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Chicken pesto pizza

I got a baking stone for my birthday, so I figured it was time to try making my own pizza! Instead of going for a traditional cheese with tomato sauce (which is definitely my favorite), I went for a chicken pesto pizza. Due to time restraints, I made the dough the night before and let it rise for 1 1/2-2 hours (it only took 1 1/2 this time.) I punched the dough down and split it in half before wrapping it in plastic wrap and putting it in plastic bags. It had to go in the freezer even though I was planning on using it the next day because the fridge isn’t cold enough to completely stop the rising process. The next morning, I took 1/2 of the dough out of the freezer and let it thaw all day in the fridge.

I took the dough out of the fridge about 1 hr before I wanted to bake the pizza. I preheated my stone at the same time. After about 45 minutes, the dough was ready to roll out. It rolled out well but I probably should have punched it down a little more. My dough had a few more bubbles after baking than regular pizzas. We spread with pesto, cheese, cherry tomatoes, and 1 chicken breast that I marinated in Italian dressing. Jacob wasn’t a fan of the chicken, but I thought the pieces on the pizza worked nicely with all of the other flavors. Sure, it wasn’t the most amazing chicken, but it was pretty moist and had a bunch of seasonings.

Anyway, the pizza was absolutely delicious. Jacob said I’m ruining frozen pizza for him, which is good because he eats too much of it anyway! I can’t wait to make another pizza, this time more traditional. I love the taste and texture of the dough also, and baking it on the stone produces great results. I think I would add a little sugar to this dough, just to add a little sweetness. Some garlic butter on the crust sounds really good too.

Chicken Pesto Pizza (Annie’s Eats)

Ingredients:

For the pesto: (I used my own, but supposedly this makes twice as much as you need for the pizza)

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 7 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

For the pizza:

  • 1/2 batch perfect pizza crust dough (enough for 1 pizza), at room temperature
  • Olive oil, for brushing
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Grilled chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1/2 of one chicken breast)
  • Cherry tomatoes, sliced into thirds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

To make the pesto, toast the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat until just golden and fragrant, 4-5 minutes.  Set aside.  Add the garlic to the empty skillet and toast, shaking occasionally, until the cloves are fragrant and their color deepens slightly, about 7 minutes.  Transfer the cloves to a cutting board; cool, peel and chop.  Place the basil in a heavy-duty gallon-sized plastic bag.  Pound the bag with a rolling pin until all the leaves are bruised.

Combine the pine nuts, garlic, basil, olive oil and 1/2 tsp. salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl, stir in the Parmesan cheese, and adjust the salt to taste.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

To make the pizza, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  Place a pizza stone in the oven while it is preheating, and let it heat up for at least 30 minutes.  Place a round of parchment paper the size of your pizza stone on a work surface and lightly sprinkle it with cornmeal.  Place the pizza dough in the center and roll it out into a large round using a lightly floured rolling pin, or a pulling/stretching motion with floured hands (I use both).  Leave an approximately 1-inch border that is thicker around the edges for the crust.  Lightly brush this outer edge of the crust with olive oil.  Spread a thin layer of pesto on the pizza crust using the back of a spoon.  Sprinkle with a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese.  Top with grilled chicken pieces and sliced cherry tomatoes.  Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.

Carefully transfer the parchment round to the preheated pizza stone.  Place in the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is lightly browned, about 12-15 minutes.  Slice and serve immediately.

Basic Pizza Dough

Makes two pizzas

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup warm water (about 110°)
  • 1 envelope (2 ¼ tsp.) instant yeast
  • 1 ¼ cups water, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups (22 oz.) bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • olive oil or non-stick cooking spray for greasing the bowl

Directions:

Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.  Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes.  Add the room temperature water and oil and stir to combine.

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Briefly combine the dry ingredients at low speed.  Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until a cohesive mass forms. Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook.  Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Press the dough to deflate it.

To bake, place a pizza stone in the lower third of the oven.  Heat the oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces.  Form both pieces of dough into smooth, round balls and cover with a damp cloth.  Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough and keeping the other covered, shape the dough and transfer to a pizza peel or round of parchment dusted with semolina or cornmeal.  Top as desired.  Slide the dough onto the pizza stone.  Bake until the crust edges brown and cheese is golden brown in spots, about 8 to 12 minutes.  Repeat with remaining ball of dough or freeze for later use.

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