In my opinion, pizza is one of the best culinary creations out there. I love the stuff. Thin crust, deep dish, round, square, plain cheese, margherita, pepperoni, Hawaiian, or those even more jacked up than that (one of my current favs: brussel sprout and bacon. Say whaaaaat?). The pizza I’m sharing today is a spin on classic white pizza. It’s cheesy and garlicky, just like one might expect…but I put a twist on it by adding the tang of goat cheese and the sweetness of balsamic vinegar. It’s savory, salty, slightly sweet, and most definitely addicting.
There is a perception out there that pizza dough is difficult to make. I’m here to tell you that it is SO EASY, people. It DOES take some time, and you DO have to invest (cheaply) in a bottle or box of active dry yeast, but once you mix it all together, you can leave it alone and go about your day. It’s a low-maintenance relationship. The yeast does all the work.
Now, I know YEAST may sound like a strange ingredient to a lot of people…but really, it’s essential to tons of common dough recipes: breads, pizza, rolls, coffee cakes, pretzels, and even cinnamon buns. Yup. All yeasty. All delicious.
So, once you’ve gotten over the fact that I just said “yeasty,” try your hand at making pizza dough. The basic gist is that you add the yeast to some warm water sweetened with honey or sugar, allow it to sit until foamy (see above), and then mix it with flour, salt, and olive oil. A little bit of kneading and resting, and you’re done! You’ve got fresh pizza dough! Piece of cake….or…better yet…a piece of pizza!
(To make my life even easier, I use my stand mixer to make pizza dough. It does almost all the mixing and kneading for me.)
Basic Pizza Dough (makes enough for 2 medium pizzas)
2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons honey (or sugar)
1 cup warm water
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups whole-wheat flour*
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for bowl
1. Mix the warm water, honey, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow to sit until foamy and bubbly, about 5 minutes. If this doesn’t happen, you’ve got some bad or “dead” yeast. You’ll have to start over with a fresh container of yeast.
2. In another bowl, whisk together the flours and salt. Turn on the mixer (fitted with the dough hook attachment) and slowly add the flour to the yeast mixture. Keep going until everything is added and then let the mixer run for a few minutes (the dough will be thick).
3. Slowly stream in the olive oil and keep mixing. The dough is ready when it forms a slightly sticky ball and is pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
4. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth, about 30 seconds. Lightly oil the mixer bowl and return the dough to the bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and keep in a non-drafty place (I place it in my unheated oven) for 1 hour. The dough will double in volume during this time.
5. Punch down the dough and form into a smooth ball. Divide it in half and place the two pieces of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover again with a towel. Let rest for another hour.
*You can definitely make this with all white flour, if desired. I choose to add the whole-wheat flour for the added nutrition and nutty flavor it imparts. No matter what you decide, the method is the same.
White Pizza with Goat Cheese, Fresh Mozzarella & Balsamic Glaze
2 balls of pizza dough
6 oz goat cheese, softened
2 oz cream cheese, softened (I use the reduced-fat kind)
3 garlic cloves, grated or pressed (or very finely minced)
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh thyme, for garnish
For the Balsamic Glaze:
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1. For the Pizza: Preheat the oven to 475°F. If using a pizza stone, place in the oven and line a pizza peel with parchment paper or sprinkle with cornmeal. If using baking sheets, lightly oil them. Roll out the dough to your desired thickness. Transfer the dough to the prepared pizza peel or baking sheets by rolling it up on your rolling pin and then unrolling it onto the peel/baking sheets. Drizzle the dough with olive oil. If using the pizza peel/stone method, you will work with one piece of dough at a time. If using the baking sheet method, you can roll them both out simultaneously and put them on separate baking sheets to bake at the same time.
2. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix together the goat cheese, cream cheese, garlic, and Italian seasoning. Add a pinch of salt and freshly grated black pepper. Spread the mixture in a thin layer on the dough, reserving half for the second pizza. Top the goat cheese layer with half of the mozzarella and freshly grated Parmesan and Asiago cheeses. Drizzle everything with a little olive oil.
3. Place the baking sheets in the oven (or using the pizza peel, slide the first pizza onto the preheated pizza stone in the oven). Bake for 15-20 minutes, checking often, or until the pizza crust is crispy and golden on the bottom and the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and allow to rest for a few minutes.
4. While the pizza is baking, make the balsamic glaze: in a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the balsamic vinegar and sugar together, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes. The vinegar will reduce, thicken, and become syrupy. It should coat the back of a spoon.
5. Drizzle the balsamic glaze over the pizza and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves, as desired. Slice and serve.