Pizza Day: Apple-Apricot Pizza, Pizza with Za’atar, Nettle Pizza, Roasted Pepper Pizza
So, today is pizza day. This morning I woke up in the mood for making a few little pizzas to enjoy throughout the day. It’s raining and gray, the perfect kind of day to work with dough and let the aroma of cooked pizza, sweet and savoury, float throughout the house. I often make my own dough because it is so easy but I prefer to make it a day or two in advance to let it develop flavour in the fridge. Quick pizza dough is also good and in about 2 hours you can have a dough ready to be grilled, baked or broiled (yes) for a lovely quick pizza (see recipe for a quick pizza dough here). It doesn’t have the flavour of a long, slow rise dough but is perfectly acceptable. I also like to buy fresh pizza dough from Mercato or Lina’s (our local food stores for all things Italian) and keep it in the fridge for a couple of days ready to be made into pizza in minutes and without any mess. So today it was bought but freshly made pizza dough from Mercato. I first removed the dough from the fridge, dusted it with flour and let it rest a few minutes under a beautiful linen kitchen towel to take the chill off. I then cut the pound of dough into 6 pieces, kneaded them briefly into balls and let them rest for a while, sprinkled with flour and covered with a towel, to allow them to relax and make them easier to stretch. Once the gluten was nice a loose I rolled and stretched each piece into a small circle and let them rest again a few minutes while I thought about the toppings. I had in mind both sweet and savoury pizzas.
You know that pizza does not have to be always savoury, right? Pizza dough is a wonderful base for a variety of sweet toppings and I have developed a little collection of ideas for topping sweet pizza. Apples are good, pears, figs, there are many fruity toppings that are nice on top of a pizza dough. Today it was apples. I had couple of beautiful pink Honeycrisp apples in the fridge beginning to look bored and looking for some action. They didn’t make it into the last fruit salad and were eager to make themselves useful in the kitchen. So for the sweet pizzas I sliced one of those beautiful apples very thinly on a simple mandolin slicer (see kitchen gear). A sprinkling of sugar and a glaze of apricot jam would round up the flavours and make the pizzas glisten. For the savoury pizzas I had fragrant za’atar that I brought from Israel and keep in the freezer. Za’atar is a middle eastern spice blend that adds a lemony-thyme-oregano flavour that is just incomparable. It’s very good with pizza type dough. So that’s one savoury pizza with za’atar. What’s next? I had some nettle in the fridge that I cooked yesterday intending to make a nettle risotto (maybe will get to it today), so I used a few cooked nettle leaves to top one of the savoury pizzas, together with crumbled goat cheese. That should be delicious (I am sure you don’t have nettle laying around, it’s an unusual leaf. Use spinach or kale instead). And for the last pizza I went back to my tried and true standby of roasted pepper and goat cheese. Interesting that I didn’t have to prepare anything from scratch as I had everything, including the roasted peppers already in my fridge. Told ya, it’s good to have certain things in the fridge or pantry. You can put together many good dinners and snack this way. So this is how it went, no major pre-planning except that I always have a full fridge and always have good things in the fridge.
I baked the pizzas in no time and my husband was standing over my shoulder wanting to eat them as I was trying to take a few pictures to post with the recipe. It was dark and cloudy and rainy so the lighting wasn’t that good. I managed a few pictures anyway. I hope you enjoy.
1 lb pizza dough, store bought or homemade (see recipe for quick pizza dough here)
Pizza baking stone (a must for baking good crispy crust pizza)
For apple-apricot pizza:
1 small apple, cut in quarters and thinly sliced
Melted unsalted butter for brushing (2 tablespoons or so)
1/4 cup sugar
For za’atar pizza:
2 tablespoons great flavoured olive oil
1/4 cup za’atar
For the nettle pizza (or use spinach or kale):
2 tablespoons great flavour olive oil
1 cup cooked nettle or other leaves, drained from moisture
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
Micro greens for garnish after baking
For the roasted red pepper pizza:
2 tablespoons great flavour olive oil
1/4 cup pizza sauce (use Williams Sonoma San Marzano pizza sauce, it’s really good)
1 cup roasted red pepper, homemade or from a jar of fire roasted red peppers, drained and cut into pieces
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
A few fresh thyme leaves
Thyme sprigs for garnish after baking
Preheat the oven to about 500℉ if it goes that high, or to your highest setting (trust me, pizza dough needs high heat for best results). Let the oven heat for at least 30 minutes before baking the pizzas.
Either buy or make your own pizza dough. When it is ready divide the dough into about 6 equal pieces and roll each piece into a circle, it doesn’t have to be symmetrical.
Cut baking parchment into squares that each pizza circle can fit on with room on all sides. Lay each pizza circle on a square of parchment. This will make it easier to slide the pizza onto the pizza stone and you can pull out the parchment after a few minutes and leave the dough in direct contact with the stone.
To make the sweet pizza: brush the dough with the melted butter and sprinkle with plenty of sugar. Lay the apple slices over the sugared dough in whatever pattern works for you (concentric design, an overlapping row or rows) leaving a little bit of a rim at the edges. Sprinkle more sugar over the apples and the edges of the dough. Using a flat pizza peel (see Kitchen Gear for the stainless steel version of a wide spatula that I use) lift the pizza with the parchment and slide it onto the hot pizza stone in the oven. After about 3 minutes you can open the oven and remove the parchment by carefully grabbing the end with tongs and pulling it from under the pizza. Be careful not to get burned and don’t do it if you are uncomfortable. The pizza will bake fine on the parchment. Let the pizza cook until puffed and golden, turning it once for even browning (most ovens have a hot spot that will brown the food more on that side). When it is ready slide it out of the oven using the pizza peel or a wide spatula and set on a wire rack to cool before serving.
Brush the dough circle with olive oil including the rim and sides. Sprinkle generously with za’atar. Slide a wide spatula under the parchment and slide onto the hot pizza stone in the oven. Bake until puffed and golden, turning once and removing the parchment if you’d like. When ready slide out of the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
Brush the dough circles with olive oil including rim and sides. Lay a handful of cooked nettle over the dough and crumble goat cheese over the nettle. Add a second layer of nettle and cheese. Slide onto the hot pizza stone and cook until puffed and golden. Turn once throughout the cooking and remove the parchment if you’d like. When done, remove to a wire rack to cool. Before serving sprinkle a few micro greens over the pizza.
Roasted red pepper pizza:
Brush the dough with olive oil including the rim and sides. if you have prepared pizza sauce (I have Williams Sonoma pizza sauce always in my pantry/fridge) then spoon a little over the pizza but if you don’t that’s okay, proceed without it.
Lay the strips of roasted red pepper over the dough, as much or as little as you see fit, and crumble goat cheese over everything. Sprinkle a few fresh thyme leaves over. Bake the pizza on the hot pizza stone until golden, removing the parchment if you’d like and turning the pizza once for even baking. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
See? you did it.