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I’ve been making pizza since I was about fifteen-years-old.  I seem to remember doing a how-to pizza demo for my tenth grade English class.  I think that was my favorite day of high school, ever.
20150929-DSC_6778Even after twenty-five years of making pizza at least once a week, I still find the process thrilling.

20150929-DSC_6803And the possibilities of toppings are endless.  I’m going to share my basic cheese pizza recipe that I make for my kids, but I’m also going to teach you how to make a VERY delicious and astoundingly easy roasted garlic and rosemary topping for your pizza.
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Roasting garlic is just about the easiest thing in the world.  Just take a bulb of garlic, place it on a sheet of foil and drizzle it with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  Wrap the foil over the bulb and oil, and place the bundle on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees, F for about fifteen minutes.
20150929-DSC_6424While your garlic is roasting, measure your dough ingredients into the bowl of your mixer.

Shannon’s Pizza Dough Recipe:

7 cups flour

1 tablespoon salt

4 teaspoons yeast

2 2/3 cup warm water
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Using the dough hook, blend the dry ingredients first, then add the water gradually.  Mix until just incorporated and the dough is sticky.
20150929-DSC_6438Pizza dough should never be kneaded.  Did you know that?

A lot of people think that when you make bread or any bread-like product, you need to knead the dough until you’re heaving and sweating.  That’s a lie.  Someone told you that to get you to feel sorry for them.  Kind of like, “walked to school in the snow, uphill both ways”.

Some dough should be kneaded.  But not until you are cursing the day you were born.

But pizza dough should never, ever be kneaded.  Why?  Because kneading activates and tightens the strands of gluten in the bread and will cause it to rise taller and taller.  If you knead pizza dough, your dough will be very hard to flatten.  It will probably be thick crust.  If you’re into that kind of thing, then knead away, I guess.

See the photo above?  How the dough is pitted and sticky?  Well all you have to do to smooth it out is dust your surface and your hands with flour….

20150929-DSC_6444And pat it and turn it and fold it just a little.
20150929-DSC_6447Just shape it into a happy little hill.  It will still be sticky on the inside.  That’s what you want.

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And tuck it in for a nap.  By the way, we cover bread to keep it warm.  The yeast will produce natural heat, and we want to keep that heat near the flour.  So just tuck it in for a nice nap and let it rise for about 1 1/2 hours.  By the time you tuck in your dough, you’ll start to notice the most divine smell coming from your oven….
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Oh yes, remember the garlic?  Breathe deep.  How ’bout lets see if the garlic is done.  Open the pack.  If the garlic flesh slides right out of the skins when touched, and is soft, then it’s perfectly done.  Just set it aside for a bit….
20150929-DSC_6526Next, grate some cheese.  You can put any cheese on a pizza.  I usually use mozzarella, but I have been known to throw on a smoked gouda or goat’s cheese.  The possibilities are endless.

So putter around for a while, fold some laundry, do a few dishes….pick up the kids…

And your dough is ready.  Now, just incase you got sidetracked or got delayed while picking up the kids, don’t worry.  The dough is not going to be ruined if you don’t get back to it in 1 1/2 hours.  You can let it rise for three hours if you need to.  Maybe even four.  Although after that it will be pretty yeasty.  Incidentally, if something happens in your day that prevents you from coming back to your project, you can freeze the dough for up to two months, or refrigerate it for a couple days.  It will be just fine.  Just put it in a Ziploc freezer bag and throw it in the fridge or freezer.

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Be sure to keep dusting your surface and the top of the dough as you go.  Remember, it’s still wet on the inside.  The flour is the only way you’ll be able to handle this dough without it sticking all over the place.  Divide the dough into thirds.  This recipe makes three pizzas.  I make two cheese pizzas for the kids, and one pizza for the grown-ups.20150929-DSC_6548
Now look how flat that is. I didn’t even use a rolling pin.  I’m more of a pizza dough stretcher than a roller.  It’s my preferred method.  Sometimes I toss pizza dough.  Usually to entertain my kids.  They love it.  And they think it’s hysterical when I “forget” to catch the dough and it lands right on my face.  I save that trick for when all hell is breaking loose or when morale is especially low.  It works like a charm.
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I use both rectangular pans and round pans.  Pizza can be any shape.  I do coat the pan with nonstick spray before I arrange the dough in it.  I know that a lot of people coat their pans with cornmeal, but it’s really easy to overdo the cornmeal.  So I just use nonstick spray.

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My three pizzas are ready to top.  There’s the adorable hand of my little helper.  What you don’t see in all these photos are my little helpers.  They are always trying to help.  Or “help”.  They think that every mother climbs all over the counters and the dining room table with a big, black zoom lens camera, trying to get the perfect angle in the perfect light.
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Ok, let’s talk sauce:  I’m old school when it comes to sauce.  And by “old school”, I mean Neapolitan.  People in Italy don’t use “pizza sauce”.  They use tomatoes.  Straight up tomatoes.  If you have to have spicy pizza sauce, then go for it.
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But, I like to take my whole imported Roma tomatoes and smash them all over the dough with a fork.
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Next, cheese.
20150929-DSC_6572I also drizzle a bit of olive oil around, focusing on the crust areas.

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The pizzas for the kids are done.  I put them in a 425 degree, F oven.  It will take about 30-40 minutes to get the crust nice and crispy.

Next, I’m going finish the grown up pizza.  So I take all that lovely roasted garlic and squish it with my fingers and sprinkle it around the pizza.
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Add the rosemary.  Fresh is preferable.  My toddler “helped” by putting a little too much rosemary on my pizza.  Actually, she dumped the whole bottle of dried rosemary over the pizza.

So, ya, it was a bit “pine-needle-y”.  Actually, it was kind of like eating a Christmas tree.  But….BUT… It was still good.  I mean, it would have been better without the whole bottle dumped on there.  So just don’t do that.  And use fresh.

20150929-DSC_6841I baked it at 425 degrees, F for about 30 minutes.  Just like the “kid” pizzas.
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Rosemary is so good in the fall.  It sure did smell good baking.
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Christmas tree pizza?  Maybe I should call it that.  But really, it was so fragrant and so good (minus the pound of rosemary).

Toddlers. Whaddaya do?  Just cuddle em.  They grow so fast.