Nov 25, 2010 1

Pizza is Love

The Gandhi-Shepards celebrated their second wedding anniversary last week. It’s been an incredible journey to today, particular because there have been big milestones in a short time.

To mark the day, we invited lots of family and friends over to Briarwood for a Make-Your-Own-Pizza Party. Ben was up late the night before to prepare the dough and sauce — from scratch! — both of which were huge hits (check out the recipe below). It was fun to see everyone put so much care into their creations, even the kiddos enjoyed making their own.

That’s why pizza reminds me of love and relationships — the crust and sauce are the foundation; from there, you can add what you please — it’s those toppings that make each pie deliciously special.

Ben’s Pizza Dough

  • Time: 15-20 minutes
  • Yields: 4 medium pizzas – 6 small pizzas


  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 2 tsp. honey (you can use granulated sugar if you want)
  • 2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 11 fl. oz water


  1. Pour all ingredients into a large bowl, then use your hands to work the mixture into a large, coarse ball of dough. Let the dough sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Now kneed the dough by hand until it is smooth and slightly tacky (like a Post-it note). If the dough is very wet and sticky, keep kneeding until all the moisture is worked throughout the dough . If the dough feels dry and does not have the Post-it-note tackiness, dip your hands in water and continue to kneed the dough until it becomes  tacky.
  3. Lightly oil another bowl or a Tupperware container that is at least twice the size of the dough ball. Drop the dough into this container and roll it around to coat the dough and the sides of the container in olive oil. Cover the container tightly with plastic wrap or a lid, and place in the refrigerator for at least eight hours. You can keep it in the fridge for up to three days, if need be.
  4. Take the dough out of the fridge and set the dough on a slightly oiled surface. Form the dough into a log with your hands. Now cut it into four to six pieces. Roll and squeeze each piece into a tight ball; place the balls several inches from one another on an oiled cookie sheet or on a piece of parchment paper and cover lightly with a piece of plastic wrap. Let the dough sit for ninety minutes to two hours to warm up at room temperature.
  5. Now your dough is ready to be used for making pizza. Pour a half cup of flour into a small bowl. Pinch some flour and sprinkle it over a pizza peel. Use both hands to rub the flour into the peel. Now with flour on your hands, place one of the dough balls on the peel and begin fashioning it into your pizza crust. You also can hold the flattened dough by the edge and let gravity stretch it out for you; pulling it by hand doesn’t work well.
  6. Now add your sauce and spread it with a spoon. Start from the middle and work your way out. Add any topping that you want.


  • Don’t worry about the crust being “round” — people pay extra for rustic-looking pizzas at fancy restaurants.
  • Try to keep the sauce from going over the edge of the crust, and try to keep from using tons of cheese. Although you can certainly do both, it just makes it harder to slide the pizza off the peel and onto the grill. Wrestling your pizza off the peel will likely result in losing precious toppings and later scraping badly burnt goodness off of your pizza stone.

Ben’s Pizza Sauce

  • Time: 15 minutes


  • 1 – 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 fresh lemon
  • Oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme and parsley (fresh, freshly cut or dried)
  • 3-5 cloves fresh pressed garlic
  • 2 tbsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp. Kosher salt
  • 10-20 Kalamata olives (pitted)
  • 1/2 jalapeño (optional)


  1. Open can of crushed tomatoes and pour the contents into a mixing bowl.
  2. Add the salt, pepper, fresh lemon juice and pressed garlic. If you bought fresh herbs, chop them finely and mix them in with a spoon. Don’t use the oregano stems! If you use dried herbs, use about a teaspoon of each. Chop the olives and drop them in. Mix well with a spoon.
  3. Use right away, or cover the sauce and store in the refrigerator for later use.


  • If you are wondering about how much fresh herbs to use, don’t worry about. I go heavy on the basil, but add enough of everything else to to fill my hand with the rest of the herbs. Me and the wife like spicy food, so we like to give the sauce a little kick with a jalapeño. Half a jalapeño won’t make the sauce spicy, but it will give it mild heat.

Grilling your pizza



  1. Place your pizza stone in your grill and then get it as hot as it will go (500 – 700+ degrees).
  2. Put the pizza on the hot pizza stone and grill for about five minutes. It will cook very fast.
  3. Use the peel to lift the pizza out of the grill. Let it cool for three to five minutes before cutting, otherwise you will make a gooey mess of your pizza or burn someone’s mouth with a hot slice.


  • Getting the pizza off the peel can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you built a monster pizza with toppings and sauce falling out everywhere. Whatever the case, it is easiest to shimmy the pizza off the peel while tilting it at a 30-degree angle. Let gravity help pull the pizza down.
  • Also, you must be able to cover the grill or you will never reach achieve the heat necessary to cook the pizza well. This cannot be done on an open-faced grill.

No pizza stone?

  • Set your grill to medium heat.
  • Stretch your pizza dough and place it on a floured pizza peel, but don’t put any sauce or toppings on it.
  • Brush the top of your pizza thoroughly with olive oil.
  • Flip the peel over, thus slapping the pizza dough onto the grill. Let it cook for two minutes.
  • Slide the peel under the pizza. Brush olive oil onto the top of the pizza, and then flip it over to cook the other side. As soon as you flip it onto the grill, add all the sauce and toppings.
  • Cook for another two to three minutes, remove from grill, cool for three minutes.
  • Cut and eat. Bon appétit!

No grill?

  • Just cook your pizza on a pizza stone in the oven. Follow the same steps for cooking on a grill.
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