When Rachael of Fuji Mama asked me if I’d be interested in developing a recipe for Lindsay Olive’s Back-To-School Challenge, I immediately said yes. See, at first all I heard was “Rachael…Fuji Mama…Lindsay Olives…” and of course, at some point someone mentioned food. What was there to think about? I love Rachael, I love olives, and olives are food. It was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned.
Then, of course, the whole “challenge” part of the deal suddenly started sinking in. For one, it’s a back-to-school theme. Which means kids. Kids who might start crying if they open up their lunchbox and find something they really don’t want to eat. And as much as I love olives now, I wasn’t a big fan of them when I was a kid. Growing up, I had great appreciation for recipes that disguised the olives. I could not, for the life of me, understand how my mom could snack on olives and appear to enjoy them without gagging.
Of course, now I do the same thing. Whenever I pop open a can of olives for a recipe, I snack on whatever is left. And it’s not because olives are good for you (they are) or that they’ll make my skin look much better (they will). It’s just that I absolutely love their taste, even though it did take me more than a few years to get to this point.
But of course, this isn’t about me. It’s about lunchbox recipes for kids heading back to school—recipes that have olives in them that all kids will love, whether or not they’re crazy about olives. And so the wheels in my head went ’round and ’round, and I decided that I wouldn’t try to be too fancy or elaborate (kids appreciate simple food) and it had to be something that a busy mom can make without too much fuss.
Enter Crazy Pizza Bread.
I need to back up a minute here. My original idea was to create Crazy Pizza Sticks, each one like a little pizza crust twist thingie filled with gooey cheese and combo pizza toppings. The problem was that it was a bit messy to make. They came out great but I wasn’t looking forward to going through the motions of making the sticks again. So while the taste was a winner, the method needed to be made easier. A lot easier.
So I decided instead to make a pizza loaf instead. Since I loved the gooey cheese in the middle of the sticks, my plan was to fill the loaf with cheese inside then bake it as a whole loaf and slice it up into lovely “sticks.” This way was much easier, and based on the fact that the two boys in the house polished off an entire loaf in practically one sitting then had all the leftover pizza loaf slices and original sticks COLD for breakfast the next day, it was safe to assume that the taste was still a homerun.
You can make this the night before and pack it for lunch the next day. Just cut 1-inch thick slices, wrap them in foil, and lightly toast them before packing them in the lunchbox. Send your little one off with a small bowl of tomato soup or a container of marinara dipping sauce, and they’ll be the envy of the lunchroom. Or make it a special afternoon snack to welcome them home after a long day at school.
I also love that you can let the kids help you make this. They’ll have fun getting their hands in it and mixing everything into the dough. Let them add their favorite toppings, too! Mushrooms, pineapple, bacon, sausage, different kinds of cheeses—let them create their own variety of pizza bread! And if they make it, they’re more likely to eat it.
For a grown up version, try adding a few roasted garlic cloves, caramelized onions, and goat cheese. If you love anchovies but need to share the loaf with less adventurous tikes, make a puttanesca sauce for dipping. That way, you get to enjoy anchovies in your pizza without the kids wrinkling their nose at you.
Crazy Pizza Bread
Serves 4 to 6
Use your favorite pizza toppings for this. I used red bell peppers, green peppers and pepperoni to keep it kid-friendly. Other suggested add-ins: caramelized onions and roasted garlic (dry roast unpeeled cloves on a skillet for about 5 minutes, then finely mince or mash into a paste). If using a topping that will render fat, microwave it for a minute or two to prevent the fat from rendering into the dough while baking, which will alter the texture of the bread.
Serve with a simple marinara sauce or tomato soup for dipping.
1 teaspoon yeast
Sprinkle yeast over warm water in a bowl. Let it sit for 3 minutes until foamy, then add in flour and salt. Mix (using a mixer, spoon, or your hands) just until it comes together. Add in the olives and toppings and combine well. Dough will be tacky, but feel free to dust with a bit more extra flour if it feels too tacky. Let rise for about 1 hour, then put in the refrigerator for another hour.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and flour a Silpat or waxed paper. Roll out into a rectangle about 11×17”. Sprinkle cheese over top. Then, using the Silpat or paper, fold along the long side, like an envelope. Seal sides so cheese is not exposed. Let rest while you preheat oven to 450 degrees. Let oven stay at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.
Bake the bread, either on a pizza stone or baking sheet, for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. About 3 minutes before taking it out, lightly brush the top with olive oil and let it finish baking. Let rest on a wire rack to cool slightly before slicing.
To pack for lunch, wrap slices in foil and lightly toast before putting it in a lunchbox. Include a small container of tomato soup or marinara sauce for dipping.
Oh, and resist slicing into it immediately. It burns. Don’t ask me how I know this.
Full disclosure: For developing this recipe, I received a few cans of different varieties of Lindsay Olives to play with, along with a nominal fee as compensation for participating in Lindsay’s Back-To-School Olive Challenge. But the cheese was all mine, baby. All mine. And so was the burn on my finger from the hot stone. But I don’t really want to talk about that right now.