The Secret Weapon of Homemade Pizza

Sunday, 01 Feb 2009


It’s parchment paper.  That’s the secret weapon.  So much for the suspense.  Anyway, it revolutionized my use of a pizza stone.  Tonight I made white pizza with spinach, roasted garlic, caramelized leeks and four kinds of cheese, and also a plain old cheese pizza with tomato sauce.  Both turned out really well.  And this was very much a mashup.  I was inspired to make white pizza by this recipe from the Washington Post:  Pizzeria Bianco’s Pizza Rosa, and used the dough from this recipe.    I was inspired to put spinach and four cheeses on my pizza by this recipe from Sam the Cooking Guy: White Pizza with Spinach and Garlic.  It was my own idea to roast the garlic, use caramelized leeks and add Parmigiano Reggiano.  Here’s how it went.  Be forewarned there are a lot of pictures.


Here’s how the dough started out.  After mixing the yeast/water with the dry ingredients, I let my mixer do the work.  The recipe said to mix it in an electric mixer with the dough hook until the dough formed a ball, and then knead it for 10 minutes.  I left it in the mixer with the dough hook on low for about 8 minutes.  The dough seemed to be in good shape — soft, stretchy and pliable.


Here’s the dough ready to rise.  Fred was highly interested in what I was doing.


The dough rose nicely — it doubled in size.


Here’s the dough divided for the second rise.


Here’s the dough in its final stage, ready to use.  It doubled in size again.


Secret weapon time.  Here’s the parchment paper.  And here’s what you do.  Roll out or shape your pizza dough on a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover the pizza stone.  Unless you have a pizza peel (paddle-shaped wooden tool used to slide the pizza on to the stone), you can put the pizza on parchment on top of a baking sheet and use that to slide the pizza on to the stone, leaving the parchment paper in place.  The paper browns but doesn’t burn, as you’ll see in the pictures of the pizza after it came out of a 450 degree oven.


And now for a step-by-step of how the white pizza was made.  I roasted six cloves of garlic for 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  Before putting the garlic in the oven, I sliced off the first 1/3 of the cloves, put them on a piece of foil, doused them with olive oil, and then sealed them up tightly in the foil.  When I took them out, I squeezed the roasted cloves into a ramekin and smashed them up.


And now for the leeks.  I sliced one leek in very thin slices up to the light green part.  To caramelize the leeks, I cooked them in a tablespoon of butter over low heat for 25 minutes.  After about 10 minutes of cooking, I added a teaspoon of sugar and a dash of salt.  Delicious!


I used 8 oz. of bagged baby spinach, and wilted it in a tablespoon of olive oil.  I cooked it over medium-low heat until it was thoroughly wilted.


I then drained the spinach and patted it dry with paper towels so it wouldn’t make the pizza watery.


Now it’s time to see what we did with all these toppings.  Here’s the dough spread out on the parchment paper.


First, I spread the roasted garlic onto the dough.


Next, I sprinkled feta cheese over the garlic and then added the leeks.


Next, I added the spinach.


Here’s the white pizza going into the oven, on top of a pizza stone and some parchment paper, after I added some provolone (torn up slices), shredded mozzarella and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.


Here’s a demonstration of how easy the parchment makes it to get the pizza out. You can just pull the edge of the paper onto a cookie sheet.



Here’s the cheese pizza done.  For this one I used homemade tomato sauce:

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

2 cloved minced garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 dash of crushed red pepper

Sauteed the garlic in the olive oil for 1-2 minutes over medium heat and add the crushed red pepper.  Add the tomatoes and cook down for 15-20 minutes, until thickened.

For the cheese pizza, I put on about 1/2 cup of the sauce and froze the rest.  Then I added shredded mozzarella, grated fresh Parmigiano Reggiano and ground Italian herbs.  I baked the pizza for around 12 minutes and sprinkled on a little more Parmigiano Reggiano, and let the pizza rest for a few minutes before serving.


These pizzas turned out better than any I’ve made at home yet.  The white pizza was especially good.  Even my husband the vegetable phobe liked it.  Feta and spinach are always a good match.  The sweet caramelized leeks were a good foil for the salty cheese.  The one thing I would like to improve is the crust.  The dough was great as I worked with it and it rose well.  However, the edges stayed a little white and chewy rather than brown and crispy on the outside.  The cheese had already browned enough, so I couldn’t continue to cook the crust.  It was fully cooked, but the texture could have been better.  This is a minor thing though, because all in all, the pizza was good and it was great to discover how much easier parchment paper can make the whole process.  It also means that the pizza stone stays clean — an added bonus!

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