Pizza can be art.
If it looks good, it should taste great. I can't force your hand, but please don't use store bought dough or inferior sauce. Whatever you do, please do not use the fake parmesan in a can. That stuff is made entirely of evil and lies... and ground toenail clippings.
If you're going to go through the effort to make a rose garden pizza, why not make it taste fabulous?
Step 1: Make the Dough (the Day Before)
3 to 3 1/2 C bread flour (may substitute up to half with white whole wheat flour)
2 t salt
a couple squirts of honey, roughly 1-2 t
1 t dry yeast
a few grinds black pepper
1 T extra virgin olive oil
2 C cold water (yes, I said cold.)
This recipe will make enough dough for two large pizzas. You can freeze the extra dough if you can't find enough people to eat two pizzas (although such a thought is shocking to me).
Dump 3 cups of flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the salt, honey, oil, and yeast. Add the water. As long as you know your yeast is alive (if it's been successful in other recipes), you don't need to bother to proof it. Grind in the black pepper. Black pepper is good in pizza dough.
Attach the dough hook and beat the dough, slowly at first so the flour doesn't fly up in your face. When the flour is all incorporated, turn up the speed. Beat the dough until it curls up into a little ball and whimpers.
This dough is pretty wet. If the dough absolutely will not pull away from the sides of the bowl, you can add the other 1/2 cup flour, but try not to add more than that. If you beat it long enough (several minutes), the gluten that forms should help tighten it up nicely.
The dough will stick to the dough hook as you pull it away. Scrape it off the hook and remove the bowl from the mixer. Drizzle on some olive oil, scrape the dough away from the sides of the bowl, and roll it to coat it with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge at least overnight.
Step 2: Make the Sauce
1 10-ish ounce can tomato puree
1 10 -ish ounce can tomato sauce
a couple cloves garlic
extra virgin olive oil
crushed red pepper flakes
This can be done the day before or the same day you make the pizza. This sauce is very strongly flavored, and you should have some extra.
Squash the garlic with the flat side of a knife. Chop it into tiny pieces. Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic and cook gently; DO NOT BROWN THE GARLIC. Brown garlic is overcooked and bitter.
When the garlic has barely considered beginning to turn golden, turn off the heat and add the tomato puree. It might splatter a bit.
Add the oregano and basil to taste; grind the dried herbs in your palm before dumping them in. Add some salt and honey to taste. The sweetness of the honey helps balance out the saltiness of the meat and cheese.
Add the crushed red pepper. Taste the sauce. Stir in the tomato paste and taste again; adjust any seasoning that needs it.
If you don't want to store the extra pizza sauce in a ziplock bag in the freezer, use smaller cans of tomato puree/paste and make less. I find it convenient to have pizza sauce available.
Step 3: Make the Pepperoni Roses
I used pepperoni and salami for these. I chose the large circles that were sliced thin.
Slice a piece of pepperoni from one edge to the center. Take one cut edge and roll a tight cone. It's okay if the layers bunch a bit. When it's all rolled up, secure with a toothpick.
Slice off the bottom of the cone with a knife. You can eat the bottom if you want, but don't throw it away. The bottom cones make tiny little roses that don't need to be held together with a toothpick.
Repeat with more pepperoni and salami. Make lots of roses.
You have two options for cooking these, and both work fine. You can bake them separately or directly on the pizza. The benefits of baking separately are that you can get rid of the excess grease, you can control how done the roses get, and you're not very likely to forget to remove a toothpick before serving. I baked mine at 400 degrees on aluminum foil. I made a little trough to hold the tiny roses upright. It's important to keep the roses upright so the edges cook, stiffen slightly, and warp a bit. They look the best that way. Remove them when they're as done as you like them. Pull out the toothpicks and set them aside for when the pizza is baked.
If you'd rather the pepperoni grease stay on the pizza, go ahead and cook the roses with the rest of the pizza. Just don't forget to remove the toothpicks.
Step 4: Prepare the Cheese
Using more than one type of cheese deepens the flavor.
I used mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan. You can tell if your parmesan is real by checking for parts of the words "parmigiano reggiano" stamped on the rind.
Shred the mozzarella. If the provolone is sliced, you can tear or chop those slices to make smaller pieces. Use a small grater for the parmesan; I use a microplane.
Step 5: Assemble and Bake the Pizza
Preheat the oven to 450 with a pizza stone in it if you have one.
Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface.
Pull the dough out of the fridge. Tear off half of it if you want a thick pizza. If you want a really thin pizza, use a fourth of the dough. Gently pull it into a circle. Using both hands, hold the edge of the pizza and let gravity gently stretch and pull the rest of the pizza down. Slide your hands along the edge of the circle and repeat, allowing gravity to do most of the shaping. Once your pizza is thin enough to tear, set it down. Continue to press the pizza out to shape it into a circle. Use a rolling pin if you really want to, but make sure the very edges are slightly thicker than the middle area.
If you're using a pizza peel, sprinkle it lightly with cornmeal if you're nervous about it sticking. Move the dough to the peel and reshape.
If you're using a pizza pan, place the dough in the pan and give it the final shape.
Spread on the sauce. Remember that it has a very strong flavor; a little goes a long way. If you made your dough thin, keep the sauce and cheese layers thin.
Sprinkle on the cheese. If you're baking the roses on the pizza, place them now, making sure you'll see every toothpick after it's baked.
Place the pizza in the oven. The cook time depends on the thickness of the pizza. I know my thin pizza took as long to cook as it took me to frantically dig through the refrigerator three times and finally find the fresh basil stashed under a large bag of carrots. (My brother is living with us and helps out in the kitchen.) Thanks for hiding the basil, David.
Step 6: Chiffonade the Basil
Chiffonade (shred) the basil while the pizza is baking if you didn't spend all the baking time digging through the fridge.
Stack a few fresh basil leaves together. Roll them tightly the long way. Using a sharp knife, slice thin ends off the roll. Keep slicing.
Gently pick up the thin rolls of basil. They should unfurl. They're ready for sprinkling on the hot pizza.
If you like, save a few of the smaller basil leaves without shredding to place around the roses.
Step 7: Final Touches and Thoughts
Remove the pizza from the oven. Sprinkle on the fresh basil.
If you baked the roses on the pizza, carefully remove the toothpicks without burning yourself. If you baked your roses separately, arrange them on the pizza. Add additional parmesan if you like.
I made a thicker pizza for the family after I finished the thin one. I used a pan for this one and sliced the extra pepperoni and salami. Some people prefer smaller bites of pepperoni, and the roses are definitely salty concentrated bites of meat.
Thanks for reading! I welcome any votes for the pizza contest if you deem this entry worthwhile. :)
Second Prize in the