This week, to challenge my inner hostess, I scheduled a grownup pizza party for Friday night and told our friends to arrive at 8pm, less than an hour after I'll be getting home from the Farmstand. It was a risky move, for sure, but with some advance planning and prep work—and lots of help from my sous chef John—I figured I could pull it together . . . no sweat.
I decided to keep things simple for my own sanity and choose three different easy-to-make toppings: one classic with red sauce and two more "sophisticated" with brie and blue cheese. (Stay tuned next week for those recipes!) And today, in just under two hours, I pre-made most of the toppings, grated/crumbled the cheese, and parbaked the pizza crust. It's amazing when a plan comes together, isn't it?
Next week I'll post the full recipes, but for now, here's my method for the easiest plan-ahead pizza crust imaginable:
To make your dough ahead, first start with the Basic Pizza Dough recipe, doubling it if necessary. When you set the dough aside to rise, preheat the oven to 450°F and set a rack about 8 inches from the heat source. Coat a few baking sheets lightly with nonstick cooking spray. (I used two large and one small, since I doubled the recipe, but if you make one regular batch of dough, two small or one large will be fine.)
Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and divide it into separate balls, depending on how many pizzas you will be making. Roll out each ball to fit one of the prepared baking sheets.
Bake the pizzas one at a time for 5 minutes or until air bubbles form and the bottom begins to brown. Remove the pizza crust from the oven and let it cool to room temperature, then wrap it tightly in foil (baking sheet and all) and stick it in the freezer.
When you're ready to bake your pizza, preheat the oven to 500°F for at least 30 minutes. Take your par-baked crust(s) out of the freezer, pile on your toppings, and stick the pizza in the oven until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes.