Ben Bebenroth’s Simple Build-Your-Own Pizza

Keep your chef-at-home stigmas to yourself when Ben Bebenroth comes around. Unless, of course, you want to make him laugh really hard.

“It blows my mind! Every time I go to a potluck, people are like, ‘oh, the chef’s here!’” he says. “It’s hilarious, that preconceived notion that chefs eat like they cook at their restaurant.”

15206458371_53b8062dd0_oIn fact, bens home cooking is diametrically opposed to that perception. With a wife, three children, a farm, restaurant, and catering business to care for, Ben has little time or desire to replicate the finely wrought, labor-intensive menus found on Detroit Avenue.

“I had pickles for lunch yesterday,” he says. “Pickles. Seriously.”

The desire to keep it simple gave birth to Ben’s build-your-own pizza. With an easy from-scratch dough, the options are infinite. Ben’s toppings, mostly herbs and tomatoes, come from the family’s “pizza garden” that sits along the side of their home. “I always tell people, herbs don’t need a lot of sun. They grow in the shade,” he says. “You should put it as close as you possibly can to the kitchen door. That’s where you’re going to use it the most.” If you don’t have a garden (yet), use what you have — and feel free to show it off at your next potluck.

Simple Pizza Dough

1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups flour

The morning of pizza night:
Warm 3/4 cup plus one tablespoon of water to 85 degrees and mix in yeast and honey.

Meanwhile, whisk 1/2 teaspoon of salt with 2 cups of flour in a bowl

Add 1/4 cup of olive oil to the flour mixture, and stir in the water, yeast, and honey to form a nice, wet dough ball. Knead with your hands on a countertop for about eight minutes.

Place back into a bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil. Cover with a wet towel or plastic wrap, put in the fridge, and let rise until it’s time to bake.

The Base:
Mash or chop a few cloves of garlic with salt, place in a ramekin, and stir in olive oil.

Ben likes a stretchy cheese blend of low-moisture mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan.

Ben’s favorite: a few strips of pancetta, sliced tomato, a couple grinds of black pepper, whole basil leaves, and scattered green onions and olives.