4th of July Patriotic Pizza Flag

by Jeanne Benedict

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Show your patriotism on a pizza with red, white, and blue toppings for the 4th of July, Memorial Day, or Labor Day. Boy, where do I start with this recipe and its many trials before I felt it worthy of an all-American celebration. First, make everything from scratch. Jarred pizza sauces usually don’t have the same bright red color that this homemade version has, and the blue pizza sauce is delicious and really brings the holiday home!

What prompted me to design this recipe was that I was challenged by the requisite blue food ingredient, and I kind of feel like patriotic “fruit pizzas,” a popular suggestion for this type of holiday, that use blueberries, strawberries, and a white ingredient are not really true to form; tarts yes, pizzas no.    

Even though ready-to-bake pizza dough is available in the grocery store, make the dough in this recipe and keep it as a go-to for all thick crust homemade pizza as it’s a real winner. Bring this Patriotic Pizza Flag to a pot luck or consider making it as a snack for watching fireworks long after everyone has scarfed the BBQ fare and had their fill of watermelon in the afternoon.  Happy Independence Day!

Pizza Dough
1 cup warm water
1 envelope (1/4 oz.) dry active yeast
3 tablespoons pure olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
Yellow cornmeal

Red Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano

Blue Sauce
4 medium yellow tomatoes (1 lb.)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 small clove garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
5 drops blue food coloring

Stars & Stripes Cheese
1 (16 oz.) ball whole milk mozzarella cheese (I used the Precious brand. Make sure to buy whole milk as part-skim will not melt as well.)

To make the Pizza Dough: Pour water into a glass mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top and allow to dissolve; about 5 minutes. (Stir yeast a bit to make sure there are no dry pockets.) Whisk in oil and salt. Stir in flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and then turn out dough on to a floured surface. Knead dough for 5 to 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic but not sticky. (If dough is sticky, knead in more flour by the tablespoon.) Place dough ball in a clean glass bowl and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Set bowl in a moderate temperature place (I usually put the bowl in the microwave with a “do not disturb” sign to give my kids a heads up!) until the dough doubles in size; about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. 

To make Red Sauce: Heat oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat for a minute. Add remaining Red Sauce ingredients and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Pour sauce into a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and cover until ready to use. Refrigerate if you don’t plan on using the sauce within the hour and then bring to room temperature.

To make Blue Sauce: Remove the skins off the yellow tomatoes. An easy way to do this is to fill a pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Immerse tomatoes for 45 seconds in boiling water, remove from water with a strainer, and then immediately plunge into a bowl of ice cold water. After a minute, skins should peel right off tomatoes. Cut tomatoes in half and remove the stem, seeds, core, and discard. Dice tomatoes. Heat oil and garlic in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add oregano, salt, water, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil (should take about 3 minutes), and then turn the heat to low. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, occasionally smashing tomatoes with the back of a fork to make the sauce smooth. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Stir in blue food coloring until thoroughly mixed. Transfer to a bowl and cover until ready to use. Refrigerate if you don’t plan on using the sauce within the hour and then bring to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover a 10×15-inch baking sheet with foil and sprinkle with cornmeal. On a lightly floured surface, form pizza dough into a 10×15-inch rectangle with your hands or a floured rolling pin. Place pizza dough on the prepared pan and spread the dough out to where it is as even as possible. (I’ve found that this pizza dough needs to be “baked blind,” which means baking it without any ingredients on it, for 15 minutes for best results. Baking the dough right from the start with all the ingredients results in burnt cheese and we can’t have that for the stars and stripes on Old Glory!) Use pie weights if you have them to keep the surface of the crust even during the baking process or just go for it (like I did) and smooth things out with the sauce and cheese. So, bake the dough for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.   

Meanwhile prepare mozzarella cheese stars and stripes: Cut mozzarella ball lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices, which should produce slices that are rounded rectangles. Using a mini star-shaped canapé cutter, stamp out 9 stars for the blue area on the flag. Cut the remaining slices into 1/2-inch wide by @4-inch long strips. Lay cheese strips across the red sauce, end to end, to make the flag stripes (refer to photo for top and bottom cheese stripe placement). Set cheese stars in blue area as per the photo.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and slide onto a wooden cutting board to serve. Display on the buffet as the whole flag and then cut into squares on request to serve.

 Makes about 15 (3×3-inch) square pieces

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