Pizza heads the short list of favorite foods for informal entertaining. Especially for stand-up gatherings, guests will appreciate pizza toppings that aren't too messy and are manageable portions: Two or three bites' worth is about the right size. For an appetizer buffet with several other dishes, two large pizzas, each cut into 20 to 24 squares or 12 to 15 cocktail wedges, should serve a dozen guests.
Makes 16 inch round (or 1/4 -inch thick square or rectangle)
half a package (1 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (about 105 degrees)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
In small bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in olive oil. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Add yeast mixture, stirring until dough just holds together.
Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface; knead until soft and silky, adding a little more flour if necessary. Put dough in oiled bowl; turn to coat surface with oil.
Cover bowl with plastic film; let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).
Preheat baking stone at least 30 minutes in 450- to 475-degree oven. Roll out dough into a 16-inch round (or 1/4 -inch-thick square or rectangle). Place on baker's peel or rimless baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal.
Cover dough with topping of your choice; slide pizza onto preheated baking stone. Bake until pizza is evenly browned and puffy (about 20 minutes); do not over brown.
Artichoke-Mushroom Pizza Topping
Makes enough for one 16-inch pizza
6 baby artichokes (see note)
half a lemon
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 pound button mushrooms, thinly sliced
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup finely minced green onion
freshly ground black pepper
Trim stem ends of each artichoke; peel off outer leaves to reveal pale green heart. Rub all over with lemon; put lemon, bay leaf, peppercorns and wine in large pot with 2 to 3 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, add artichoke hearts, and parboil until they test almost tender when pierced with sharp fork (5 to 6 minutes). Drain, then pat dry; quarter hearts.
Arrange artichokes over unbaked 16-inch pizza crust. Follow with mushrooms, Parmesan, mozzarella, green onion and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil before baking.
Note: If you can't find fresh egg-sized artichokes, use frozen artichoke hearts. Thaw, then marinate the frozen hearts a few hours in a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice. Then quarter them and use as directed.