza)

1/3 Indian tomato sauce or favorite tomato sauce

olive oil (1/4 teaspoon or just a light drizzle)

5 garlic cloves, diced

1 medium onion, diced

2 green bell peppers

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

ground black pepper (to taste)

 

Equipment:

1 large pot

2 baking sheets or pizza pans

rolling-pin

 

To make the dough:

 

Put 2 cups milk, 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of vegetable oil into a pot and bring to just below a boil.  Then let it cool off until it is only slightly warm to the touch, just a little above room temperature (about an hour).

 

Pour in .25 ounces of dry active yeast (1 packet)

Let it bubble in the warm sugary liquid for around 5 minutes.  It should bubble up.

 

A tip on using yeast: test the yeast first by mixing a little bit of yeast with warm water and a bit of sugar.  In a few minutes it should bubble up.  If it doesn’t, your yeast is probably expired and your dough will not rise.  The water cannot be too hot or it will kill the yeast but if it is too cold it will not activate the yeast either.

 

Mix in 4 cups of all-purpose flour, a heaping 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and a scant 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Mix well.

Cover and keep on the kitchen counter to rise for at least an hour.  The dough should double in size.

 

Once the dough has doubled, add one more 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour.  You can begin making the pizzas at this point or leave it for later.  If you leave it, it will continue to rise (on the counter or in the refrigerator) so separate it into two containers where it will have room to grow.  I like to make the dough well ahead of time to allow for the second rise as I feel I get more pizza out of it  (but this is not necessary).

 

To make the pizza:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

 

Divide the dough in two and roll or hand stretch the dough to fit in your pizza pans.  I like to hand stretch it in the pan I will use and then roll it onto a rolling-pin (to lift it off the pan) and then sprinkle some corn meal and a large pinch of salt on the pan, then roll the dough back onto the pan.  The salt is for flavor and the corn meal will help create a crust for the bottom of the pizza, otherwise it remains soft like cinnamon rolls.

 

Now add your favorite toppings.  You can use my Tomato Tadka recipe for a distinctly “Indian” style pizza or use your own favorite tomato sauce.  To each pizza add tomato sauce and drizzle some olive oil over the sauce. Add 5 cloves diced garlic, a whole chopped onion, two chopped bell peppers (any color bell pepper is fine), sprinkle with enough shredded mozzarella cheese to cover the whole pizza and sprinkle a pinch of salt all over the top and ground black pepper (as much as you like).

 

Place the pizza in the center rack of the oven. Cook for 15-20 minutes.  Cook times vary for every pizza and oven so the crust should look puffy and golden. Once you can smell “pizza” in the house, it’s about done. It should not look dark brown (aka burnt).

 

If making 2 pizzas, place them side by side on the same rack. If cooking with one pizza below and one above, the lower pizza will cook much faster and the upper pizza will not get enough heat.  If you must do it this way, make sure to rotate the pizzas after 10 minutes. Cooking time may take longer this way. You can also keep an eye on the pizzas and remove the lower one once it is cooked and continue to cook the upper one till it is done.

 

Remove the pizzas, let cool for a few minutes and serve hot!

 

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