What happens in our kitchen owes as much to happenstance as deliberate intention and sometimes the alignment of culinary planets all but makes a certain dish inevitable. Baby arugula arrived from Allendale Farms last week; Ben, the go-to guy for mushrooms for Rialto, came into a batch of fresh porcini. Jody and her staff paid a visit to Valley View Farm in Topsfield, Massachusetts for a close look at how artisanal goat cheese is made (and came home with lots of chevre). And finally [cue trumpet flourish] my new Baking Steel arrived. Let’s see: great ingredients + Baking Steel (the industrial steel world’s answer to a pizza stone). Was there really any choice other than to make Pizza with a Porcini Salad?
Of course portabellos or another favorite funghi will do a great job and a pizza stone will serve in place of a Baking Steel. A pie baked with shaved porcini would have been a joy to photograph, but that meant dragging in a tomato sauce recipe and if we were already inviting you to make your own pizza dough it all seemed a bit much in the middle of some very hot weather, so we decided to use the porcini raw. Also, fresh porcini have a delicate fruity flavor that plays in the piccolo section of the pantry orchestra, while dried porcini sit somewhere down with the bassoons. The latter help anchor dishes, lend them depth, whereas fresh porcini are a flowery grace note that is easily eclipsed in the face of heavier ingredients. Why take a chance? Better to bake a pizza with an interesting cheese mixture, then toss a handful of dressed arugula and mushrooms on top. Pizza with salad on top is no longer the revelation it once was, but if you haven’t tried it yet, here’s your opportunity to add a lighter alternative to your repertoire. Arugula and frisée make particularly good choices for the salad since their bitterness cuts through the richness of the baked topping.
We have several good pizza dough recipes, but pizza is too improvisational to settle on one dough recipe and call it a day. Like bread, it invites tinkering. The single shared principle in all of our pizza dough recipes is that we make the dough the a day ahead and let it rise overnight in the refridgerator. Retarding the development of the dough results in a much more complex flavor than that of dough made in a few hours. But beyond that basic premise, everything is up for grabs. More cornmeal? Whole wheat? To knead or to fold, or do neither? We go through phases. If you’ve had a bad day nothing beats throwing together a pizza dough and thumping the bejeezus out of it before putting it in the fridge for a slow rise overnight. If on the other hand, you’re pressed for prep time Jim Lahey’s pacific no-knead pizza will ultimately accomplish the same thing, if over a slightly longer time. Either approach will serve, resulting in a chewy crust if you don’t rush the process.
If you’re happy with your own pizza dough, don’t bother with all this. But if you haven’t tasted a slow-rise dough before…
About that Baking Steel.* You can read about it in a Boston Globe article, as I first did,or you can go to the Baking Steel website for the whole story. We weren’t doing side-by-side comparisons with our usual Hearthstone bread stone, but my impression is that pizza cooks faster on the Baking Steel, about 7 minutes vs 10 or more for a pizza stone. Second and third pizzas cooked almost as fast (no pause between the first and second; five minute pause before we added the third). Some reviewers have taken note of the Baking Steel’s weight, and rightly so. Lifting a 15-pound baking sheet, especially with one hand, can be cumbersome, and you probably won’t want to move it at all once it’s hot. If you suffer from tennis elbow, don’t even think about getting this. Weight aside, I thought it made a terrific, charred pizza and I can’t wait to try baking a sourdough loaf on it. The Baking Steel website includes a link to a Cooks Illustrated reviews, suggesting that most people will be quite happy with ordinary pizza stones. It goes on to describe the Baking Steel as appropriate for the “avid pizza baker seeking to emulate the violent heat of a professional pizza oven.” That’s just how my friends think of me – an avid and violent guy. Enjoy. Ken
*All the usual yada-yada about not being solicited, promised the vacation of a lifetime in Naples or compensated in any way, etc. apply.
GOAT CHEESE PIZZA WITH PORCINI SALAD
Makes 4 pizzas, roughly 8 -10 inches across
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- ¾ cup tepid water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons cornmeal
- 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
- 1 cup unbleached bread flour
- ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour + additional for kneading if needed
- 1 pound soft fresh goat cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic, we used very young fresh garlic
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Salad and Garnish Ingredients:
- 4 ounces fresh porcini or portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 scallion, very thinly sliced, about ¼cup
- 2 cups arugula
- 2 ounces shaved goat’s milk tomme (or any other aged mild goat cheese with a medium texture)
- 4 teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
- In the bowl of the standing mixer, dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup of the water. It should bubble within a few minutes. If it doesn’t bubble, the yeast is old. Use yeast from a new package.
- Add the remaining water, salt and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Whisk together. Add the cornmeal and whole wheat flour and using the dough hook, mix to combine well. Add the bread flour and ½ cup of the all-purpose flour. At this point it will look like a rough shaggy mass (see dough hook photo). If you want to knead it by hand, now is the time to start. Knead in the standing mixer 5 minutes, adding more flour as needed to enable it to release from the sides of the bowl into a single sticky mass. The dough will gradually become smooth, but should reamins a bit tacky. Remove from the mixer and form into a ball.
- Put 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a glass bowl. Roll the dough ball in the oil until coated all over. Put a mark on the outside of the bowl to measure the height of the un-risen dough. This will help you later to determine if the dough has doubled during rising. Cover with plastic and let rise overnight (12 to 16 hours) in the refrigerator. Remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature and finish rising (remember that mark?). This may take up to 6 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 550° or as hot as it gets. Just to be clear, if this is your first time making pizza: your pizza stone or Baking Steel should be in the oven so it preheats as well.
- Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll into tight balls. Roll them in a little olive oil to coat, cover with plastic or a towel and allow to proof for 20 minutes. The dough will expand a bit more as well as relax, enabling you to stretch it out.
- Make the cheese topping. Mix the oregano and garlic into the soft goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
- Press a dough ball flat with your palm on a lightly floured surface. Starting at the center of the disk, use your fingertips to stretch the dough, working outward to form an oval about 6″ by 10″. Try to maintain an even thickness as you work. Leave the dough a little thicker around the edge to form a rim. Sprinkle a pizza peel or baking sheet with cornmeal to prevent the dough from sticking. Set the dough circle on the peel. Use ¼ of the cheese and drop it in spoonfuls evenly over the pizza, but not covering the edge.
- Slide the pizza from the peel onto the preheated stone or Baking Steel. Bake 7 minutes. The crust should be nice and crisp and golden brown. Transfer from the oven to a wire rack. Brush the edges with olive oil, and keep warm. As one pizza is cooking, prepare the next.
- Combine the mushrooms, scallions and arugula in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle over the pizzas. Top with shaved cheese and drizzle with the aged balsamic vinegar.
A few weeks ago a team from Rialto took a guerrilla grilling trip to Topsfield to visit Peter and Liz Mulholland at their Valley View Farm. They have Nubian goats and make goat cheese. Fabulous goat cheese. The milk has a mild clean flavor, as does the fresh cheese. Their aged goat cheese in the style of a Tomme has a bit of a tang. So when Ken suggested we do pizza on his new Baking Steel, goat cheese pizza seemed to be just the thing. And back at the ranch in the Rialto kitchen, Sous Chef Peter McKenzie had some porcini from Ben the mushroom man. I didn’t really have to make any decisions, it all came together seamlessly. I did decide after I tasted the pizza that it needed a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.
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looks amazing… and I love the pics.
Thank you, Fanny. I went to school in Fribourg. :-) Ken
Cool. It’s a nice student town and perfect place for a fondue ;)
You’ve made me really want to make my own pizza for lunch now. Looks divine and adore all the ingredients. Never come across Baking Steel, but makes sense. They said delivery free – I wonder if that includes to the UK ;o). Great post. Best Torie
I think the only way of getting one is online. I’ve never seen one in a culinary equipment store. Good luck. They are fun. Ken
Do you mean “The one common principal in our recipes…” or “common principle”?
Good, yummy post either way! See you soon!
Patrick R. Ramage (Thoughtfully but hastily typed on his iPhone 5. Apologies!)
Principle, not principal. Thanks for catching that. I do know the difference, but my merry-go-round brain is always too distracted by other horses to pay needed attention to the one I’m riding. Ken
Hmmm. I’ll have to try that overnight raised pizza dough. And the pizza steel. . . ahh, maybe we need to try that, too. Always wishing my pizza dough was as wonderful as the pizzeria up the hill from us.
Hi, Donna–How’s life in the Pacific? Palawan Pizza–I like the sound of that. The baking steel is a treat, but your pizza will definitely improve if you just use a stone. On the other hand, if you’re making dough from scratch, letting it rise for a couple of hours, and then using it, you owe it to yourself to at least trying slowing it down, even if you don’t change your recipe. Make it before you go to bed, throw it in the fridge and then use it the next day. I guarantee that if you let it rise slowly it will be a transformative experience in taste and texture. Ken
We’re in San Diego now for awhile. Yep, I priced the steel, and think maybe we’ll go with a stone first! I’m tempted to get a job at the Italian place up the hill just to learn their recipes. In the meantime, I’ll take your word for it, and try slowing down the dough’s rising.
I’m always tinkering with pizza dough, but I agree, the overnight method is the best. Sometimes it sits in the fridge for days at a time, and it still seems to work out. I’m intrigued by the pizza steel, but I’m de-quiring right now, so you’ll have to invite me over to see yours in action :) Nice writing and photos, Ken, and the new blog design looks great!
Low and slow is the way to go (thank you, Chris Schlesinger). I’ve never left it in the fridge for days and then tried to resurrect it, but I am tempted to make some and instead of letting them rise, simply freezing them to see what happens. Glad you like the new blog design. Pity many of my previous posts didn’t. :-) Ken
And I thought I was the only one who had to turn down trips to Naples in order to honor my solicitation-free spirit. ;P
This pizza looks great. I don’t usually go in for pizza without a tomato sauce base (mine always taste too dry), but that balsamic vinegar drizzle might be the way to go to convert me.
I’m not going to trumpet my moral purity since we may soon be accepting ads, if WP isn’t already posting them. Regarding the tomato-less pizza, a salad with sharp green makes an incredible difference. It’s its own kind of comfort combination, the opposite end of the spectrum from tomatoes, but comforting nevertheless. I really like frisée with salty stuff like ham or prosciutto, which makes sense when you think of frisée salad with lardons. Ken
yum! yum! I love the picture of the two ladies holding the goats. I love your blog!!! I know I haven’t ever said this before- thank you so much for all the great things you share.
You’re so sweet! We enjoy sharing. We’ve actually developed a thing for things goatish, especially goat’s milk butter, which is great on toast in the morning. There is, we’ve found, a distinct difference in goat’s milk products from different farms. Not all of them are entirely successful, but Valley View really does make lovely stuff. Opening one of their tommes when you’re alone in the house with good dark bread and bottle of Rhone wine is risky business. Ken
Mmmm sounds delightful. I wish I was able to be on the East Coast
“…fresh porcini have a delicate fruity flavor that plays in the piccolo section of the pantry orchestra, while dried porcini sit somewhere down with the bassoons” – I demand that this be inscribed in stone somewhere. The photos of the dough – that’s art. Amazing, wondrous recipe. All too much for me, I now need to have a little lie down. Sophie
Oh, no, have I given you the vapors? Not so amazing, but thank you anyway. Tough to beat a slow-risen dough, especially with porcini nearby, and we’ll definitely be using the baking steel in the future. I’ll keep you posted on how it does with bread. Ken
Your recommendation of Honey from a Weed was perfect, by the way. Such a great book. And your lavender-infused olive oil went down very well. Thank you.
So is there an advantage to using a steel over a stone to bake your pizza, or bread?
I haven’t tried a loaf of bread yet, but I do like the steel (thus far) over a stone for pizza. We really need to put it though a few more test runs, then go back to the stone and see how things compare. I can imagine a potential disadvantage with bread–the bottom crust gets dark before the middle finishes. But that’s just speculation. I really need to do a test. Ken
Fein, dokumentiert, genau meine Favorit Zutaten. Der Sommer kann kommen …
Ich bin froh, dass es euch gefallen hat. Ken
les photos sont si jolies que ça me donne vraiment faim ! ;) j’adore le fromage de chèvre, en plus !
Ah bon! (Mais, je m’excuse au même temps.) Je t’assure–le type qui a pris les photos a bien mangé apres. :-) Ken
Oh, good lord, Ken, now we have to buy ANOTHER utensil that we have no room for!? :) Your pizzas look terrific, by the way. I’m thankful that it’s pizza night here. Otherwise, I’d be really craving it now.
You are going to order the porcini with arugula to go, right? Ken
I could not agree more about the role of happenstance in the kitchen. Only recently, after weeks of no luck seeking ramps at the farmers market, did I find them at my fish monger’s. I couldn’t believe it! Just last week, while I was in that market, someone asked if they still had porcini. I was dumbstruck. He was told they were sold out but that more were expected. When I called earlier this week the owner came to the phone with the bad news. No more porcini for the season. Even so, guess where I’ll be next Spring.
Your pizza sounds wonderful. I’ve never heard of Baking Steel before and I’m going to check it. Thanks for both the recipes and the Baking Steel heads-up.
What a drag about the porcini. They’re a rare treat, at least in our household. Check out the Baking Steel–I think you’re the avid and violent type who’d appreciate it. :-) Ken
So, your opinion. baking steel or pizza stone?
Baking steel, but as I said, I haven’t tried it on bread yet. I also haven’t had a chance to see if it fits in my Big Green Egg. Ken
I love the idea of making homemade pizza from scratch. But have always been hesitant because of using a conventional oven and not having a pizza stone. Love the recipe, and a baking tray seems to do the trick! -Veronica
You work with what you’ve got. I have a weakness for gear. A pizza stone is very helpful, but a slow-rise dough is even more important. You might not get the same “rustica” effect w/out a stone (although you might, especially if you dusted the baking sheet and heated it in the oven and then slid the pizza on top of it when it was hot) but it will still taste good. Ken
Your new visual layout is outstanding! So enticing and the food, well the food…….what can I say? Stupendous~
Thank you, Cindy. Kind of like going to the drive-in–just a windshield and big screen–isn’t it? It’s fun. Ken
Wow, this looks delicious! I bet it is also fun to make. I will have to try this some time. Also, fantastic blog imagery & layout; wonderfully composed*
Thanks, Ave (not sure that’s right). It is fun. Glad you like the layout and photos. Come back again sometime. Ken
I love making homemade pizza – the possibliities are endless! Of course I love to make them on the grill in the summertime. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Baking Steel – it’s something I’ve been interested to know more about and now may have to get one myself! Great recipe and photos, as always!
Hi, Lola–Funny you should mention the grill technique. One of the courses at our team dinner on Saturday night was grilled pizza (preceded by grilled oysters, and followed by grilled bluefish). I haven’t tried the baking steel on the grill yet, but it’s going to happen. Ken
Great photos, Ken. Love the detailed description of how to make the dough, I’ll have to give your method a try next time we make homemade ZA.
Thanks, Steve. My own experience is that regardless of instructions I have to fail at a particular bread dough two or three times before it clicks. Maybe the pics will help. Ken