Mushroom pizza

January 25, 2010

When I make pizza at home, I generally use a different recipe each time. None of them have been bad, I just haven’t found a definitive version yet; they’re always just a little bit too bready, too doughy. And I don’t mind that, I mean I like bread – even more with tasty things grilled on top –  and I don’t really expect to replicate the perfect authentic Italian pizza in a grimy domestic oven. But I still can’t resist trying new dough recipes, just in case. Add the fact that I got a pizza stone for Christmas, and I had the perfect excuse to make the Greens pizza last night.

I don’t know if it was the pizza stone, or this recipe, or more likely both, but let me tell you – this pizza was outrageously delicious. The base was soft in the middle and crisp at the edges, as it should be, even though I didn’t stretch it thin enough. And on top, an intense tangle of garlicky mushrooms, both fresh chestnut mushrooms and dried wild mushrooms for a deeper, fuller mushroom flavour, then bright  lemon thyme and soft, milky mozzarella (sorry, I just went a bit Gregg Wallace there). This is what mushrooms on toast aspires to in its wildest dreams.

I modified the recipe for the topping slightly to omit the jack and dry jack cheese called for – I didn’t think I’d be able to find those easily in the UK, and also I think that mozzarella is the most common pizza cheese for a reason. Mozzarella is just right on pizza. I got mine from the Moroccan deli, oddly enough – I didn’t know Moroccan people ate a lot of mozzarella, but I guess everyone likes pizza. I got a bit carried away while I was there, as I always do – giant tubs of halva! Black mountain honey! Fresh feta! – and I couldn’t resist buying some clementines with their shiny green leaves still attached and lemons in cute little dinosaur wrapping paper.

I aspire to having go-to recipes, standards that I can pull out whenever I feel like making a certain thing and know that they will turn out exactly as I want. I think that this may well become my go-to recipe for pizza (well, at least until the next one comes along).

Mushroom pizza  Makes 2 10-inch pizzas

For the dough, you can use all white flour or a mixture of white, whole wheat and rye. This gives texture and flavour, according to the recipe notes. I’d just used up the last of my rye flour, so I substituted more whole wheat flour for the rye. I should also mention that the original topping recipe included leeks, which I wasn’t about to go out and buy, so I left them out. If you want to use them, you’ll need 4 medium leeks for 2 people (!) Saute them until soft and add them on first when you dress the pizza.

For the pizza dough:
6 tbsp hot water
6 tbsp milk
2 x 7g packets instant yeast
large pinch of sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp rye flour
4 tbsp whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat bread flour)
210g plain white flour

Combine the water and milk. The mixture should be about body temperature, so you’ll need the water to be fairly hot if the milk’s come straight from the fridge. Add the yeast and sugar and give it a good stir. Mix in the olive oil, salt, and rye/whole wheat flour, if using, then gradually add the white flour, stirring to combine into a soft dough. It should remain moist, so you may not need all of the white flour.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until it’s pliable and no longer sticking to the surface. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, 40 minutes to 1 hour. I turned on the oven for a few minutes and then put the dough in the switched off oven, with a loaf tin full of just-boiled water to keep the temperature up.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to its highest setting, about 250c. Heat the pizza stone if you have one. You’ll need to heat the oven for about 20 minutes to get it good and hot – if you have an oven thermometer, check on that.

To shape the pizzas, separate the dough into two balls and then roll them each out into a circle on a well floured surface. Caution! Don’t do what I did and make them look all pretty on an inadequately floured surface and then have to pull them apart and squidge them back together getting it into the oven. I think the best thing is to flour something that you can lift and slide the pizza from, like some foil or a tray, and shape them on that. The pizzas should only be about 1/8 inch thick. You can pick them up and stretch them with your hands to get them thinner.

Cover the dough with the topping:

For the topping:
30g dried wild mushrooms (usually a whole pack)
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
200g fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced (the recipe called for  twice this many mushrooms, but I think what we had was plenty)
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
about 2 tbsp fresh herbs (I used parsley and lemon thyme, but use any herb you’d want to eat with mushrooms)
4 tbsp white wine or water (optional)
1/2 ball mozzarella

Pour boiling water over the dried mushrooms, just to cover, and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Lift them out and squeeze dry, reserving the straining juices.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute the dried mushrooms over high heat for 1 minute. Add the fresh mushrooms and 1/2 tsp salt and continue cooking until soft and juicy. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more, until the mushrooms are done. Season with pepper and more salt if needed. Add half the herbs. Remove the mushrooms from the pan with a slotted spoon.

Now, the recipe directs you to make a syrupy reduction with the reserved mushroom juices and the white wine. The idea is that you’re left with a tablespoon or two of sauce which you drizzle over the pizza at the end. However, I’m not sure I’d do this again – mushrooms are already a fairly wet vegetable and the middle of the pizza ended up slightly soggy. It didn’t ruin it, by any means, I’m just not sure it’s worth the effort.

Cover the prepared pizza base with two-thirds of the cheese, the mushrooms, and then the rest of the cheese. Slide it into the top third of the oven, onto the pizza stone if using, and bake for 8-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter with the rest of the herbs before serving.

Adapted from Deborah Madison’s ‘The Greens Cook Book’.

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