Let me introduce you to a friend of mine. Meet, Barbecue Chicken Pizza. Fresh from the oven, oozing cheese, and dripping with homemade barbecue sauce… what more is there to say?
This pizza has been on my list of things to make for a long time, now. It all started back when Game of Thrones was in its first season. You see, back then, there was only one person in my group of friends who had HBO. So, every Sunday, we all gathered ’round their television with a pizza and a few beers.
I don’t know whose idea it was to order this particular pizza, but all I can say is, thank goodness we did. We dubbed that inaugural pie, “Barbecue Chicken Sex Pizza” (as in, “Better Than”), and it became a Sunday night tradition henceforth.
Well, a few things have changed since then. One, I stopped watching Game of Thrones (forgive me, GoT fans), and two, I started making my own pizza.
And I’m never going back.
If you’ve never made pizza from scratch, please don’t be intimidated. It is easy as pie. Pizza pie. It takes a bit more planning ahead than ordering out, but all of the components can be prepped ahead of time — the dough, the sauce, the toppings — and once all is said and done, the assembly and cooking time is comparable to delivery. It’s also a million times cheaper, and can be made exactly the way you like it, with ingredients you know and trust.
For me, one of the biggest reasons for making this pizza at home was the barbecue sauce. As much as I love the Sweet Baby Ray’s brand that the pizza place uses, it was hard to overlook the fact that the first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. Delicious, but gross. That alone was plenty of motivation to come up with my own recipe. For all you Sweet Baby Ray’s lovers out there, this stuff is damn close (and dare I say, even better) than the original… and you probably already have all the ingredients on hand to make it.
T-Hubs and I like to play a little game with Neko (the dog), in which we let him sniff two different food items, and then let him choose between them to see which he likes more. For example, we might offer him a milkbone dipped in bacon grease, and a small chunk of cheese. He gets to sniff, we set them down, and then we say “okay, go ahead” and he takes the one he wants, while we pick up the reject.
Just for kicks, I decided to try this with my barbecue sauce. I let him sniff two milkbones — one with Sweet Baby Ray’s on it, and one with my homemade version. I also booped a little of the sauce onto his nose so he could taste them before making his final decision. I set the two bones down, and without a second thought he chose mine. A fluke? I repeated the test, and again, he chose mine.
I’m not gonna lie, this made me exceedingly happy. Who knew I would be getting a chef’s helper when we got a puppy?
(In case that story doesn’t convince you, I also did a blind tasting with T-Hubs. I didn’t boop any on his nose, but he also chose the homemade sauce over the store bought.)
Armed with this superior barbecue sauce, I was finally ready to tackle the pizza. I’ve made pizza from scratch several times before, so I was pretty confident with my crust and technique… the question was, would this one live up to my high expectations? I could hardly wait the eight minutes the pizza was in the oven to find out.
The answer to that was of course, yes. In fact, it exceeded them. (Full disclosure, I made two of these pies and they were both gone in a matter of minutes, with not a slice remaining.) Homemade pizza has spoiled me to any other kind. You just can’t beat that level of freshness, and once you’ve made it a few times, you’ll wonder why you never did it sooner.
What’s your favorite type of pizza? I’ve got some extra dough hanging out in my fridge, so let me know in the comments below.
Homemade “Sweet Baby Ray’s” Style Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 1 3/4 cups — adapted from my Sweet & Spicy Chipotle BBQ Sauce
1 1/4 cups ketchup (preferably organic)
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 TBSP molasses
1/4 cup 100% pineapple juice (no sugar added)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. wochestershire sauce
2 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. mustard powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. finely ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, to taste
1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine all ingredients. Let cook for 4-5 minutes, or until thickened to desired consistency. (Keep in mind the sauce will continue to thicken as it cools — if it thickens too much, thin with a little water or more pineapple juice).
2. Taste, and adjust the level of heat if necessary. Let cool, then store in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks. Smother on everything.
Makes enough for 3-4 medium pies — adapted from Jamie Oliver
1 1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP honey
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (one 1/4 oz packet)
400g. (about 2 1/2 cups) white bread flour, plus more for dusting
100g. (about 1 cup) fine semolina flour
1 1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1. In a bowl or glass measuring cup, stir together the warm water, olive oil, honey, and yeast. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, or until the yeast is nice and frothy.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together both of the flours, salt, and garlic powder. Make a well in the middle.
3. Pour the yeast mixture into the center of the well, and stir the liquid around with a fork, slowly working in more and more of the flour from the edges of the bowl.
4. Once the flour is mostly incorporated, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, dust your hands with a bit of flour, and knead for 8-10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
5. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, and turn to coat. Cover loosely with a damp cloth, and set in a warm place for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in size.
6. Gently sink your fist into the dough, pressing out as much air as possible. The dough is ready to use, or can be stored in the fridge for up to a few days, or frozen for future use. If frozen, thaw the dough in the fridge the night before. When ready to use, remove the dough from the fridge, and divide into balls (recipe makes enough for three to four medium pizzas). Again, press as much air out of the dough as possible, then roll / stretch the dough 10-15 minutes prior to baking.
Barbecue Chicken Pizza
Ingredients needed for one large pizza
1 small boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and sliced or shredded*
2-3 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
1/4 cup + 2 TBSP barbecue sauce (recipe above)
1/4-1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1 cup monterray jack cheese, grated (or other cheese, or more mozzarella)
Fresh parsley or cilantro, for garnish
1/3 dough recipe (above), plus a bit of flour, semolina, and olive oil, for rolling and brushing the dough
*I grilled my chicken, but feel free to bake, saute, roast, or whatever. You could even use up leftover chicken from another meal, here.
1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. If you have a pizza stone, set it on the lower rack of the oven and let it preheat for at least 20-30 minutes before assembling your pizza. If you don’t have a pizza stone, set a large, heavy-bottomed baking sheet, or a cast-iron pizza pan, on the lower rack and let it preheat for at least 20-30 minutes.
2. Get all of your fixings prepped. Cook your bacon however you like it, chop it into bits, and set aside. Cook your chicken, and slice or shred it into pieces. Have your sauce ready, your dough made, your onion sliced, and your cheese grated. All of these things can be prepped ahead of time, and stored in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll / stretch your dough into a circle, about 1/8th-1/4 inch thick. To stretch the dough evenly, you can hold the dough in the air by one side, and quickly move your hands around the edge, this way the weight of the dough will stretch it out. This also helps create a slightly raised rim, for a thicker crust. (You can also toss your dough in the air like the pros do, but that deserves a tutorial all its own.) If you prefer a thin, crispy crust, stick to using a rolling pin, and roll the dough as thin as you’d like. Once stretched, let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes before baking to let the glutens relax.
4. Lightly dust a large cutting board or a pizza peel with semolina, or more flour, and transfer your pizza dough onto it. Give the board a little shake to make sure the dough moves freely, and isn’t sticking anywhere.
5. Brush the outer edge of the dough with a bit of olive oil. This will help it brown, and not burn. Using the back of a spoon, spread 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce right up to the edge of where you brushed the olive oil. Toss the remaining 2 TBSP barbecue sauce the the sliced/shredded chicken, and top the pizza with the chicken, bacon, onion, and cheese.
6. Give your board another jiggle to make sure the dough moves easily, then carefully slide the dough from the board onto your preheated stone/baking sheet/pizza pan. Bake for 7-8 minutes, or until the crust is golden and cheese is bubbly. If necessary, turn on the broiler for 1-2 minutes to brown the top.
7. Carefully, remove the pizza from the oven and let rest for 2-3 minutes. Top with fresh chopped parsley or cilantro, and drizzle with extra barbecue sauce. Dig in!