Pepperoni pizza braids are one of my kids’ favorite recipes to help me cook, probably because they get to sink their fingers into the squishy dough before we stretch it out into a rectangle on the baking sheet.  They sneak in bites of cheese and pepperoni as we pile them on top of the tomato sauce, then they help me braid the dough before we sprinkle the top with more cheese and seasonings.  While I am a big fan of pepperoni pizza, sometimes I want my dinner to be a little more grow-up, which is why I decided to make a Spinach & Artichoke pizza braid filled with a mixture of cheese, spinach and artichokes.

The filling, which is a lighter version of a traditional spinach and artichoke dip, is made with garlic, fresh spinach, marinated artichoke hearts, Greek yogurt and Swiss cheese.   After adding the filling and braiding the bread, I sprinkled additional cheese and Garlic Gold nuggets on top before baking it to a golden brown.  You will need to allow the braid to cool for 5 – 10 minutes before slicing, so all of the filling does not ooze out.  Slice it into strips about 1 – 1 1/2 inches wide and serve alongside a big, green salad for a complete meal.

If you have kids like me, you might want to make two pizza braids for dinner.  One with pepperoni for the kids and one Spinach & Artichoke for the adults.  Even though my daughter will normally eat spinach and artichoke dip, she definitely prefers the pepperoni braid.

Spinach and Artichoke Pizza Braid

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • •homemade or refrigerated pizza dough (enough for one 12 inch pizza)
  • •1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • •3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • •4 cups baby spinach (one 6 oz. bag)
  • •2 jars artichoke hearts marinated in oil
  • •1/4 cup Stonyfield Oikos non-fat Greek yogurt
  • •1 cup grated Swiss cheese, divided
  • •salt and pepper to taste
  • •1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • •1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • •1 teaspoon Garlic Gold nugget (could replace with 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt)

Instructions

  1. •Make your pizza dough in advance or use a tube of refrigerated dough (enough to make one 12-inch regular crusts).
  2. •Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place a pizza stone or cookie sheet in the oven.
  3. •Remove stems from spinach and roughly chop, then set aside. Drain artichokes and chop into small pieces.
  4. •In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook for one minute, stirring constantly so it does not burn. Toss in chopped spinach and cook for 3 minutes, stirring until it wilts. Stir in artichoke hearts, yogurt and 1/4 cup of swiss cheese. Once the cheese is melted, season with salt and pepper then remove from heat.
  5. •Spread the pizza dough into a rectangle about 1/4" thick on a piece of parchment paper coated with non-stick cooking spray and lightly sprinkled with corn meal (optional, but recommended). Spoon the spinach & artichoke mixture down the center of the rectangle, leaving 1/3 of dough on each side for braiding. Top mixture with the remaining 3/4 cup of swiss cheese.
  6. •Cut the edges of the braid into equal strips, about 1" wide. Fold the top edge of the crust over the filling, then start folding the sides of the crust in to form a braid effect. Push down on the end of each strip to seal, then fold over the next strip of crust. Once you have braided your crust almost all the way down, fold the bottom edge of the crust up over the filling and seal with the last two edges.
  7. •Sprinkle the top of the braid with grated parmesan cheese, basil and Garlic Gold nuggets.
  8. •Carefully remove hot pizza stone or cookie sheet from the oven. Using the edge of the parchment paper, slide the braids onto the hot stone/sheet and return to the oven. Bake at 425 for 25-28 minutes until the top of the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 - 10 minutes before cutting into strips to serve.
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Pizza braids are great for tailgating, football parties, family movie night and slumber parties.  Braids can also be assembled in advance and frozen.  Just take them out of the freezer and allow them to thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then bake as directed.

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