Pizza Possibilities

Henry Morrissette has a passion for pizza. The local attorney and wife Beth frequently host intergenerational gatherings of friends and family where the evening activity involves crafting and cooking homemade pizzas. Henry makes his own dough, and Beth serves as sous chef supreme, cooking and chopping alongside. Often, guests pitch in with the preparation as well.

“Gathering everyone around the island and eating the pizzas as they come out of the oven creates a great atmosphere, ” Henry says. “We all pile in the kitchen with lots of fresh ingredients, plenty of wine and dough ready to roll out. We only stop cooking when we have all had our fill.”

The Morrissettes may make four or more different, delectably inventive pizzas over the course of an evening. “We start with an appetizer pizza, ” Henry says. While he enjoys being creative, Henry usually adds at least one traditional pepperoni or cheese pizza into the medley to please any children or adults with picky palates. “The children can even help make their pizza, which is a fun way to entertain them, ” he says.

According to Henry, the secret to making pizza is simple. “It’s not to worry about making it perfect. I am a pretty decent home cook, but far from a trained chef. Some efforts turn out prettier than others, but all of them taste great with good company and a little wine.”

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Henry’s Words of Wisdom

Tools of the Trade: A stand mixer, pizza peel (the large paddle-like device you use to slide the pizza into the oven), pizza stone and a pizza cutter. When it comes to making dough, Henry uses a stand mixer now, but the food processor works well, too. Of course, you can always make the dough by hand.

“We started out using a pizza pan, but found that we get much better results with our crust using a pizza stone. When you use the stone, you need a pizza peel. I use a wooden one I bought years ago at Mobile Fixture. In a pinch, you can use the back of a baking sheet, but a peel is inexpensive and will make the job much easier.”

Step 1: Dust the pizza peel with rice flour or fine cornmeal, which allows the raw crust to slide. Roll dough into a round shape and move it to the pizza peel.
Step 2: Shape it to fit the peel and to desired thickness. Shake the peel backward and forward to make sure dough does not stick.
Step 3: Add toppings to the dough on the peel. Then carefully slide the readied dough onto the stone. Once the pizza is ready, use the peel to remove it from the hot oven.”

On the Menu

Pizza Crust

This pizza crust is Henry’s current favorite. He usually prepares three of them for a party. It is a version of Frank Stitt’s recipe from the talented Birmingham chef’s cookbook, “Bottega Favorita.” The recipe makes enough dough for approximately two 12- to 14-inch pizzas or three 10-inch pizzas.

1 1/4 cups warm water (105 – 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 cups white unbleached flour
1/2 cup whole wheat all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Pour the warm water into a small bowl, stir in the honey and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.
2. Combine flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
3. Add yeast mixture and olive oil, and mix on low speed about 4 – 5 minutes, until the dough forms a mass on the paddle and pulls away from the side of the bowl.
4. Remove the dough and divide it into 2 equal portions. Put it in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow it to rise for 30 minutes to an hour, until it has doubled in size.
5. Roll or toss the dough to desired shape and thickness to prepare crust. (You can make the dough the night before and refrigerate it, but allow it to come to room temperature before continuing.)

Gorgonzola and Walnut Pizza

This deliciously different pizza recipe makes a marvelous appetizer. It is especially festive and easy to eat as an hors d’oeuvre when cut into squares. The recipe makes two small-to-medium-sized pizzas.

Pizza Crust (see recipe above)
rice flour (or cornmeal), for dusting
1/2 cup olive oil
1 (5-ounce) container of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Heat pizza stone in 500-degree oven for about an hour.
2. Roll out dough to create two small- to medium-sized pizzas (about 10 inches in diameter).
3. Lightly dust pizza peel with rice flour. Working one pizza at a time, place pizza on peel and brush evenly with half of the olive oil, then slide onto preheated pizza stone. Cook crust in oven for 5 – 6 minutes.
4. With a pizza peel, remove the prebaked crust from the pizza stone. Sprinkle pizza evenly with half of the Gorgonzola. Follow with half of the walnuts.
5. Bake pizza again for about 4 – 5 minutes until nuts are toasted and cheese is melted. Do not overbake. Cut and serve. Repeat to make second pizza. Serves approximately 6 – 10.

Spinach and Caramelized Onion Pizza

This is a hearty, savory pie that makes a crowd-pleasing vegetarian (although not vegan) option.

1 head of garlic
1 cup olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 yellow onions, sliced into rings,  and then halved into moons
Pizza Crust (see recipe above)
rice flour (or cornmeal) for dusting
1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella cheese,  cut into thin slices
6 ounces fresh, prewashed baby spinach
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut off the top of the head of garlic to expose cloves, place on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil directly on top of the garlic; then seal the foil around the garlic so the olive oil doesn’t leak out. Cook garlic in oven with pizza stone for 35 minutes or until it can be easily squeezed out of the pod.
2. Leave stone in oven and increase temperature to 500 degrees. Heat another 30 minutes.
3. Once the roasted garlic cools, squeeze out of the pod and discard the pod. Mix the roasted garlic with 1/2 cup of olive oil to form a paste.
4. Heat 1/3 cup of olive oil with the butter in a pan until melted, add onions and cook on very low heat until caramelized, about 45 minutes.
5. Roll out dough to create one large 14- to 16-inch pizza crust. Lightly dust pizza peel with rice flour. Place prepared crust onto peel.
6. Using your hands, spread the roasted garlic mixture evenly and generously all over the crust. Dot the crust with the mozzarella slices. 
7. Scatter the uncooked baby spinach on top of the cheese. (The uncooked spinach will make the pizza look mountainous, but it cooks down.) Cover the spinach with the caramelized onions and then Parmesan cheese. (The onions weigh down the spinach, so it doesn’t fall off when you are transferring the pizza from the peel into the oven.)
8. Cook pizza for 10 – 12 minutes until the cheese is melted and crust is done. Serves 4 – 6.

Peanut Chicken Pizza

This flamboyantly flavored creation is utterly addicting. It is a party favorite and always satisfying. Henry suggests making the crust slightly thicker to handle the toppings.

Pizza Crust (see recipe above)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce, divided
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
1 tablespoon minced ginger root
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 – 3/4 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons canola oil
rice flour (or cornmeal), for dusting
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1. Heat pizza stone in 500-degree oven for about an hour.
2. Marinate chicken in a combination of 1/4 cup soy sauce and teriyaki sauce, while preparing the pizza sauce.
3. To make sauce, combine brown sugar, red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup soy sauce, water, peanut butter, ginger root, garlic and red pepper flakes. Whisk until well blended. Set aside.
4. Sauté the chicken in 2 tablespoons of canola oil until done, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
5. Pour vinegar mixture into a skillet and bring to a boil. Cook 6 minutes or until slightly reduced and thickened.
6. Return chicken to the skillet and cook for another 2 minutes. The mixture will be thickened and syrupy.
7. Roll out dough to create a large 14- to 16-inch crust. Lightly dust peel with rice flour, then place crust on peel.
8. Sprinkle both cheeses over crust. Top evenly with the chicken mixture. Sprinkle with green onions and cilantro.
9. Carefully slide pizza onto stone. Bake pizza for about 12 minutes. Serves 4 – 6.

Conecuh Sausage Pizza

For meat lovers, this recipe using classic Conecuh sausage and veggies makes a filling, winning combination.

Pizza Crust (see recipe above)
8 ounces Conecuh Sausage,  cut down the middle, then halved into small chunks
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
8 ounces mushrooms,  chopped in small chunks
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
rice flour (or cornmeal), for dusting
1 cup tomato sauce (Henry uses Good Tomato Sauce*)
2 cups shredded mixed Italian cheese
(The Morrissettes use the Kraft 5-Cheese Italian blend)

1. Heat pizza stone in a 500-degree oven for about an hour.
2. Sauté sausage until done, for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Sauté vegetables and garlic in olive oil until translucent, about 3 – 4 minutes.
4. Roll out dough to create a large 14- to 16-inch crust. Lightly dust pizza peel with rice flour. Place crust on the peel.
5. Spread tomato sauce generously over the crust. Top evenly with sausage, vegetable mixture and then cheese.
6. Slide pizza from peel to stone and bake for 12 minutes or until done. Serves 4 – 6
*For Henry’s Good Tomato Sauce recipe, click here

Elizabeth’s Cookie Pizza

This delightful dessert pizza is the unique creation of the Morrissette’s daughter, Elizabeth. It has a cookie crust topped with hazelnut spread. Experiment with toppings like coconut, chocolate chips, crushed nuts, shaved chocolate, toffee bits, etc.

1 cup softened butter (Let soften at room temperature. Do not use the microwave.)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose baking flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 – 3/4 cup Nutella hazelnut spread
preferred toppings

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large springform pan. (Dough makes two pizzas.)
2. Cream butter and both sugars in bowl until light, smooth and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla until fully blended. Gradually add dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda) until all of the flour is mixed into the dough.
3. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it into a ball. (Dough can be prepared in advance. It will keep in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.)
4. Press half of the dough evenly onto the bottom of the springform pan.
5. Bake crust for 13 minutes until light brown. Let it cool 2 – 3 minutes.
6. Ice crust with a coating of Nutella. Top with toppings of choice or eat it plain. Makes two 10-inch dessert pizzas.

Additional Tips:
• Whole-wheat flour adds a nutty favor. Mix wheat and white flour to achieve the desired depth of flavor. 
• Use different size dough balls for a thinner or thicker crust. Thinner crusts work better with less saucy pizzas. Thicker crusts work better with saucy pizzas.

text and styling by Sallye Irvine

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