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Secrets for making the perfect pizza on game day

(BPT) - When it comes to game-day entertaining, pizza served with a full-flavored craft beer is sure to score big with your guests. Delicious and easy, guests can quickly grab...

(BPT) - When it comes to game-day entertaining, pizza served with a full-flavored craft beer is sure to score big with your guests. Delicious and easy, guests can quickly grab a slice and a brew during the break in the action and get back to the game with a well-balanced pairing in hand. To kick it up a notch for your next game-day party, here are a few tips from pizza pro Mark Bello, of Pizza a Casa Pizza School in New York, along with a craft beer-infused pizza crust recipe that will have your guests feeling happy regardless of the score:

* Craft beer: the secret crust ingredient. When making pizza for your favorite sports fans, a full-flavored beer like Samuel Adams Boston Lager is the perfect ingredient to bring the crust to the next level. Both pizza crust and beer are made with grain, water and yeast, so they really complement each other. And the hops in beer can provide an inherent spice package that enhances the dimension of the recipe and brings the flavors of the crust to life.

* Finesse wins. Rather than attacking the dough, smashing it down and trying to push or pull it into shape, gently pat it down on a smooth, floured work surface, working it into a larger circle. Drive it around in a circle like you would the steering wheel of a car, and let gravity help you do the stretching.

* Plan your lineup. Trying to make a number of pizzas ready all at once for the hungry masses is unrealistic for the average home kitchen. Have your toppings ready to go before the game, so that you can quickly make and serve fresh pies throughout the party. Trot out a few at a time, mixing up the varieties as the game progresses. A 12- to 14-inch pizza can be sliced into 12 amply sized portions.

* Pick your players. Your pizza's the star, but having the right craft beer to pair with the pies can upgrade the experience. 'With so many varying tastes in pizza, from the dough to the sauce, cheese and toppings, you need a well-balanced craft beer to work with the flavor combinations,' says Bello. Samuel Adams Boston Lager has the rich, malt base to pair well with any style crust and has a great hop finish to match the acidity in the tomato sauce and richness of the cheese and toppings.

* The intangibles. A few simple rules can bring your pizza to championship-level. Get creative by using quality toppings that reflect your hometown team, but resist the urge to go overboard on ingredients; too much stuff and your pizza will be soggy and unsatisfying. Keep your oven door shut as much as possible for an evenly baked pie. Consider getting a pizza stone which is the best way to get a crispy crust like from a brick oven.

By following these tips and using a recipe that's a proven winner, you'll ensure your place in the game-day entertaining hall of fame. Try Bello's all-star recipe for the perfect crust.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager Infused Pizza Crust

Makes two crusts to be dressed and baked on a cookie sheet or pizza pan.

Ingredients:

Approximately 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for dusting

1 packet instant yeast (highly active or bread machine yeast)

1 tablespoon fine granulation salt

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus more for greasing your rising container and oiling your cookie sheet, pizza pan or screen

12-ounce bottle of Samuel Adams Boston Lager

[Toppings of your choice]

Directions:

*Warm Boston Lager to 120-130 F (temperature at which yeast will activate properly). Bring the bottle to temperature in a bowl of very warm (not boiling) water or by running it under hot water from the tap. Check with a thermometer if possible.

* In a 5 quart or larger bowl, combine flour, yeast, salt and oil.

* Add Boston Lager to flour mixture, and stir with a fork until the dough is lumpy. Then, go in with your hands. Gradually add flour as you knead to the point that the finished dough should be just slightly tacky and elastic. To tell when the dough is done, periodically poke it and when the dough gently springs back after you poke it, it is done. Don't worry if it is not perfectly smooth - don't over-knead it.

* Your finished dough, if you have a scale, will weigh right around 2 pounds. Break into two equal pieces.

* Ball each piece up and place each in a separate airtight container lightly greased with olive oil. Each container needs to be at least a quart in size to allow for each dough ball to double in size (deli quart containers work great).

* Set dough aside to rise in a warm location; 70-80 F is good. After dough has expanded up to double the original size (1-2 hours), gently remove from container and stretch to fit on a lightly greased 12- or 14-inch cookie sheet, pizza pan or pizza screen.

* Add toppings of your choice, and bake in a 500 F preheated oven until your crust and toppings are to your desired doneness (10 to 15 minutes).

* Take pizza out of the oven, allow a few minutes to cool. Then cut, serve and enjoy.

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