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Pizza Party

October 9, 2011
Baked

I’ve already posted an entry on pizza pastries, however, I never did an actual pizza, as a friend pointed it out.  So with that, I decided to go with a bang, and bake up my garlic chicken pizza.  It’s simple and tasty, and the crust is actually vegan – so if you opt for a vegetable-only tomato sauce, veggie toppings and/or a vegan cheese alternative, you can even serve it at a no-meat party!

But to stick with the meat-involved variety, you first need to marinate the chicken.  To achieve the perfect, bite-size chicken pieces, cut the chicken breast while it’s still mostly frozen.  Slice it about 1/2 inch thin, across the imaginary breast bone, making small slices, then cut each slice into 2-3 pieces.  Put these in a small bowl or a zipper bag, and pour in just enough milk to cover it.  Add 4-5 cloves of coarsely chopped garlic, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or zip up the bag, then put it in the fridge for a few hours.

Chop the chicken breast while still frozen

Chopping the frozen chicken

In another bowl, combine about 3/4 cup of sour cream with garlic salt, white pepper and ranch dip seasoning to taste – add the spices little by little, tasting often.  When you have achieved a smooth, but slightly tangy flavor, cover the mixture and refrigerate until the dough is ready.

Topping

Mix the ranch-garlic topping to taste

About an hour and a half before dinnertime, mix 1 packet instant dry yeast (make sure it’s not the rapid rise type!) with 1/2 cup of lukewarm water and about 1 teaspoon of sugar in a non-metal bowl.  Stir this mixture with your hand instead of a spoon – the presence of metals may cause the yeast to not rise.  This is called proofing the yeast.  Wait until it becomes bubbly and foamy – this should take about 5 minutes; if even 10 minutes pass, but nothing happens, discard the mixture and start with fresh yeast.  Yeast is actually a fungus that you get in a freeze-dried, deactivated form in the store.  The water and the sugar ensure it reactivates, and has food to start working: the bubbles are actually from carbon dioxide that the yeast produces!  If the yeast doesn’t rise, it means the microscopic fungi have actually died, so you need a fresh packet.

Before

The yeast before....

Yeast, after

.... and after proofing

In the meantime, measure 1 lb of flour into a large mixing bowl.  Add about a tablespoon of salt, another 1/2 cup of water, and 3 tablespoons of olive oil, along with the active yeast mixture.  Mix it all together with your hands until all the flour is absorbed, then plop the dough onto a floured kneading board, and knead it until it’s smooth.

Add the yeast

Add the yeast, mix and knead...

Smooth dough

... until your dough is this smooth.

Oil a mixing bowl (I usually just use the one I assembled the dough in), and roll the dough ball around in the oil to coat the whole surface, then put it in the bowl.  Cut a cross-shape incision on the top – the oiling helps keep the dough from drying out, and the incision ensures it has a way to rise.  Cover the bowl loosely with a large kitchen towel or a dishcloth (flour sack clothes are the best for it), then stick it in a back corner that’s reasonably warm and absolutely draft-free.  Catching a draft, your rising dough can collapse, as the uneven temperature would pop the carbon dioxide bubbles as well as possibly kill your now active and sensitive yeast fungi.  Yeast works better in a warm environment, so the warmer your kitchen corner is, the faster the dough will rise.  If you’re in a hurry, you can also preheat your oven to about 100 degrees, then turn off the heat and put in the dough.

Oiled

Oily, and ready to rest!

Once the dough has at least doubled in bulk, it should look something like this:

Risen

After rising

Time to knead it again!  This time, be very gentle, though – we just want to get some of the extra air out, not “punish” the dough!  When it feels just elastic in your hands rather than an understuffed pillow, you’re on the right spot.  Cut the dough in half, and roll each half out into about a 12-inch pizza.  If you prefer thicker shells, use the whole batch for just one, thick and fluffy pizza.  You can also roll them to a rectangular shape to be baked at a cookie sheet.

Move

It's easier to move big crusts if you roll part of it onto your rolling pin, and lift the other side

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and start topping your pizza with the sour cream mixture, spreading it on evenly, leaving about a 3/4 inch edge clean.  Heat some oil in a skillet to pre-sear the chicken pieces.  Drain the chicken from the milk, then add it to the hot skillet.  Sear it only until the pieces are whitened all over, stirring continuously, but do not cook them through.  Dot the pizzas with the chicken pieces, then add some bacon cut to matchsticks, and some thinly sliced red onions; or any other toppings of your choice: artichoke hearts, mushrooms, sliced tomatoes, bell peppers, olives – anything you like.

Pre-cheese

Toppings, before the cheese

Dust the topped pizza with a generous helping of oregano, then cover it with shredded cheese.  I used mild cheddar, but you can use mozzarella, monterey jack, colby jack or a pre-shredded blend.  Don’t worry if everything is not completely covered – the cheese will drip on those areas, too, as it melts.

Say cheese!

Say cheese!

Put the pizzas on the center rack of the preheated oven, and bake them until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted and slightly browned.

Baked

Fresh out of the oven!

For nice, clean-cut slices, let the pizza stand for a few minutes before cutting.  This gives time for the cheese to solidify a little, so it won’t stick to your pizza cutter so much, and won’t come off the whole topping like a spiderweb.

Garlic Chicken Pizza

Garlic Chicken Pizza

Enjoy your meal!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2011 08:01

    This sounds delicious, CN. And I learned something new about marinating. I would have never thought to marinate the chicken in milk and garlic. I would have thought something like EVOO, but I bet the milk makes it richer. Thanks for the tip and the recipe!

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