Beer + Whisky = Pizza?

Are you questioning my math skills? Well, frankly, I can’t say I blame you. But beer and whisky are two key ingredients any time I make pizza.

The beer is for the crust. I’ve tried many, but the absolute BEST for my crust is Waterloo Dark. I’ve tried lagers, IPAs, stouts, reds, even Guinness (my #2, if I was ranking them for pizza crust usage), but none have a flavour that carries through quite the way Waterloo Dark does. (Guinness a somewhat distant second.)

As for whisky, Forty Creek has been my whisky of choice for YEARS now – whether for drinking or cooking. (See my Forty Creek Butter Tarts recipe for example.) And for pizza, it comes into play when I saute my mushrooms. They always get an ounce or two at the start of cooking. It just adds a little something to them.

Crimini mushrooms sauteed in Forty Creek whisky.

Ultimately, it all sounds boozier than it is. And if you’re someone who doesn’t keep alcohol in the kitchen, A) what the hell is wrong with you and B) that’s cool. The whisky is only in one of my toppings, and you CAN substitute the beer for … y’know … water. It’ll still make pizza dough, it just won’t be as good. I use alcohol in cooking a lot, but hardly ever drink the stuff. I’m weird like that.

The basic recipe came with our bread machine many years ago (that’s pretty much only used for pizza dough these days, even though it’s a good machine) and I’ve tweaked it a bit, and found the best beer for me through many trials. IF your yeast is a little old – let’s face it, unless you make bread constantly, you don’t do through a whole jar of yeast within a few months of opening it … at least I don’t – I’ll add an extra half teaspoon to make sure it rises well.

The dough is pretty flexible. You can just use it as a straight up flat pizza dough, calzones, or our favourite – stuffed crust. I’m going to try my hand at Chicago-style deep dish in a cast iron pan soon. Going for something like a Beggar’s Pizza deep dish. It our favourite pizza stop any time we’re in northwest Indiana. I think they have a connection to the Chicago Bears too. All I know is it’s the only place I’ve had a pizza slice that’s heavier than my own. LOL

I do like to pre-bake the crust a bit before adding sauce and toppings. About 6 minutes is normally good. Without it, I find that the sauce tends to mingle with the raw dough a bit too much, and turns into a sort of mushy/gummy layer between the bottom of the crust and the toppings.

One of the only topping combos we can all agree on in our house is Italian sausage and mushrooms. So it’s normally what we make if my daughter is home from school. Otherwise we’ll add onions to the mix, and maybe red or green peppers too.

Pizza loaded up with crumbled Italian sausage and sauteed mushrooms. Just add cheese and bake!

As for cheese, I keep it on the cheat and easy. Yes, cheat. I buy bags of shredded cheese for the most part. It’s just quicker and easier than grating. Pizza mozzarella is always good, but I’ve always been a fan of a blend, like Tex Mex with cheddar and Monterrey jack. Too much cheddar tends to get oily though.

Cheese added … time for the oven!

I’ve never had this pizza turn out poorly. The worst I’ve had, when experimenting with beers, was a dough that didn’t get much of the beer flavour after it was baked. No matter what I tried, I ALWAYS come back to Waterloo Dark for this. It just holds up well to the whole cooking process. Your tastes may vary.

If you don’t have a bread machine … uh … well, this probably isn’t the recipe for you. Although I’m sure it could be mixed by hand and left to rise like you would a traditional dough. But I’ve never tried it that way before.

The Only Pizza Dough You’ll Ever Need

I've been using this pizza dough recipe in our bread maker for YEARS, and it's never failed me. The rich notes of a good dark beer come through in the finished product. You can't go wrong with this.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time1 hr 15 mins
Rise Time15 mins
Total Time1 hr 35 mins
Course: Versatile
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: beer, bread machine, crust, dough, extra virgin olive oil, flour, honey, pizza, salt, yeast
Servings: 2 crusts
Author: Chris Pollard

Equipment

  • bread machine with dough cycle
  • Measuring cups/spoons
  • Rolling Pin
  • pizza pan

Ingredients

  • cups dark beer ROOM TEMPERATURE! Waterloo Dark is my favourite, on Ontario brew
  • cups bread flour white or whole wheat, your choice
  • 2 tsp bread machine yeast
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey heaping (probably close to 1½, honestly)
  • tsp salt

Instructions

  • Measure everything into the bread machine pan in the order listed. (Beer, flour, yeast, olive oil, honey, salt)
  • Put the pan in the bread machine and power it on.
  • Select the DOUGH cycle (#11 on my Breadman) and press start.
  • Wait until it is finished. I think it's about 1:15 on my machine.
  • Remove the pan full of dough (which will smell AMAZING) from the bread machine and place on lightly floured surface. A sheet of parchment paper will also work just fine here, in my experience.
  • Cover the dough with a large mixing bowl and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
  • Divide the dough in half.
  • If not using both right away, wrap one in cling wrap and refrigerate. I've kept it in the fridge for 2-3 days without any issues numerous times.
  • Lightly flour your counter top and roll out the dough to the size/thickness you want it.
  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • See notes below for options. There are a few ways you can proceed, depending on your preferences.
  • Bake for 16-20 minutes, until crust is golden and cheese is bubbling and browning.
  • Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before slicing. You get cleaner cuts, and less cheese stuck to your pizza cutter! Also, lower risk of burning off the roof of your mouth when you try eating it while it's still way too hot.

Notes

Stuffed Crust Option

So, normally, I turn this bad boy into stuffed crust. All you need is 8 or so cheese strings (depending on the size of your pizza – I go full pan, which is 8-9 usually), a little bowl of water, and a basting brush.  I use a little silicone one. 
I start out by LIGHTLY sprinkling my pizza pan with corn meal. Then take the dough and lay it over the pan. I want to be sure my dough is just a little larger than the pan itself, so when I roll the edges over the cheese, it’s still  a full-size pizza. Don’t waste that space!
You can see in the picture above how I lay out the string cheese. Then I take the basting brush, dip it in the water, and brush a ring around the INSIDE of the cheese strings. Wetting the dough there will allow the other edge to stick really well when you seal in the cheese.  It’s just a matter of pulling the dough over the cheese, keeping it tight, and pressing it into the other side, where you just dampened the dough. Yes, it will bunch up a little.  Just press it out as you go. Press firmly, but don’t go too far and push your fingers through the dough either.
I also recommend taking this opportunity to add some extra flavour to the stuffed crust, well, the whole crust in general actually. Before it goes into the oven for a pre-topping bake, I like to give the crust a little garlic butter brushing, then a very light sprinkle of Italian seasoning/pizza seasoning.  Garlic butter for this is as dead simple as putting a pat of butter in the microwave for 30-40 seconds and adding some granulated garlic/garlic powder. Make sure the entire crust gets a good coating from where you press it down on the inside to the outer edge where it meets the pan. Then use the basting brush to lightly coat the top of the rest of the crust, and while it’s moist and sticky, give it a little sprinkle of seasoning. 
Put it in your pre-heated oven for about 6 minutes. I found 6-7 minutes normally gets it just about right – not cooked through, but cooked enough that the pizza sauce won’t turn the crust to mush. Technically, you can skip this step. I have many, many times. But the results are not as good. The sauce absorbs into the dough too much and it just gets this kind of gummy layer between the bottom of the crust and the toppings. It’s not as good as it could be.  Take the 6 or 7 minutes to do this step. It’s worth it.
Now pull it out, put it on some trivets to protect your counter, and build the pizza.  Lay down a nice thick layer of sauce – it won’t turn the crust mushy and gummy now! Then I like to add just a light sprinkle of cheese, crumbled Italian sausage (lots), sauteed mushrooms (LOADS!), and a nice thick layer of cheese. My stuffed crust pizza normally clocks in around 3.5lbs. I load it on thick. Obviously, you can top yours any way you want!

Regular Crust Option

If you’re not stuffing your crust, you still have some choices.  You CAN just start right in with sauce and toppings – right into the oven.  But I find that if you get a little too saucy, the crust ends up a little gummy on the top.  The dough will absorb it a bit.
So I still recommend a little pre-bake on the crust to give it a fighting chance. See above, under stuffed crust for my method.

Toppings

Toppings on a pizza are your playground. You’re making this – YOU decide what you want. Our go-to is a simple sausage and mushroom. With an insane amount of mushrooms. Sliced criminis (baby bellas), sauteed with Forty Creek whiskey is my jam! But you could go with whatever you want. It’s pizza!! 
In the summer I’ve been known to just whip up some crusts and have everybody build their own, and finish them on the grill. Go as simple or crazy as you want!

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