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Thinking about: Making Pizza

Prior to graduation from Le Cordon Bleu, College of Culinary Arts, I am required to pass two 180 hour Externships; both of which I am currently conducting at 5000 Pies in Long Beach, Ca.

I’m a Baking and Patisserie student, and was hired for mornings, to make their Cookies and sweet Pies, which I must say are very tasty; you can imagine my surprise at being asked to jump in on the “Hot Line”.

During my second week on the job, our Executive Chef, Michael Martinez, needed an extra pair of hands for the afternoon lunch rush; it was then that I learned to build a Pizza (even now, I’m still totally jazzed about it).

While making Calzones, thin crust & deep-dish Pizzas of his own, Chef Mike verbally coached me through the process of assembling a large Pizza.

The dough had already been brought to room temperature (this is known as Proofing), so all I had to do was portion it by ounces, and form it into a round ball, which I rolled out with a rolling pin on a floured surface.

I used the weight of the dough on the edge of my fingers to stretch it into a 12 inch crust, and the the knuckles of my fists for the final phase…And in case you’re wondering, the answer is “No”, I was too intimidated to flip it in the air like Chef Mike. lol

I pricked the center of the finished dough with a “Docker” (a roller, which looks like an armor-plated porcupine); the small holes help the dough to retain its shape.
For a nice, chewy crust, the edges of a Pizza need to be thicker than the center.

Next, I lightly brushed the entire crust with Chef’s special Oil blend, and spread the top with his house-made Sauce (which I now make).

Apparently, moisture is the enemy of Pizza dough, so less is more when applying sauce…No need to be stingy, but don’t over do it.

After a nice layer of Mozzarella Cheese, I added Canadian Bacon & Pineapple tidbits on one half, and then Pepperoni & ripe Olives on the other. I topped it all with another layer of Cheese, a sprinkle of Italian Herbs & Parmesan, then popped the whole tray in a 500 degree convection oven for 10 minutes.

The last part of baking was the most nerve racking, as I had to pull this bubbly beauty off the baking flat with a Pizza “Peel” (it looks like a large, flat shovel), and drop it onto the “Stone” (unglazed, oven heated tile) for final crisping of the crust…Yikes

I had seen it done all week, but, for a moment, my mind had a little trouble convincing my hands that I could do this. Chef must have noticed my hesitation, because he came over, took the peel from me (for a moment I thought I was off the hook), and moved the Pizza he’d been making with his usual practiced skill…Then he handed the peel back to me.

I had about 10 seconds to move that Pizza, or this was going to be my first disaster!

My favorite scripture suddenly came to mind, “Philippians 4:13…I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”

Resisting the urge to squeeze my eyes shut, I gripped the peel, quickly slid it under my Pizza, and dropped it onto the stone in one smooth motion.

The cheese immediately began to bubble with sudden rise in heat; 30 seconds later it was cut into 8 mouthwatering slices, and on its way to my customer…(and I was in the corner hyperventilating my thanks to Jesus).

I’ve made a few more Pizzas since then, and feel much more confident about the whole process.
I’ve even baked a few to take home; they must be good, because my husband now surreptitiously glances at my hands before he hugs me, hello (I’m just serious…lol).

Bon Appetite

Note: 5000 Pies is a social enterprise of Fountain of Life Covenant Church. Their mission is to transform the lives of young adults in West Long Beach through culinary employment and life skills coaching.

All menu items are 100% from scratch, using fresh, seasonal, quality ingredients.

For location and hours, check out 5000 Pies at

About Author

Julie Allen

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