In honor of Dan's birthday, Jimmy and I hatched a Saturday evening pizza concoction plan. We didn't have what everyone said we needed (pizza stone, special pan, slidey paddle, functional brains), so we decided to wing it.
We pondered our ingredient options, and I remembered a few years ago my brother (a former Pizza Slut employee) suggested buying pre-made dough from a pizza parlor. In the interest of experimentation, Jimmy bought some from Whole Foods, and some from John's Pizza on 58th and 9th (now called EuroPan).
The large to-go container from John's was fluffy and gorgeous, so we cut it into three pieces and I decided to roll it out as thinly as I could possibly manage. We dumped a pile of whole wheat flour on the large marble counter top (the coolness of which probably helped us), and as I rolled and stretched the dough, I quickly gave up on any sort of traditional shape...it was too much of a pain in the butt, and I thought amoeba pizza was a much better concept anyway. I placed the raw crusts on ungreased cookie sheets (thanks to Jennie for that hint), and as they were well floured, we had no problem removing the pies from the pans when they were cooked.
Jimmy, meanwhile, set to work on our toppings. He puréed a can of diced tomatoes with dried oregano, a little salt, and a pinch of dried red chili flakes; caramelized a Vidalia onion; minced a jalapeño; prepared the fresh mozzarella; and thinly sliced a couple of mushrooms with a vegetable peeler.
We decided the first pizza (which kinda sorta almost looked like Nebraska) would have a super-thin layer of tomato, to give us the tomato taste without the soggy dough. We added some mozzarella, Maldon salt, and a sprinkle of olive oil.
The second pie was our crazy white pizza experiment: goat cheese, jalapeño, walnuts, Maldon salt, and olive oil.
We topped the third, again, with a little tomato, mozzarella, olive oil, and Maldon salt.
A quick Internet search suggested we bake the pizzas at the highest-possible temperature (in our case, 550), no convection. We popped all three in the oven, and as the guy at John's said, "cook for 40 minutes," we thought we'd have some time to chill out...
...but no! About 5 minutes in, we smelled something burning. We assumed it was an oven remnant from a previous meal, so we shrugged it off. But then there was smoke, and upon inspection, Jimmy discovered the goat cheese experiment on the lowest level of the oven was already black on the bottom! We removed it, hilarity ensued, and we realized that this was all going much more quickly than anticipated. We had to add toppings to the other two pizzas, which were pretty much done within the next 5 minutes (though it was such a whirlwind, I honestly don't remember). I barely had time to put together the pizza with the dough from Whole Paycheck, which we popped into the oven when the others were finished.
Amazingly, all three of us agreed that these first three were some of the best pizzas we'd ever eaten. The goat cheese pizza--even with its charred bottom--was great. We'd added additional toppings to the others a few minutes before taking them out, and the tomato/mozzarella/goat cheese/mushroom/fresh basil kicked ass, and the tomato/mozzarella/caramelized onion was crazy amazing (at least Dan and I thought so...).
The fourth pizza was still pretty good, but paled in comparison. We thought we'd try not rolling out the dough as thinly, and topped it with the remaining sauce and mozzarella (an added mushrooms towards the end). The dough was a little sweeter than John's, and though the crust was cooked, it was just kind of there. We would have probably thought it was great had we had it before the others, but alas.
•You don't need the fancy stuff to make your own pizza.
•Use dough from your neighborhood pizzeria.
•Bake it at the highest temperature possible.
•Use very little tomato sauce--just enough to give it flavor.
•Believe the smoke.