Strawberry Fruit PIzza

Do you still have fresh picked (or any) strawberries at home? If you do, this is the recipe that should be next on your list to make. It is light, sweet and highlights the taste and flavor of a fresh-picked summer strawberry. 

Cream Cheese Icing: Yay or Nay?

I think I was in college when I first tasted fruit pizza. It was a traditional fruit pizza with sugar cookie crust, thick cream cheese icing and topped with whatever fruit we had on hand. I loved the idea of a fruit pizza, but the heaviness of the cream cheese (maybe I didn’t try the right recipe? Send me your favorites!) wasn’t my favorite. I grew up in a family full of chocolate-lovers who didn’t make a whole lot of “fruit-forward” desserts, so this was a new treat for me. I liked the taste. But I loved the idea of fruit pizza. 

THIS RECIPE USING A LIGHTER WHIPPED FROSTING THAN THE TRADITIONAL CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

As years have passed, I have made fruit pizza a time or two. Traditionally fruit pizza is topped with cream cheese icing that is meant to help counter the sweetness of the sugar cookie and fruit on top. I sometimes think that it makes fruit pizza feel heavy so I decided in this Strawberry Fruit Pizza to use heavy whipping cream as the base for my sugar cookie topping. This was a very good idea.

The strawberry cream on top of this Strawberry Fruit Pizza is light, not overly sweet and provides the perfect richness and counterbalance to the sweet sugar cookie on the bottom and strawberries on top. I whip heavy whipping cream with a few Tablespoons of my favorite strawberry jam (we make ours homemade using Pomonas Universal Pectin, affiliate link) and a little bit of powdered sugar. You can add more or less sugar depending on how sweet you want your cream. I prefer the cream to be a little less sweet so it balances with the sweetness of the sugar cookie. The strawberry whipped cream is definitely the missing key to my idea of the perfect fruit pizza.

Fruit pizza is so Adaptable to what Fruit you have on hand

This particular fruit pizza recipe is made with strawberries in mind, but one of the things I love about fruit pizza is how adaptable it is. It would pair perfectly with other delicious fruit if you wanted to add blueberries, raspberries or any other favorite fruit for topping. I love it with freshly-picked strawberries because it highlights them so well, but I am also a big believer in adapting what you have in your kitchen and using up produce that is on its last legs.

Strawberry Fruit pizza can be made for a crowd or “personal” sized

Sometimes I want a fruit pizza that I can make for a crowd. Sometimes I like fruit pizza that each of my kids get to decorate or that would be perfect for a kids birthday or family party. I have included both variations of the recipes below. We like making a giant fruit pizza as a beautiful statement for a family Sunday dinner. Sometimes I’ll shape the fruit pizza into a rectangle and decorate as the American Flag on Independence Day. The options are endless. The smaller individual fruit pizzas would be great for a special treat after family pizza night or to freeze and pull out for anytime you have a hankering for a smaller version of fruit pizza.

Sugar Cookie DOugh Tips

One thing about the sugar cookie dough. This dough is a little bit sticky. I like to wet my hands before working with it to shape the dough into a giant circle if you are making a large fruit pizza. You can bake it on a pizza pan or a cookie sheet. Whatever way you choose to go, please line your pan with parchment paper before baking. It will save you  in the long run and helps your cookie bake more evenly on the bottom. The sugar cookie will also spread quite a bit when baking, so be prepared. I also think this cookie tastes best a little under-baked, so don’t wait for the edges to get all brown but pull it out of the oven a little before that happens. One big fruit pizza usually takes about 20 minutes in my oven. The smaller fruit pizzas take about 13 minutes.

As always, the hardest part of this recipe is waiting for the sugar cookie to cool before decorating it. I like to leave it on the pan for about 5-10 minutes to let it set up a little before picking up the parchment paper and moving it to the counter. I’ve found this helps set the cookie and speed up the cooling process. Once it’s cooled you are a mere minutes away from the perfect fruit pizza. Yum!

Strawberry Fruit Pizza

Yield: 1 fruit pizza or 7-8 individual fruit pizzas

Time: 10 minute mix, 20-22 minute bake, 5 minute assemble 

Ingredients:

Cookie Base

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 ⅓ cups flour

Topping:

  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tablespoons strawberry jam, your favorite brand
  • 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of your jam)
  • Strawberries, sliced to decorate the fruit pizza

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a bowl with a mixing attachment or using a hand mixer, whip together the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue mixing for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and mix again.
  3. In a separate bowl (or straight into the middle of the butter mixture if you don’t like washing two bowls), add the baking soda, salt and cream of tartar. If you put those directly into the butter mixture, mix it up at this time until incorporated. If you are using a separate bowl, add the flour to the bowl and then mix together. 
  4. Add the flour mixture or flour (depending on the method you used) to the creamed butter and mix together until fully combined, about 1 minute.
  5. On a parchment lined baking sheet, mound the dough in the center of the baking sheet. Get your hands wet and press the dough into a thick circle. The more you spread the dough out, the less time it will need to bake. If you are using a pizza pan instead of mounded on a baking sheet, you will want to reduce the baking time to 10-12 minutes.
  6. Bake the cookie base for about 18-22 minutes. The bake time will depend on how spread out your dough is. Pull the cookie out of the oven just before it starts to brown on the edges (or is barely starting to brown).
  7. While the cookie base cools, whip up the topping. In a small bowl and using an electric mixer, whip the heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks are formed. Mix in a few Tablespoons of your favorite strawberry jam. Add a Tablespoon or more of powdered sugar depending on how sweet you like your cream.
  8. Slice fresh strawberries and set aside for topping the pizza.
  9. Once the cookie is cooled, decorate the fruit pizza with the whipped cream topping and strawberries on top. Enjoy!

Variation for Individual Fruit Pizzas:

  1. Follow the recipe through step 4. 
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Mound two scoops of cookie dough on top of each other (see picture). Using a wet hand, lightly press down on the dough. Space cookies four to a pan.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 11-13 minutes. Let cool completely before topping. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes: The individual cookies freeze well in a Ziploc bag, so you can make fruit pizza whenever you want.

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Homemade Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza

About six years ago I took my first trip to the Windy City. It was February and very cold! We had a few things on our list of plans to do in the city, #1 was visiting the American Girl Doll Cafe where I enjoyed a lunch with my daughter and her doll and me with my childhood doll Kirsten. #2 on the list was Chicago deep dish pizza. I had been hearing for years about this iconic pizza and had been researching the best places to get a slice, or a whole pie for our group. We ended up at the touristy Lou Malnatis and with my first bite, I knew that I loved this pizza. It was super cheesy, a buttery crust and had lots of sauce on top…basically all of my favorite food groups in one. 

Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza

What is chicago Deep Dish?

Homemade deep dish

Chicago deep dish is not a regular slice of pizza. It is most commonly eaten with a fork and knife and because it is so substantial and full of toppings you only need a slice or two to fill you up. Since that first time of eating Chicago-deep dish, every time I’ve visited the Windy City (which has been quite a few since my brother moved there a year or two after our first visit), we order some deep dish and enjoy a little bit of Chicago-style heaven on a plate. I never entertained the thought about making this iconic dish myself because I thought it would be too difficult. Turns out, I was wrong.

As fate would have it, a few years later we ended up being neighbors and good friends with a family who grew up and lived in Chicago. They introduced us to home-made Chicago-deep dish pizza and it was just as good…dare I say better…than the times I’d visited and eaten “authentic” Chicago deep dish. I finally requested the recipe from them and made this delicious pizza for my own family. A couple of tweaks later and I’ve ended up with an awesome recipe that will be made many a Friday-night pizza night around our house.

What Makes Deep Dish Special?

Laminating the crust

One of the things that makes deep dish pizza special is the lamination process the dough goes through. After mixing up a very soft dough (with a little cornmeal in it–yum!), it is left to rise. During that rise, butter is softened and once the dough has risen, the dough is rolled out and spread with a thin layer of butter. Then rolled up again, portioned into two balls and left to rise again in the refrigerator. This layer of dough with butter is what laminates the dough and provides a delicious buttery crust that forms the base of deep dish pizza.

Deep dish is also special in the way that it is layered and baked. Cheese is placed on the bottom of the dough, followed by toppings and then the sauce. The pizza is baked in a special deep dish pan (or cake pan if you are a home baker) and it really is the perfect pizza “pie.” 

Even though I can’t travel to Chicago right now for a delicious slice of deep dish, I love that I can make my own right in the comfort of my own home! This pizza is a little bit of a labor of love, but it is also straightforward enough that anyone can make it. I hope your family loves it as much as we do and I’ve got my fingers crossed for another visit to the Windy City when we can travel again.

Chicago Deep Dish PIzza

Yield: 2, 9-inch deep dish pizzas

Time: 50 minute mix/prep/assemble (including making sauce), 1 ½ hour first rise, 2-24 hour second rise, 25 minute bake

Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 1 ¼ cup warm water (10 ounces)
  • ¾ Tablespoon yeast (or 1 2 ¼ teaspoon packet)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cornmeal (2 ½ ounces)
  • 3 ¼ cups flour (about 15.5 ounces)
  • ¼ cup softened butter (save for after the first rise)

Sauce:

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

Toppings:

  • 2-4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 
  • 8-10 slices havarti cheese (optional)
  • Parmesan (optional)
  • Any additional topping you want ie: pepperoni, ham and pineapple, fresh veggies

Directions:

Mix Dough/First Rise

Dough rising
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or by hand) mix together the warm water, yeast and sugar. Add the room temperature melted butter and salt. 
  2. Add a cup of flour and the cornmeal. Using the dough hook (or your hands), add the rest of the flour a cup at a time until the dough comes together. Reserve the last ¼ cup of flour and use as needed. The dough will be a little bit sticky. Watch to make sure it clears the sides of the bowl and then knead the dough for 5 minutes in a stand mixer or about 10 minutes by hand. Add the extra ¼ cup of flour as needed.
  3. Once the dough is kneaded, add a drop of oil (neutral oil is great) to a bowl. Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl or container and turn the dough around so the dough is lightly covered in oil. Cover the bowl and let rise for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.
  4. During the first rise is the perfect time to make the pizza sauce.

Make the Sauce

Simmer sauce for 30 minutes on the stove
  1. For the sauce: In a saucepan add 2 Tablespoons butter, 1 small chopped onion, and 4 cloves of garlic (whole is fine). Saute over medium-low heat for about 5-10 minutes until onion and garlic are caramelized and tender. 
  2. Once tender, pour the sauteed mixture in a blender (or food processor). Open a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes and add about half a cup of the crushed tomatoes to the blender with the garlic and onion mixture. Blend together until smooth. 
  3. Add this mixture back to the saucepan. Mix in the rest of the crushed tomatoes, salt, oregano, red pepper flakes and sugar. Simmer for about 30 minutes over low heat. Transfer the sauce to a container and keep in the fridge until ready to use on your pizza.

Laminating the Dough

Cover and let rise in the fridge
  1. After the dough has doubled in size, turn it out on the counter and roll into a 12 by 15 inch rectangle. Spread the reserved softened butter all over the dough in a thin layer, as if you were making cinnamon rolls.
  2. Roll the dough up (like a cinnamon roll) until you have one long 15 inch “rope.” Cut the “rope” in half and shape into two separate balls (this recipe makes 2 pizzas).
  3. Put each ball of dough in its own bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Put the bowls of covered dough in the fridge and let rise for 2 hours, or up to 24 hours. This extended rise will give the butter time to solidify back in the fridge (lamination process) which gives the crust a crispy, buttery flavor.

Assemble and Bake

  1. After the dough has risen and when you are ready to make the pizzas, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If your oven cooks cool, set your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Get two 9 inch cake pans ready. It is possible to use a smaller cake pan. If you use a smaller size, put a sheet pan under the cake pan in the oven to catch any spills. 
  3. Pull the first ball of dough out of the fridge and set it in the center of your cake pan. 
  4. Working from the middle to the edges, press the dough to the edges and up the sides of the pan in an even layer. Initially it may take a little bit of work with the cold dough but as it warms up a bit, it should become soft and workable.
  5. Layer the bottom of the pizza with cheese. We like putting slices of havarti cheese on the bottom, followed by a cup of mozzarella cheese. You can use whatever cheese you prefer. 
  6. Next put your favorite toppings on top of the cheese ie: pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, olives, etc…
  7. Spoon half of the sauce on top of the first pizza. Brush the top of the crust with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle parmesan cheese if desired.
  8. Repeat the process with the second pizza. 
  9. Bake the pizzas for 25-28 minutes until bubbly.
  10. Let the pizzas rest for about 10 minutes before removing from the pan and slicing to serve. Enjoy!

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