Up The Ante



In recent years a ritual has emerged in our house. For All Hallows Eve, the dinner of choice has been a pumpkin pizza to fill us up on a night of frolicking about the neighborhood for tricks and treats. A time or two I’d shape the pizza to imply the chilling silhouette of a jack-o-lantern. Other occasions it was as round as Charlie Brown’s head with pepperoni eyes, nose and a mouth.

As parents to impressionable youngsters, it’s our responsibility to broaden their palates, right? At least that’s my impression. My formative years, the era of the “Clean Your Plate Club”, left me no wiggle room to deny an unwanted component served on my plate. Were you a member? I don’t necessarily subscribe to the totality of plate cleaning nowadays because I think it’s just as important to teach kids how to listen to their bodies, to put the fork down when the feeling of fullness emerges. I do, however, insist that a few bites of everything be eaten and my power to ensure compliance is the withholding of the coveted course called dessert.

Evil? Perhaps. Good parenting? You bet!

My goblins enjoy pumpkin; pumpkin pie, in waffles, pancakes and muffins, and as a bread with chocolate chips. The sweet parallel is clear. So this year I’m going to up the ante. I’m introducing a savory version by making what was pumpkin-like by appearance only, to a dish that actually contains pumpkin. It’s ideal, really—the added nutrients and fiber and that glorious orange hue. It screams Halloween and my fingers are crossed that I hear screams of joy at first bite!



First, you proof some yeast in warm water and a good squeeze of honey. It will look like this after about 5 minutes.


All frothy and dreadful. It’s perfect.


Then you put the flour and salt in your mixer bowl, whisk together. Now add the wet ingredients—the yeast mixture, pumpkin puree and olive oil. Give it an initial vigorous stir, like a witch at her cauldron until it seizes and clumps…



Place the mixer bowl onto the stand fitted with Capt. Hook and engage the motor on medium-low. Knead for 8 minutes…



The dough is ready for proofing when it climbs the hook and wipes the bowl clean. If you give it a poke, it should spring back.


Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Place the ball into an oiled bowl, turn once to coat, cover with a damp kitchen towel and place in a warm spot in the kitchen. Did I tell you how much I love the “Bread Proof” feature on my oven?


Dough ball ready for a warm spot


It may take an hour or so for the yeast to proliferate with its science and might. Tidy up the kitchen or log on to Facebook.

Or fold the laundry.


About an hour later…


A properly proofed dough which has doubled in bulk will look like this! Spellbinding, isn’t it? Punch the dough down. Go ahead, it might feel good.

There’s a fork in the road here: You can either use immediately, or place it in a large Ziploc bag spritzed with oil spray, seal it and stow in the refrigerator overnight for use the next day. This is what I did for the pizza pictured here. The advantage is that the chill factor tames yeast activity, but allows the flavor build. When ready to use, bring the dough to room temperature before shaping your pie.




Yield: Makes one large 14-inch pizza (approximate), or two smaller ones.


This pumpkin-infused crust brings autumn to the table for all to savor. The note of squash is present in its subtle, earthy way—but when it melds with the marinara, cheeses and sage, your goblins will howl with delight. The dough is versatile enough to use year ’round and it’s an ideal way to bring interest to the mundane. The best part? It’s kid-tested!


  • 1 packet (or 2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup warm water (115° to 125°F)
  • 3 1/4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (I used Libby’s)
  • To make this pizza you will need:
  • 3/4 cup of your favorite marinara sauce
  • one cup grated Havarti cheese
  • one cup grated Fontina cheese
  • one cup grated Mozzarella cheese (more or less depending upon your preference)
  • fresh sage leaves, stemmed
  • grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)


    Make the dough:
  • In a small mixing bowl, add the honey and yeast. Warm the water gently over low heat or by short blasts in a microwave; use an instant read or candy thermometer to be sure the temperature is within the specified range. If the water is too hot it will kill the yeast–if it’s not warm enough, the yeast will not activate. Set aside for 5 minutes or so.
  • Meanwhile, add the dry ingredients to a stand mixer bowl; whisk to incorporate. Make a small well in the center of the flour mixture, add the olive oil and pumpkin puree. When the yeast mixture is active, add to the mixing bowl and quickly stir with a stiff spoon to incorporate. Place the bowl onto the mixer and fit with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low for approximately eight minutes. The dough hook will pull the clumps together while simultaneously kneading the mixture. When it’s ready, the dough will climb the hook and the bowl will be wiped clean. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape the dough into a ball. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn the dough over to coat, cover with a damp kitchen cloth. Set aside in a warm place for about an hour or until double in bulk.
  • Punch the dough down. If using right away, knead dough on a lightly floured surface and proceed to making the pizza. To store overnight, place the dough in a lightly oiled plastic bag and put in the refrigerator. Prior to using, bring the refrigerated dough to room temperature on the counter.
  • Assemble the pizza:
  • Whether you use a pizza stone and peel or a pizza pan, press, roll or shape your pizza crust to the desired size and thickness. Lightly brush the surface of the dough with olive oil. Add the desired amount of marinara sauce and spread it nearly to the edges of the crust all the way around. Sprinkle the blend of three cheeses over the top. Place the pizza in the oven and bake for 7 to 9 minutes (depending upon your oven). Be watching for a lightly browned crust and bubbling cheese. In the last couple of minutes, add the sage leaves and finish baking until the pie is crusty and golden. As an alternate option, you may chiffonade the sage leaves and sprinkle them on top prior to placing in the oven–the oil from the melting cheese will help prevent the finely shredded sage from burning.
  • Allow the pizza to rest for a minute or two, slice and serve.


Time permitting, consider the option of allowing the dough to rest overnight in the fridge–the improved flavor is worth the wait. Use your favorite blend of cheeses, but to make this work as written, stay with soft, white mild-flavored choices. I’ve not been paid or compensated by the makers of Libby’s canned pumpkin, but their product is consistent, especially in moisture content. Another brand may vary in moisture and offset the dough formula. By the way, be sure to use pure pumpkin puree and not the pumpkin pie variety.



  1. Brooks, Who else but you would dare to make pumpkin infused crust for pizza? I love it and your directions are always explicit. Have a Happy Halloween!

  2. I’m so trying this for our halloween buffet! you are so talented.

  3. Pumpkin and sage is such a magnificent combination…but I would have never thought of making a pizza. You pulled it off beautifully. Do you deliver? I’d like a large, please, on Halloween night 😉

  4. Hello,
    I noticed you often use Fiesta for the presentation of your food. I wondered if you were a member of the Homer Laughlin China Collectors Association? Love the website and the amazing cakes in the gallery!

  5. Yeast always throws me for a loop…so impressed that you have such a handle on it and that you can churn out such a delicious combination! Looks amazing.

  6. How fun is THIS?! Not just fun, absolutely delicious sounding as well. I would never have thought about combining two of my all time foods and flavors, pizza and pumpkin, together. What a great concept, Brooks!!

    • Brooks Walker says

      Thank you Dan. I suspect your brood will enjoy this pie every bit as much as mine does. Cheers!

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