Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pumpkin-Sage Pizza Crust

Been working on this one for a while, and finally seemed to have gotten it right, last night. (It's awesome.) 

FIRST of all, though... A few things I've learned about how to get the most out of almost any homemade pizza crust at home:

1. HOT oven. 500 degrees F.
2. HOT baking stone. If you don't have a baking stone (even though you should), you can also use an over-turned baking sheet. Preheat the stone (or sheet) along with the oven.
3. Oven rack needs to be in the top-third of the oven. For me, that's the second to the highest position.

These steps help you to simulate a wood-fired pizza oven at home. It's not the same as your favorite pizza joint, but it does get a pretty good showing out of your vastly inferior home oven.

Once you've rolled out the dough --on a very well-floured surface, make sure the toppings are all lined up and ready to go. Carefully remove the hot stone or sheet from the oven; lightly fold the crust in half, twice; transfer to the stone or sheet and unfold. QUICKLY brush the top with a little olive oil, then add your toppings and pop it back in the oven for 8-10 minutes.

I topped mine with caramelized shallots, sautéed pears and maple breakfast sausage. Fontina and manchego would have been my cheeses of choice, for a truly spectacular pie, but we had mozzarella and parmesan on hand, and they worked well, too.

To caramelize, I melt a tablespoon of butter in the skillet, add 2 tsp. brown sugar and stir until dissolved, then set the thinly sliced shallots or onions on top and drizzle on some olive oil. Cook over medium-low heat, not stirring or disturbing too frequently, to get a nice, sweet crust. Flip them over once in a while, though, to ensure even browning.

Saute the pears for about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Then set aside to drain on paper towels.

I only needed half the breakfast sausages, so we ate the rest of it with breakfast this morning. The maple flavor with the pears and pumpkin in the crust was perfect. Pizza toppings are pretty personal, though. I highly recommend this one, but any number of things would go especially well the the pumpkin crust. Prosciutto, pine nuts, pesto, apples and brie and spicy sausage...

2 1/4 tsp. yeast, dissolved in 1/4 c. warm water (~120 degrees F)
1 can pumpkin puree
1 TB olive oil +
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 c. fresh, chopped sage
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2 TB honey
5 c. bread flour +

Adjust oven rack to upper third of oven. Preheat oven and baking stone to 500 degrees F.

Dissolve the yeast in warm water, and set aside until foamy; about 10 min. Mix together: can of pumpkin, 1 TB olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper, chopped sage, ground cloves and honey. (This mixture would make an excellent sauce for another pizza, another time.) Add yeast (if it's not foamy, your yeast is probably dead or inactive, and you need to get fresher stuff); mix. Add bread flour 1 c. at a time, mixing until a soft dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto well-floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding flour 1/2 c. at a time as dough sticks to your hands or work-surface, until a slightly tacky, springy dough forms.

This is easily adaptable to a stand mixer. Use the paddle attachment until dough comes away from sides of bowl, then switch to dough hook to knead.

Place dough in a large, greased bowl, turning once to coat. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place, until doubled. About 1 1/2 hours.

Divide dough in half. Roll one half into 12-inch round on well-floured surface, turning over at least once to insure neither side sticks. Carefully remove preheated baking stone from oven. Fold dough in half twice, and transfer to stone; unfold. Brush with olive oil, then add desired toppings.

Bake 8-10 minutes, until outer crust is risen and cheese is browned and bubbly.

Makes 2 12-inch pizza crusts

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