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I love pizza. Like if you told me I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life that would be one of the options that would flash through my mind. Granted, it would be one of about a hundred, but it still made the list. For the record that isn’t a question I can answer, it would change day-to-day, or hour-to-hour some days; if a gun were being held to my head I would probably say ice cream…and then spend what time I had left egregiously regretting that decision as I pine away for a really good aged sharp cheddar or rich chocolate or a juicy ripe pear or hot crusty bread with butter… See? Far too many options to pick just one.

I am an equal opportunity pizza fan; thick crust, hand tossed, deep dish, thin crust, fancy toppings, plain cheese, olive oil, tomato sauce, pesto, oven baked, wood fired, grilled….as long as the crust is good, the toppings quality and it is baked right I can appreciate just about any version of a pizza put down in front of me. Well as long as it doesn’t have hot peppers or anchovies, anyway – I can’t get past the smell of either to even know if they taste bad, I feel safe in assuming. Even that isn’t a deal breaker though, I am really good at eating around that which I find ookie. Even the fish.

When it comes to pizza shop pizza I am a purist ~ plain cheese or pepperoni & mushroom and we pretty much almost always order from either Fiori’s in Dormont or Danny’s in South Park; yes, I will drive for a great pizza & steak hoagie, in a pinch there are 2 local shops in my neighborhood that make decent pizza, not hoagies, though. I abhor chain pizza as much as I abhor chair restaurant food; I consider it a waste of money & ingredients on every level, especially when I live in a city that has so MANY other & better options. We lived in Colorado Springs for a couple years – devoid of good pizza – I think it effected me long term. I get the convenience of chain shops – coupons, online ordering, delivery, specials, blah blah blah…don’t care. No amount of convenience is worth suffering cardboard-like crust, less than fresh toppings and cheap shredded cheese if there are other options.

Side Note: Mineo’s is on the shortlist of places we are going to try soon. If you have any other local best pizza ever suggestions do me a solid & leave them in the comments :) Thanks!

It is not, in my experience, possible to duplicate the glory that is a pizza shop pizza easily at home. Mostly its the dough, but it is also how it is baked – their ovens are fired significantly hotter than your home oven, with or without pizza stone, will ever get, producing a crisp crust and excellent browning. Most pizza shops also use a high-gluten, or bread, flour that makes for a more elastic dough and ultimately a chewier crust.

Since it isn’t feasible to make pizza shop pizza home I don’t try to. Instead I made up a more focaccia style crust, thicker and more bready, made with 21st Amendment Bitter American, an aggressively hopped pale ale, and extra virgin olive oil. The yeast & malt from the beer add some depth, reminiscent of a dough made using a starter, to the crust and the fruitiness of the olive oil is amped up by the faint hop bitterness; it is really a unique way to ramp up the flavor of your crust.  The alcohol bakes out in the oven, if that is a concern, and the flavoring is subtle, not at all aggressive. I mixed the dough with my mixer – the machine does all the kneading and I like that, but it is also completely ok to mix it by hand. If mixing by hand you must be sure to knead it until the dough is tightened and is smooth on the exterior – the same as with the machine kneading – before allowing it to proof.

Top the crust with whatever makes you & your family happy; it’s an interactive dinner! We had salami, tomato, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, a whole bunch of other cheeses, peppers…more crap than we needed. Use fresh toppings, spread them all the way to the edges – don’t pile everything up in the center and bake the pizza long enough to brown the crust ~ perfect pizza.

This recipe makes enough dough for four – 12″-14″ pizzas. I bake them on a stone in a 450 oven. The stone does make a difference, a crisper & more evenly browned crust. They really aren’t that expensive anymore and require next to no care except the occasional scrape off. Put your stone in the cold oven and let it heat while the oven preheats. I roll the dough out with a 50/50 mix of rice & regular flour – cornmeal is also perfectly ok, I just prefer the finer grit of the rice flour.  My extra fancy way to move the pizza from the counter to the stone?  A flexible mat cutting board rubbed liberally with the rice flour mixture; jiggle it a few times while building, it will slide around & easily slip onto the stone with little to no drama.

Pizza night might start to compete with taco night as a fun playing with our food dinner!

IPA Focaccia Pizza Dough

  • 12oz IPA or Hoppy Pale Ale – room temperature
  • 1 pkg Dry Yeast
  • 1 Tbsp Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4-5 cups Flour

If the beer is cold, as beer tends to be, heat it up on the stove until it is around 100 degrees, close to your body temperature. Put the pizza stone in the oven & get it cranked to 450 when you are done mixing the dough & getting ready to proof.

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warmed beer and stir with a whisk until it is dissolved, set it someplace warm until it foams then add the oil and salt, stir to dissolve the salt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add 4 cups of the flour and put the bowl on the mixer with the dough hook. Let the hook mix in the flour, add more as you need to so that a dough develops and stops sticking to the sides of the bowl. Once you get enough flour added let the machine knead the dough until it is tight, the outside is smooth and it starts to creep up the hook. It should be easy to handle and not sticking to your hands when it is done, around 5 minutes +/-.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the dough is kneaded get it out of the bowl and knead it a few times with your hands to make it into a tight ball. Drizzle the bowl with olive oil, roll the dough ball around in it until it is coated & cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set someplace warm until it doubles in size, about an hour. I set mine on the stove top & turn the oven on to about 300 to start heating and crank it to 450 when I start making the pizzas. While the dough proofs get your toppings ready to go- chop veggies, shred cheese, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it has doubled in size dump it out onto a counter and cut into 4 pieces. Round each piece out and set aside. Mix up the flour & rice flour on the counter, roll a dough ball in it and press out into a circle; flip it over and work both sides of the dough to prevent sticking. I use my rolling pin to get it to an even thickness 8-10″ disk then hand stretch it to the finished 14″-ish round. The shell should be about 1/2″ thick and as evenly round as you can make it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transfer it onto whatever you are going to put it onto the stone with, shake it up to make sure it isn’t sticking and build your pizza – remember – evenly spread the toppings all the way to the edge, resist the urge to ridiculously over cheese and don’t pile up stuff in the middle. Shake up before trying to slide on to the stone, that isn’t a surprise you want to be cleaning off the bottom of your very hot oven…not that I would know anything about that mind you, and gently slide on to the hot stone.

Garlic infused oil, fresh mozzarella, tomato, salami, fresh basil, fresh ground black pepper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bake for 18-20 minutes. Check about half way through and spin if necessary. Remove to a platter with spatula, cut and eat!! This size was big enough we ate one while the other baked so always fresh pizza. We will be doing this again, maybe with a fresh basil pesto. Yum!

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