Pizza parties are lots of fun, setting out various toppings and letting guests create their favorites. I have definitely partaken in these festivities in the past, but decided to stick with one solid pizza topping choice to make some pizzas for my family last week. It took me most of the day to make everything (and I mean everything short of making my own cheese and killing my own chickens) from scratch, so I'm glad I didn't go overboard preparing toppings for several different kinds of pizza all at once.
I started out making garlic confit which went into the completely-from-scratch blue cheese dressing, based on Thomas Keller's recipe. I made the mayonnaise as well (which took SEVERAL tries before becoming acceptable... who knew mayonnaise would be so challenging!) which went into the dressing. I ended up using half as much oil as the mayo recipe originally called for, because I didn't really want it to be super thick since it was being turned into dressing and not used as is (it's also half the fat!). I also finally succeeded at making it properly by forgoing the food processor and blender which weren't really cutting it for me (pun intended), and whisked the whole thing by hand instead. I had a lot more control this way, although it took longer.
I cooked the chicken in buffalo sauce, also sliced up celery and scallions for topping, and finally made the dough from scratch as well, following Wolfgang Puck's trusted recipe which I always always always use when making homemade pizza dough. I doubled the original recipe for the dough and made 4 relatively large pizzas. You can cut down everything if you'd like to make 2 large pizzas, or 4 smaller pizzas, but we wanted to have enough for everyone and still had 1 pizza leftover for lunch the next day (it was amazing heated up in the toaster oven, believe it or not... a lot better than reheated store-bought pizzas generally are). It may seem daunting to make pizza (or anything for that matter) completely from scratch, but honestly, I can't think of a single more rewarding feeling than enjoying a wonderful meal and knowing that you are 100% responsible :)
Buffalo Chicken Pizza
Makes 4 large pizzas
(Blue Cheese Dressing recipe adapted from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller; Pizza Dough recipe from Pizza, Pasta, and More! by Wolfgang Puck)
Blue Cheese Dressing:
1/2 cup garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1/2 cup oil (canola or vegetable)
2 egg yolks
1 T. lemon juice
1/4 - 1/2 cup buttermilk (start with 1/4 cup and add more if too thick)
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. minced chives
1 tsp. minced parsley
1 tsp. minced mint
8 oz (1 1/2 cups) crumbled blue cheese
2 packages (1/4-oz each) active dry yeast
2 tsp. honey
2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees F)
6 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
4 scallions, sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 lb chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup hot sauce (Frank's Red Hot), plus more for topping
3 T. unsalted butter
5 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
To make the dressing, first make garlic confit by putting the garlic cloves in the oil and heating slowly over low heat until the garlic is completely tender (this may take 45 minutes to an hour so keep an eye on the garlic and don't let it brown). Remove the garlic from the oil and smash it up. Let the oil cool. You will use it to make the mayonnaise/aioli base for the dressing.
Make the mayonnaise/aioli by whisking the egg yolks in a bowl until somewhat fluffy. Slowly, drizzle in the cooled garlic-oil a little at a time, whisking constantly, until all the oil has been added and the mixture is relatively thick. It will not be as thick as store-bought mayonnaise. Whisk in the lemon juice, the smashed garlic confit, buttermilk (start with 1/4 cup and add more later if you need to thin it out), creme fraiche, herbs and spices and season with kosher salt to taste. Add the blue cheese crumbles and refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the dough, in a small bowl dissolve the yeast and honey in 1/2 cup of warm water. In a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour and salt. Add the oil, your yeast mixture, and the remaining 1 1/2 cups of warm water. Mix on low speed until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and clusters around the dough hook, about 5 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured work surface and knead by hand 2 or 3 minutes longer. The dough should be smooth and firm. Cover the dough with a clean, damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot for about 30 minutes (when ready the dough will stretch as it is lightly pulled).
Divide the dough into 4 balls, about 12 oz each. Work each ball by pulling down the sides and tucking under the bottom of the ball. Repeat several times. On a smooth, unfloured surface, roll the ball under the palm of your hand until the top of the dough is smooth and firm. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rest for 15-20 minutes. At this point, the balls can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.
To make the chicken, heat up the hot sauce and butter in a saucepan. Add the chicken and heat until all the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside. Continue to cook the sauce (cover the pan if needed, it splatters), until it reduces slightly, then pour back over the chicken. Set aside until ready to assemble pizzas.
Place a pizza stone on the center rack of the oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Allow the stone to heat for 45 minutes to an hour. You want to ensure than the stone is as hot as can be (and be careful when handling it afterwards because it will be SEARING hot).
To assemble, stretch each dough ball on a lightly floured surface. I break the rules and use a rolling pin. I'm not Italian, it's okay. I will not go to Pizza Hell and neither will you (unless you're Italian, and therefore you should know better). Roll out/stretch the dough until it is nice and thin. Place on a lightly floured baker's peel or a rimless flat baking tray for easy transport to the pizza stone. Brush a little olive oil over the dough, making sure to cover the edges nicely so they brown especially well. Spread 1/4 of the blue cheese dressing over the dough, leaving a crust around the edges. Sprinkle some mozzarella cheese, then add a 1/4 of the chicken, scallions, and celery. Top with more mozzarella cheese and finish off with some generous dashes of hot sauce (don't be stingy, it's called Buffalo Chicken Pizza for a reason). Using the baker's peel or tray, slide the pizza onto the stone and bake until the crust is nicely browned and the cheese is bubbly and golden, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the pizza to a firm surface and cut into slices with a pizza cutter or sharp knife. Assemble the other 3 pizzas using the same technique (olive oil, blue cheese dressing, mozzarella, chicken, scallions, celery, mozzarella, hot sauce) and bake one after the other. I sometimes use 2 pizza stones at a time, and just move them from top to bottom halfway through cooking to make sure they brown evening on the top and bottom, but if you only have 1 stone, that's okay too.