February 12, 2011

Pizza Bianca

Oh, how I do love my pizza. We have it at least once a month, sometimes more, and we always make it from scratch. Palle is especially fond of non-tomato sauced pizzas, although he's generally pretty happy with any homemade pizza, including old faithful - pepperoni and mushroom with a classic, oregano-laden sauce. In the interests of keeping our pizza consumption from being monotonous, I like to try new things, from time to time. A recent effort involved miso gravy for the sauce, and shabu-shabu thin cut beef dressed with sesame oil and soy sauce. It went over rather well, and I'll certainly be keeping that in mind the next time I have leftover miso gravy lurking in the fridge.

But this one really wowed me. It's not even a recipe (excepting the crust, which is my usual recipe (expired link removed, please see comments below for recipe) using a three-hour rise and a fraction of the yeast) I was particularly pleased to be able to make it entirely out of things that I already had on hand, repurposing leftover roasted chicken and roasted fennel from the previous night's lemon risotto dinner, and using up the tail end of bocconcini which we had after making Messy Giuseppes (Palle's rather Italianate Sloppy Joes). Even the parsley was leftover from garnishing the risotto!

I chopped up the fennel, which had been roasted in thick wedges. I used the tenderest bits of fennel and scattered them over the crust - no sauce, I simply depended upon the olive oil that had been used to roast the fennel to get the party started. Next, meat from the roasted thighs and legs and back of the roast chicken. I generally pull the meat off the bones after dinner, while it is still warm, and plate it up for easy use later, and so it certainly stood me in good stead here. I chopped up the larger pieces, and tore some with my fingers, to get nice distribution. Finally, I dotted the small amount of bocconcini around the perimeter, sprinkled the whole thing with the already-chopped parsley, and bashed it into the oven until the crust started to turn gold. Once out of the oven, we grated some long strands of parmesan over it, and watched them melt artistically onto the pizza.

This was really a triumph of keeping things simple, too. I resisted the urge to add peppers or mushrooms or anything else, didn't overload on the cheese, and ended up with a very satisfying pizza that was very different from the taco pizza, vegetarian pizzas, or buffalo-wing pizzas that I've shared before.

There's a lot more things I want to try, pizza-wise, but for the record, I have no objection to any particular style of pizza. I like thick crust, thin crust, wood-fired, grilled, red-sauced, mustard-sauced, no-sauce at all. Best of all, I like my pizzas homemade.


kickpleat said...

I always make white pizzas - not a fan of red sauce on my homemade pizzas. Never thought to add fennel before, love the idea!

Sammie said...

I am a strict make it from scratch kind of pizza girl. I've never tried a white sauce on pizza but I'm not a huge fan of red sauce. Sounds delicious!

Stephanie D said...

This looks soooooo good. I did a veggie pizza the other day. I am gonna try this recipe out tonight! Thanks

Dawna said...

Welp, the recipe link above has expired, so here is the recipe:

Total prep and cooking time: 45 minutes if you're quick and organized, and the dough is co-operative, 1 hour if not. The lengthy write up here makes it seem like it would take longer, but it doesn't. Well, maybe the first time...

Pizza Crust

3/4 cup warm water
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast or one envelope
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 - 2 cups plain flour, as needed
1 teaspoon salt I use kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried, crumbled oregano optional
1 teaspoon dried basil optional

Test the water by sticking your impeccably clean finger in it. If it's pleasantly warm, but not hot, you're good to go. If not, adjust as needed. Pour warm water into a medium sized mixing bowl. Sprinkle sugar and yeast over the water and let stand for about five minutes while you get the sauce ready (see below). The yeast will soften, and gradually start to foam up to the top of the water. This usually only takes a few minutes, but if your water is quite cool it might take a little longer. Once the yeast has gotten foamy, stir in the olive oil (or canola, if you don't have olive oil) and 1/2 cup of the flour.

Stir until combined into a sort of paste, and then beat vigorously for 100 strokes all in the same direction. It sounds silly, but this is the basis for a very smooth dough, and it doesn't actually take very long at all. A wooden spoon is ideal for the job. Once your mixture is smooth and silky-looking, add the salt and 1 cup of flour. If you are adding herbs, now is the time to do so. Stir until the flour is mostly incorporated - it gets very stiff very quickly - and then turn out onto a clean counter to knead. Add more flour if the dough seems sticky - add it a little at a time as you go along.

Knead the dough briskly for about five minutes, or until it comes together in a satiny ball and is no longer sticky. Let the dough rest on the counter while you wash out the bowl that you started it in. Wash and dry the bowl, and spritz with a little oil. Place your dough into the bowl (turn it over once so that a little oil gets on the top) and cover with a towel while you slice toppings and grate cheese. The dough doesn't need to rise double in size (although it's fine if it does) but it should show some signs of life when you get back to it - be softer and a little risen.

Prepare your toppings and turn the oven on to 450 F, with the rack placed in the middle. Prepare a pizza pan by sprinkling a generous amount of cornmeal in a thin layer over it.

Press the dough out into a flat circle. If the dough is still a bit tense, it might take a little longer, but this amount of dough will fit a full sized pizza pan. Just be patient and keep pressing it out, even if it tries to spring back, or let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. Once the dough is stretched to the full size of the pan, spread your pizza sauce over it, top judiciously, and bake for 12 - 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and delicious. Slide pizza onto cutting board and pretend you're going to share. Don't burn your mouth.