Homemade White Pizza Experiment

Ok, so over the years I have never been one to purposely order a white pizza. Although I have at least tried white pizzas in the past but only if someone else happens to be eating one and says “Oh come on, just try some.” So just what IS a white pizza you may ask? Well, here is the definition according to the “Google machine.” White Pizza – (pizza bianca) uses no tomato sauce, often substituting pesto or dairy products such as sour cream. Most commonly, the toppings consist only of mozzarella and ricotta cheese. In Rome, the term pizza bianca refers to a type of bread topped only with olive oil.

So I decided to try making my very own version of a white pizza with lots of ingredients that I love and see how I liked it. I started out just making a very simple pizza dough. The ingredients I included were as follows:

3 cups of flour to start
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. of sugar
3/4 cups water
1 Tbs. of yeast
2 tsp. garlic powder

In to the bread maker the ingredients went and about 40 minutes later it was ready to become a pizza.  First I rolled out the dough and laid down a layer of pesto sauce as my base. I usually just buy a jar of pesto that you can find right in the tomato sauce isle. Next I added the toppings which included sauteed mushrooms and spinach, chopped up kalamata olives, marinated artichoke hearts out of a jar, roasted red peppers and roasted garlic. Now this was the second time I have tried to roast garlic. It came out better than the first time I roasted garlic which was a complete disaster. But if anyone has a quick and easy way to do it, please let me know. It just seems really tricky to get the garlic from their cloves after it’s roasted. But maybe that’s just me.

White Pizza Pesto Base

After all the toppings were added I piled on the cheese. I started with grated parmesan cheese. Then I remembered I actually had shredded parmesan cheese in the fridge too so I added that as well. I also picked up some crumbled goat cheese and feta cheese at the grocery store so on to the pizza they went. Finally I covered the rest of the pizza with shredded mozzarella. I put the pizza in to the oven which had been preheated to 385 degrees and I set the timer for 17 minutes.

White Pizza toppings

The results…. I thought it came out pretty darn tasty. Like I have always said, I haven’t always been a huge fan of white pizzas, because I usually tend to like my pizzas with a lot of tomato sauce. But when I started to think about the different types of ingredients I could add to get some really great flavors, it started to sound pretty good. I guess my problem with white pizzas is that whenever I have tried them in restaurants they tend to seem too plain and bland to me. So my solution to that was to make my own that had lots of flavors going on and a lot of fresh ingredients. And this one certainly didn’t disappoint. Oh! The one thing I meant to add to this pizza but I forgot, which I think would have only made this even tastier, was……bacon! Oh well, next time!

White Pizza

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Ernestos Pizza (aka Ernie’s)

This past weekend was opening day for the Tigers in Detroit, MI. So we packed up the Prius and headed down to MI on Thursday night. The game was fun as always. Great times with some really great people. Then on Saturday morning we continued on our way to Harbor Beach to visit with Eric’s mom for the rest of the weekend. And one thing that Eric always has to get when he his back in his home town is pizza from Ernestos Pizza. So I said, “Sign me up!”

Ernestos

The first time I experienced Ernestos was a year ago around this time when we went down for the Tigers opening weekend again. It’s a very quaint little pizza shop located in the downtown area of Harbor Beach. There’s only a few booths and tables on one side of the restaurant, a vintage juke box in the corner that plays old and new 45’s and of course the kitchen in the back. While we sat there eating our pizza in one of the booths, a family came in with two smaller children. Eric kept laughing because one of the little boys (I would say around the age of 3 or 4) kept popping up over the edge of our booth and smiling. Next thing I knew, I felt something touching me on my head….this little boy was actually petting me. The reaction of his mother led us to believe that this was a very common thing he did when they took their kids out to eat. The mom begrudgingly said “Oh no, not again!” And then they quickly decided to get their pizza to go and left the restaurant.

As entertaining as that was, we couldn’t stay and eat in at Ernestos this time around. So we ordered our pizza for pick up. We decided to order a large pizza with bacon, pepperoni and mushrooms on it because we knew we’d want a ton of leftovers… this pizza is almost just as good the next day as it is fresh. Eric actually likes it even better cold the next day.

Anways, the pizza was just absolutely delicious. They put a really significant amount of bacon on it so you definitely notice the smokiness of the bacon flavor. You taste bacon with pretty much every bite! The secret to their sauce is that it has a sweetness to it. And it has a good thickness to it if you ask me. Not too runny. I could also taste garlic in the sauce which always makes me happy. Speaking of garlic, there was definitely a hint of garlic in the crust. The crust has a really nice buttery flavor to it. It’s light and soft but has some good texture to the bottom of it. The cheese was really good too. I could tell it was a good quality mozzarella that they use. Although, I hear back in the day the cheese used to be even better. I guess they’ve changed owners over the years. All in all, this pizza had good substance to it. It wasn’t too thin but it wasn’t quite a pan pizza either. I will have to give this pizza 4.5 stars. If I had tried this pizza years ago when the ingredients were even better than they are now.. I bet this pizza would be a solid 5 for sure!

Ernestos Pizza

Fogo 2 Go for Delivery

A couple weeks back we decided to use our Fogo 2 Go Living Social coupon we had and ordered a pizza for delivery. Fogo 2 Go is located at 926 West Diversey in Chicago, IL. Fogo just opened up in 1997 and features Brazilian pizza, chicken and gourmet salads. This was the first time I had ever eaten from here so I was excited to try a new pizza place.

Fogo 2 Go box

The first thing that I was really impressed with was that they had over 50 different kinds of personal pizzas to choose from.That’s a LOT!! They ranged from greek pizzas, to buffalo chicken pizzas, to even shrimp scampi pizzas. You name it, they probably had it. They had 7 different kinds of cheese pizzas alone. And for a cheese lover, this was very exciting to see. We ended up deciding to just build our own pizza since there were sooo many different kinds of toppings to choose from. They had practically anything you wanted to put on your pizza, from chick peas to cheese whiz! The pizza toppings we choose weren’t too crazy or out of the ordinary: fresh sizzling bacon, prosciutto, and hot italian sausage.

We also decided to try the garlic knots which are their soft dough twists that are baked in extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, chopped garlic and finally a touch of parsley. These were really really delicious. The garlic knots were warm, soft and fluffy and loaded with lots of garlic goodness. They were supposed to come with a dipping sauce too but they forgot to add ours to the bag. I happened to have some of my homemade pizza sauce left over from earlier in the week, so that worked out perfect in a pinch.

On to the pizza. The pizza arrived and as soon as I opened the box I could tell the pizza didn’t appear to look that hot. It wasn’t cold or anything, but to me, it seemed like they didn’t have one of those special bags that keeps the pizza warm when transporting the pizza because it was only luke warm. I could be wrong and maybe we were just the last stop on their drive. Anyways, the first thing I noticed when tasting the pizza was that I felt like it didn’t have enough sauce to my liking. So I actually ended up dipping the pizza in my own leftover homemade pizza sauce that I was using to dip the garlic knots in. The cheese they used on the pizza seemed really tasty to me though. The hot italian sausage was just ok. I felt like I would have preferred the sausage to be in pieces rather than cut up, round sausage links. The prosciutto on the other hand was really tasty. I don’t usually see that as a topping option when I order pizza, so I was excited to try that. The only complaints I have about the prosciutto was that it was sliced too thick and there was also a little bit too much of it on the pizza. I ended up having to take some off because it was a little overwhelmingly salty with so much of it on there. So I think I would have to only give this pizza a rating of 2.5. I think the negatives outweighed the positives with this one. But I do highly recommend the garlic knots though. Those were absolutely amazing!!

Fogo 2 Go

Homemade Pizza Sauce With a Zing!

Being National Pizza week this past week, well, what else was I going to make for dinner but homemade pizza of course! This time, I decided to try making a homemade pizza sauce for the first time. I had actually just gone to the grocery store and bought a ton of tomato products for making chili later this weekend. So since I had the ingredients on hand, I went ahead and used some of them for a nice homemade sauce because I had never tried making my own pizza sauce before.

But before we get to the sauce, here’s what I put in my dough:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup Coors Light beer
3 Tbs softened butter (Spreadable I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs yeast

So I went to work on my sauce next. The ingredients I used for this were as follows:

6 oz. can of tomato paste
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato sauce
3 Tbs. olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried basil
1 Tbs. italian seasoning
1 Tbs. oregano
2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

I started out by sautéing the garlic in olive oil. Next, I added all the tomato products and then added the seasonings. I stirred everything together and let it come to a boil. Then I just reduced the heat and let it sit and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. It was pretty simple, I must say. Who’d a thought? This recipe made probably enough sauce for 2 pizzas. So I have plenty of leftover sauce for my next pizza.

While the sauce cooked on the stovetop, I began prepping the toppings for the pizza. The toppings that went on this one were:

Mushrooms
Spinach
Pepperoni
Bacon
Fire Roasted Red Peppers
Mozzarella & Feta Cheese

I sauteed the mushrooms and spinach in garlic and olive oil in a frying pan. Once the dough was done in the bread machine and the sauce was finished cooking, I spread the sauce on the dough which was smelling nice and garlicy at this point. I put the rest of the toppings on and finally the cheese and in to the oven it went for 18:25 minutes at 385 degrees.

I have to say I was really impressed with the taste of this one. The sauce had a sweetness to it that I didn’t expect. But the red pepper flakes complimented it nicely and gave it just enough kick. I also liked the buttery taste that the crust had. The bacon and pepperoni went really well with the hint of sweetness I was getting from the homemade sauce because of their salty flavor. I think the garlic really added some great flavor to the sauce as well. I of course love garlic so I went a little on the heavier side when adding it to my sauce. All in all, I was really happy with this one. I was excited my first attempt to make my own homemade pizza sauce was a success!

homemade pizza sauce

Adventures in Cast Iron Pizza Pan Cooking

Have you ever thought about or wanted to try cooking a homemade pizza in a cast iron frying pan? I’ve read online different ways you can do this and one suggestion was to cook your pizza on the bottom side of a cast iron frying pan flipped upside down. Well, little did I know, they actually make cast iron pizza pans specifically for cooking pizzas on! Literally just days after I found out these genius pizza pans were in existence, we then got one as a Christmas present! How perfect is that?!
cast_iron_pan

This was my first attempt at cooking a pizza on a cast iron pan. So I did a bit of research on what to do beforehand. I learned you should preheat the pan for 30-60 min. in the oven at a temperature of at least 450 degrees or higher before you put the pizza in. I also read that you will know your pan is ready when you splash a few drops of water on the pan and the drops “dance.” The pan we received was a 14 inch pre-treated, non-stick pan so it was ready to go right out of the box. Which was great! The nice thing about cast iron is that you can use it in the oven, on an outdoor grill or even on a campfire. Cast iron pans are known for even heating and excellent heat retention when cooking a pizza. So I was really looking forward to the nice golden crust this one was going to have.

The ingredients I used for the homemade dough this time were:

2 1/2 cups of flour
2/3 cups of lukewarm water
1/4 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp of pepper
1 Tbs of minced garlic
1 Tbs of yeast
1 Tbs of oregano
2 Tbs of olive oil

The tricky part of making the pizza on the preheated cast iron pan as opposed to a regular pizza pan is that you need to have your dough rolled out before you put it on the pan. This is because once you place the dough on the hot cast iron, it’s gonna be stuck there! So I transferred the dough I hand stretched and rolled out beforehand on to the pre-heated pan and quickly got the sauce and toppings on so I could get it back in the oven.

The toppings I used were as follows: (You’ll notice they are similar to the last homemade pizza I made. It was just so good I had to use a lot of the same toppings)

Pepperoni
Kalamata Olives
Fire Roasted Red Peppers
Salami
Mozzerrella, Pepper Jack and Parmesan Cheese

cast iron

Before placing the pizza back in the oven I turned the oven down to 385 degrees. Then, I cooked the pizza for around 17 minutes. And the verdict was…… success! The crust had a very nice crisp to it on the bottom and was cooked perfectly through. I was very impressed. I’ll probably do some experimenting with the temps and timing for the next one I use the cast iron pan for just to see the different results I get. But for my first attempt, it came out pretty darn good. Another idea we came up to try with was to keep the cast iron pizza pan nice and warm while putting the toppings on by lighting the burner underneath it while it sits on the stove. There are so many different things to try with this pan. It can also be used for warming tortilla shells, baking rolls, cornbread, etc. I’m very happy with the new addition to our pizza pan collection!

cast iron slice

Pizza Serio is SERIOusly great pizza!!

pizza-serio

I was first introduced to Pizza Serio in the fall of 2010 by my friend Dale who kept insisting I try it. This brick oven pizza place just opened this past year and is located at 1708 W. Belmont Ave in Chicago. I’ve been there twice since it opened and I can now see why Dale suggested I try this pizza. I have added Pizza Serio to my top favorite pizza places to go to in Chicago. When I saw that Groupon had a deal for Pizza Serio a little while back I was super excited. So of course I snatched it up and this past Friday we went to cash it in.

Pizza Serio has a nice ambiance inside. It has lots of exposed brick which adds a lot of charm to the place and has several flat screens if you’re in the mood to watch a game. The staff has always been really friendly when I’ve been there as well. They even have a second level upstairs that can be rented out for special events.

We started off the night by ordering some Half Acre Daisy Cutter Ale’s. Oooh and I do have to mention that this place also sells my favorite beer, Bells Oberon. Unfortunately, Oberon is not in season right now so they did not have it available to order. Otherwise I would have ordered that of course. Anyways, we then attempted to order the garlic twists but they’re so popular they were out of them that night. The first time we went to Pizza Serio they were testing out the garlic twist recipe and asked us to try them to see what we thought. I’m glad to see they officially made it on their menu because I’m a huge garlic fan and they were amazing. So we skipped the appetizer and just decided to order one margarita pizza and one with spicy sopressata salami. The first night I went to Pizza Serio I tried the spicy salami as one of the toppings and I can honestly say I don’t think I will ever order anything else from there because I loved it so much. It had such amazing flavor. I’ve since then tried to find spicy salami at the grocery store so I can try adding this topping to my homemade pizzas as well, but I have had trouble finding it. Of course I haven’t tried looking anywhere besides Jewel so far so I guess I could be trying a “little” bit harder. I have to admit, it’s a topping that I haven’t seen very often at pizza places so this was a very exciting and delicious surprise to find it on their menu.

Spicy salami

The Margarita pizza had a lot of really fresh tasting basil on top. I would say the pizza tasted like your typical margarita pizza. Although, I expected it to come with sliced tomatoes on it, but it did not. But that’s ok. It was still delicious. The crust on these pizzas were nice and light and airy. The mozzarella was very fresh and flavorful. It really is the closest pizza in taste to NYC style pizza that I’ve had here in Chicago. So if you’re looking for some great thin crust, this is the place to try! I would have to give this pizza a 4+. And I will be going back again very soon. I highly recommend you try it, especially if you’re a fan of NYC style pizza. You won’t be disappointed!

Margarita pizza

One Spicy Pizza – Cha cha cha!!

OK, it’s a new year. Time for CPG to come out of hibernation and write her first blog of 2011. For my first homemade pizza of the year I decided to go with a spicy theme tonight (probably against my better judgement considering I landed in the emergency room towards the end of 2010 for stomach issues again). But, what can I say, old habits die hard. Mom, I promise I took a Pepcid AC! So let’s get started with what was in the dough.

Ingredients:

1 Tbs Olive Oil
2/3 Cup Lukewarm Water
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
2 1/4 Cups Flour
1/4 tsp Oregano
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1 tsp Active Dry Yeast
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1 Jalepeno Pepper, minced (optional, I did not have one unfortunately)

And into the bread maker the ingredients went. This was a little bit smaller dough recipe than I typically make. But it was just what I was looking for, a thinner crust than usual. Once the bread maker timer went off, the dough was ready to come out. It looked perfect. I could see the little flecks of red pepper flakes throughout. Next, it was time to get the dough on the pizza pan and add the sauce and toppings.

Spicy Pizza Toppings

Toppings:

Ragu Pizza Sauce
Spicy Italian Sausage Pieces
Pepperoni
Fire Roasted Red Peppers
Kalamata Olives

For the cheese, I used shredded mozzarella, parmesan, and pepper jack for a bit more of a kick. Three types of cheese are better than one right?! I cooked the pizza at 385 degrees for 18 minutes and 23 seconds. A number I thought sounded good. It came out just perfect with the cheese lightly browned and good crisp to the crust. I have to say, this pizza was probably in my top 3 pizzas I have ever made. The amount of sauce was just perfect. When ever I think I have just enough sauce, I always add just a little bit more. I have always liked a decent amount of sauce on my pizzas. The spicy sausage really added some amazing flavor. And to kick things up yet another notch, I always add crushed red pepper on top of my slice when I eat my pizza. So all the spicy flavors came together quite nicely. If the heat is a little too much for you to handle, you can always dip your crust into ranch dressing to cool your mouth off. The only thing I might have done differently with this pizza is added MORE of the fire roasted red peppers to it. They were so darn good I could not stop eating them right off of the pizza before it even went in to the oven.

Spicy Homemade