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Dykes on Dates: Tips for Topping (Homemade Pizza)

Hi and welcome back to Dykes on Dates, the series where I tell you all about real dates with my real fiancé Kristen (okay, saying real too many times absolutely makes her sound fictional) and how YOU can do them, too. Last week, Dykes on Dates went bowling. This time, we’re topping! Homemade pizzas, that is. I’ve broken down the guide by skill level, and then you’ll find my mini essay on homemade pizza dates after the photo.


The Date: Homemade Pizza

Cost

Varies, can be as low as under $5 if you’re making your own crust and using ingredients you already have in your fridge/pantry. Can be up to $50 depending on the fanciness of your ingredients and if you’re also planning to have a wine or beer pairing. But truly this is a date that can be done on the cheap! And it takes place at home!

Notes on Cost

Depending on which of the crust methods you choose below (pizza baby, pizza dad, or pizza chef), this will vary. Store-bought pizza crust can be as low as under $3 (as it is at my Publix), and buying from an actual pizzeria will usually run higher. Homemade crust is cheapest though the most costly in terms of time. I cannot stress enough how you should use! Ingredients! You! Already! Have! Or maybe spend on one fancy ingredient, like some of the ones I shout out in the forthcoming mini essay!

Additional Planning Notes

Here’s where we’re going to look at the three different skill levels of homemade pizza night, which I have dubbed pizza baby (beginner), pizza dad (intermediate), and pizza chef (advanced). We are specifically focusing on dough/crust here, as that’s generally the most difficult part of homemade pizza. No matter what level you choose or whether one of you is more of the chef in the relationship than the other, the toppings aspect should feel collaborative! If you’re the chef and your partner is the kitchen princess, make it fun and pretend to take their specific pizza order like you’re an actual pizzaiolo. Chop toppings and arrange them in bowls and drop them on the pizzas together! Take turns rolling out/throwing the dough. Drink wine while you do it or try out artisanal sodas. Throw on one of the many Spotify playlists called “Italian cooking music.” Make it as cozy or indulgent as you like.

Pizza Baby

Don’t really wanna fuck with dough at all? That’s cool! You can make what my dad calls “naan pizza,” which is literally just sauce, cheese, and toppings thrown on top of store-bought naan from the grocery store. I have a package in my freezer at all times. Cook time for “pizza” in this instance is like five minutes! It also means you need to precook any raw toppings before putting them on top, because they won’t really get much of a chance to cook in the short time it takes for the naan to warm up. These are also fun because they’re personal-sized, so if you are a vegan who dates a meat eater, you’re each able to customize your toppings easily!

Alternatively, you can also buy a frozen plain cheese pizza and then jazz it up with your own toppings! Maybe one day I’ll rate and rank the best frozen pizzas, but for now, my go-to is CPK. Hear me out: What if you threw some Fishwife anchovies on top of a frozen pizza?! Perfect high-brow/low-brow combo if you ask me!

Pizza Dad

The intermediate option is to buy pre-made raw pizza dough from your grocery store or a local pizzeria. I often buy the pre-rolled dough from Publix or the pizza dough ball (they’re in the bakery section usually). Even if your local pizza spot doesn’t advertise that they sell dough, call them up to inquire! They usually do, and it’s usually tasty. But let’s not pretend that this small shortcut automatically makes homemade pizza “easy.” If you’re used to working with dough a lot, great, you’re probably set! But if you’re not exactly a pizzaiolo yet, there can be a learning curve when it comes to getting a crust that’s crispy in all the right places, not undercooked, and not burnt. I’ve incorrectly estimated the cook time for pizzas many times! And I have a pretty nice pizza stone! It can just be tricky (and, as with most things that involve dough, can be impacted by your environment; working with dough in dry Vegas versus humid Miami made for very different experiences for me!).

Pizza Chef

Okay, yes chef! You and/or your partner already have some pizza making experience or otherwise are down for a challenge. In my opinion, homemade pizza doesn’t get much better than the recipe for King Arthur crispy cheesy pan pizza, but if you/your partner are Sourdough Gays, then they also have a recipe that utilizes unfed starter so you don’t have to discard it! Also hashtag NOT AN AD, but hashtag PROUD SISTER: My lil sis is the lead industrial designer at Halo, which manufactures a sick portable outdoor pizza oven and if you have a pizza oven then you can institute a WEEKLY pizza date night, just saying. Tis what I intend to do when I finally get one this spring.


an overhead shot of a homemade pizza with tiny fried eggs on it, Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya holding a chicken tikka masala pizza, and a homemade pizza on a cutting board on a table set up for date night

Homemade pizza humbles me. Maybe that’s why I like it for date nights.

I’m used to impressing Kristen in the kitchen, to pulling off feats, to improvising something complicated for the first time and sticking the landing. For some reason, I haven’t mastered pizza, at least not at the level I’d like to. No, not “for some reason.” I know the reason. Pizza is baking, ultimately, and I am not a baker. Even the store-bought Publix dough has given me grief.

For a while, I didn’t have a rolling pin, using a wine bottle to roll out dough for our pandemic pizza nights in Vegas and then Miami. Kristen bought me a rolling pin and then a pizza stone, too. We upgraded our shitty pizza cutter to a nicer one. These things helped, but I’m still no pizzaiolo. The finished product is delicious, but the path to get there is arduous — except on the nights I opt for simple naan pizza that we eat in front of the television, watching Bravo. That can count as date night, too, especially after a long work week.

But really, homemade pizza date night isn’t about the dough or the grief it gives me or the cook times I can never seem to get right. It’s about the ambiance, the pizza vibes we generate. Kristen has been curating the best “Italian cooking playlist” out there for years now. I have a glass of wine while I cook, which I don’t always do, but with pizza it feels right. Kristen lights candles. I chop and arrange toppings in little bowls whose colors match the hues of the toppings. This part I love; this part doesn’t give me grief. I may be a bottom, but I’m all about preparing to top when it comes to pizza.

And maybe I like Kristen to see me sweat a bit, to see me misgauge the oven temperature or have to a sling a pizza back into heat because the center’s a wet, doughy mess. It’s fun and intimate, you know, to let them see you be a bit of a mess. Plus, between the wine and the Dean Martin, the vibes are immaculate regardless of how long it takes the pizza to cook.

KKU’s Favorite Pizza Toppings:

  • Quail Eggs: If your local grocery store doesn’t have them, find an Asian market. Crack them onto the pizza in the last four or five minutes of baking.
  • Arugula or Watercress: Add after the pizza is done cooking.
  • Fresh Mozzarella: Just throw globs of it on during the last five to ten minutes of cooking and let it get gooey, maybe a little brown in places by turning on the broiler.
  • Raita: I make a mean chicken makhani pizza, and drizzling it with a bit of a yogurt sauce at the end is crucial.
  • Sliced Pepperoncini: Add after cooking.
  • Sliced Pickles: Yes! Pickles on pizza! Also add after cooking.
  • Anchovies: You know the ones.

Dykes on Dates is a new series by Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya chronicling dates with her fiancé Kristen and offering ideas, tips, and tricks for stoking the flames of romance.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 869 articles for us.

7 Comments

  1. “Homemade pizza humbles me.” Truly! I really admire people who are dough savvy. I’ve def melted down over refrigerated/homemade pizza dough mishaps (while my kind spouse says, “Honey that still looks great! It’s gonna taste great!” and it always does 😄)

    I love leftover veggies as pizza topping — like zucchini, sautéed kale, broccoli. Whatever was the side to dinner the night before, works great on pizza the next night!

  2. Love the homemade pizza! I’ll go decadent on the toppings with something like roast duck and figs or caprese with fancy balsamic vinegar. I’ve never quite figured out reliably depositing the pizza in a hot oven though…. That step eludes me :) always tastes great though.

  3. My dad got a portable high-temperature wood fired oven pizza oven this past summer, and I can attest that it has been a lot of fun for him and the family at large. They cook in just a couple of minutes, though transferring them from wherever they were rolled out onto the peel without them sticking or getting misshapen can be tricky at times. We’ve done roasted vegetables in there once or twice too.

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