I just returned home from the most lovely week in Los Angeles (more on that later…) to find that in a mere seven days, my garden had exploded into full summertime swing. All of the tomato vines are flowering nicely, little buds are just starting to pop up on the poblano pepper and zucchini plants, the herbs are thriving, and the pom-pom dahlias and mandevilla vines are beginning to bloom. Regrettably, I lost some things to the extreme heat that’s fallen on the NYC area lately (I’ll miss you lemon balm plant!), but I swear that my once-modest patch of salad greens had added another 6″ in height. The three tiny arugula plants I brought home in late April from the farmer’s market are now about a foot high and a foot wide, and I can’t seem to clip the leaves fast enough. I’m sneaking arugula into everything I can think of now, from my morning eggs to my mid-day sandwich to my evening salad.
A trip to Red Hook‘s amazing Fairway market last week resulted in the discovery of some really lovely (and kind of early for NYC, no?) fresh figs, and a beautiful little button of fresh and tangy local goat cheese. Put that next to some backyard arugula, a few drizzles of balsamic vinegar and honey, and you’ve got one heck of a pizza concept. I’ve done pizza before for RadioGastronomy, but because I’m on a mission to become incredibly proficient at bread-making, I wanted to try out a different perspective on pizza dough. Previously, I worked from a recipe in my beloved America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, but for this recipe, I went to Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s fantastic book The Bread Bible. The results were markedly different. My first attempt was a much, erm, “dough-ier,” thicker, denser result, which is great if you really want the delicious crust to stand out. But the results here were really nice and light. I got a crispier, thinner crust that was cracker-like on the outside, and nice and soft on the inside. I loved it, and it was the perfect vehicle for these particular toppings.
This pizza just came out of the oven about 2 hours ago, and I don’t want to tell you how much of it is already gone (tee hee), but I will tell you enough of it is currently missing to know that I thought it was really, really good. It would be delicious with a few pieces of crispy bacon, pancetta, or prosciutto sprinkled on top, and if you like a bit of spiciness, a few flakes of crushed red pepper would really be great too. This would be a terrific pizza to serve with wine – I imagine it working beautifully with a medium-bodied rosé or a crisp Riesling. And lest we all forget, figs and honey are classic aphrodisiacs, so be sure to share it with someone special and stir up a bit of summer romance!
For the pizza dough (adapted directly from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible):
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted (NOTE: I used King Arthur brand, which bread-makers seem to swear by across the board.)
1/2 tsp. instant yeast (NOTE: I finally broke down and bought a bag of instant yeast (on Amazon, of all places!), and really loved working with it as opposed to the little active dry yeast packets commonly found at the grocery store.)
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup room-temperature water
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For the toppings:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3-4 large fresh figs, rinsed & dried well, rough stem tops removed, and sliced about 1/4″ thick
Good handful of arugula leaves, washed & dried well (NOTE: You could use regular arugula, baby arugula, or wild arugula here. The more mature the leaf, the more spicy and bitter the flavor, but they all work well for this recipe.)
3-4 tbsp. goat cheese, in crumbles
Balsamic Vinegar, for drizzling
Honey, for drizzling
2-3 large fresh basil leaves, washed, dried well, and cut en chiffonade
Small sprig of fresh rosemary, washed, dried well, leaves removed and coarsely chopped
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1. First, make the dough. (NOTE: Be aware that there is at least 1 hour of rising time involved, so plan ahead accordingly.) In a small-to-medium stainless steel or glass work bowl, whisk together the flour, instant yeast, and sugar with a fork until ingredients are evenly distributed. Add the salt and whisk again with a fork to combine. (NOTE: Ms. Beranbaum mentions in her book that it’s crucial to add the salt secondarily as it prevents the yeast particles from coming into direct contact with the salt, effectively killing it.)
2. Form a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the water. Using a rubber spatula, gradually stir the flour into the water, working in a circular motion, until all the flour is moistened and it just barely comes together as a dough, about 20 seconds. (NOTE: I had to add a tiny touch more water to my mixture to get all of the flour moistened. Whether or not you will have to depends on many factors: the humidity in the room, how accurately the ingredients were measured, etc.) The dough should start to pull away from the sides of the bowl but still be a little on the sticky side, and should have a slightly rough appearance. It’s important not to over-mix the dough during this step.
3. Drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil into a clean medium-sized bowl, and use clean fingers to rub the oil all over the bottom and sides of the bowl. With oiled fingers, gently place the dough in the oiled bowl and turn a few times to get it all coated with the oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. If using dough soon, allow to rise at room temperature for 1 hour, or until doubled in size. If making ahead, and for best flavor development, allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, and then place in the refrigerator for at least 6 and up to 24 hours. Remove dough from refrigerator 1 hour before baking.
4. Preheat oven to 475ºF, and place a rack at the lowest level. About 30 minutes before you put the pizza in the oven, place a baking stone or an upside-down sheet tray on the oven rack to heat up.
5. When the dough is ready to be shaped after rising, use clean hands to oil a pizza or sheet tray well with olive oil. With hands still coated in oil, place the dough in the center of the pan and use fingertips to press down and deflate it gently. Shape into a smooth, round disc, and cover in plastic wrap. Allow dough to sit and relax for 15 minutes.
6. Using fingertips and working from the center of the dough outward, gradually stretch the dough out into a 10-12″ circle, leaving a slightly thicker lip around the edges. Try to eliminate any air bubbles you notice in the dough, and don’t worry about making a perfect circle. Hand-formed pizzas should look a bit rustic, after all.
7. Slide the pizza tray into the oven on top of the baking stone or overturned sheet pan, and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, and add the toppings.
8. First, brush the entire pizza, edge to edge, with a light coating of olive oil. Then arrange the sliced figs, arugula leaves, and goat cheese crumbles evenly around the pizza. Drizzle lightly with balsamic vinegar and honey, and then sprinkle on the basil and rosemary. Sprinkle the entire pizza with kosher salt & freshly ground pepper, and place back in the oven for 5 more minutes. Move rack to a higher position in the oven, and continue to bake until the crust is evenly golden-brown, the arugula leaves are wilted, and the goat cheese starts to brown on top, about 2-4 more minutes. Remove pizza and allow to cool slightly before serving.
Yield: 1 super-yummy, salty-sweet 10-12″ pizzaPrinter Friendly