Make Your Own Pizza for National Pizza Month

By Christina Elston


California Pizza Kitchen’s SVP of Culinary Innovation Brian Sullivan enjoys spreading joy through pizza. PHOTOS COURTESY CALIFORNIA PIZZA KITCHEN

It’s National Pizza Month, and yes, you can make your own – with the kids.

California Pizza Kitchen’s Senior Vice President of Culinary Innovation Brian Sullivan has made a lot of pizza with a lot of people at the iconic chain’s parties and events. “Everybody just seems to love it. It’s just fun,” he says. “You get to use your hands. You get to let go and be creative.”

That being said, making and tossing your own pizza dough can be intimidating.

Whether you follow the recipe below or pick up ready-made dough at Trader Joe’s, it’s essential to get that dough up to room temperature – 70-75 degrees – before you try to shape it. Cold dough will snap right back when you stretch it out, so Sullivan lets his sit out for two to four hours first. Keep the dough covered and sealed air-tight during this time so the surface doesn’t dry out.

When it’s time to toss, don’t worry about forming a perfect circle. “Just have fun with it,” says Sullivan. “I don’t think all these pizzas need to be perfectly round.” If yours isn’t, just call it artisanal.

Encourage your kids to experiment with sauce and toppings. (“Vegetables are amazing on pizzas,” Sullivan says.) Just don’t let them add too much. “Your dough-to-topping ratio is really important,” he explains, adding a pizza with too much topping won’t cook properly. If you’re looking to approximate CPK’s barbecue sauce, Sullivan says Sweet Baby Ray’s is the store brand that comes closest.

One more pro tip: If you’re keen to make pizza at home, consider getting something called a “pizza steel.” It’s a substitute for the more-expensive and heavier pizza stone beloved among serious home cooks. “I bought one for $50 last year, and it’s my go-to,” Sullivan says.

The Original BBQ Chicken Pizza from California Pizza Kitchen

recipeCPK Hand-Tossed Pizza Dough

Makes four 11-inch crusts 

4 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping dough

2½ teaspoons fine sea salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2½ teaspoons active dry yeast

2½ teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cups lukewarm water

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, whisk 4¾ cups flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Add oil and the water, beating on low speed until dough is smooth. Divide into four balls.

Dough will keep up to three days in the refrigerator or three months in the freezer. To refrigerate, place each dough ball in a separate bowl covered with plastic wrap. To freeze, immediately after shaping, wrap each dough ball separately in plastic wrap. Place dough balls in a large sealed freezer bag. To thaw, place each ball in its own bowl covered with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Let bowls sit at room temperature (about 70 °F) covered in plastic wrap for 2 to 3 hours or until dough has more than doubled in size before using.

Original BBQ Chicken Pizza

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of your favorite barbecue sauce

6 ounces grilled chicken breast, pulled into ¼-inch-thick slices

All-purpose flour

2 portions hand-tossed pizza dough, at room temperature

1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese

1½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese

½ of a small red onion, sliced into ⅛-inch-thick rings

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 500° F. If using a baking stone or steel, arrange a rack in the upper third of the oven and place it on the rack. Heat for 1 hour. If using a baking sheet, arrange rack in middle of oven.

In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of barbecue sauce and the chicken. Toss well to combine; set aside.

Lightly flour a work surface. Place one portion of dough on the surface, being careful to maintain the round shape and thickness of the dough; do not press. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Using your index fingers, press a one-inch rim around the outer edge of the circle. Once rim is formed, press air out of the center of the dough, being careful not to flatten the rim. Using your knuckles, from the bottom of the dough, carefully stretch the dough, rotating as your work, to form an 11-inch circle. Take care to maintain a uniform thickness in the center. Gently toss dough in the air a few times. Set aside and repeat with remaining ball of dough. Lightly sprinkle a pizza peel or rimless baking sheet with flour. Transfer one dough circle to prepared peel. (If using a baking sheet, lightly flour the baking sheet. Transfer one dough circle to the prepared sheet.)

Top dough circle on peel with 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce, spreading evenly to base of rim. Top with ½ cup smoked Gouda and ¾ cup mozzarella. Top with half of the onion and half of the chicken.

Using small, quick back-and-fourth movements, slide pizza from peel onto hot pizza stone. (If using a baking sheet, place sheet on rack in oven.) Bake, rotating pizza halfway through baking time, until bottom of crust is crisp and top is blistered, 6 to 8 minutes.

Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the remaining barbecue sauce over the cooked pizza. Top with 1 tablespoon of the chopped cilantro; serve immediately. Repeat with remaining dough circle and toppings.

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