White Pizza with Spinach and Garlic
|March 16, 2011||Posted by Cheeks under Breadmaking, Junk food, Main Course, Vegetarian|
Oh, old friend, how I’ve missed you so.
First “discovered” during a dinner at Piece, our favorite brewery and pizzaria in this fair city, the amazing combination of garlic oil, spinach and sauteed mushrooms on crisp, airy dough has become a mythological goddess to us, guiding me through the hallowed woods of pizza making and, hopefully, leading me through to the other side.
Those of you who read about the Sicilian Pizza got more than an earful about ways to make pizza, ways not to make pizza, and much more pizza opinion than any one person should have. I’m not opening that can of tomatoes today, but instead sharing with you a few things I find essential for making this kind of pizza – hand-tossed, thin-crust, new haven-style, or whatever you want to call it. The kind where the dough has a crisp edge, chewy interior, and puffy spots scattered throughout. Strong enough to be held by the edge and not need a fold.
First, start with a good dough. I have a few recipes I’m toying with (Peter Reinharts‘; Cooks Illustrated’s NYC pie) that I really like a lot – but they take a lot of work, too. Usually, I use a more basic version (below) or the even easier Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day way, which requires some extra needing and resting but I have gotten to work well for me. You don’t want to make dough? Buy it – from an Italian grocery, Trader Joe’s, or even your local pizza joint – just, PLEASE, not a Pillsbury cannister.
If using store-bought dough , take the dough out of the fridge at least an hour before you want to bake the pizza to let it come up to room temp. It will relax the dough and make it easier to stretch. I like to lightly flour the counter and knead it a few times, pull the ends around and under to form a ball, then let it rest until I’m ready to stretch it. If using homemade dough, you’ll be ready to go once the dough has completed its initial rise.
Either way, use the time while the dough is resting/rising to get all the other ingredients ready and to preheat an oven with a pizza stone in it nice and hot. No, you don’t have to use a pizza stone, but using one instead of baking on a pan makes all the difference in the world. It is essential if you want great pizza of this style – nothing (NOTHING) can get the crust as crisp. Plus, you’ll never feel cooler than when you successfully toss-then-jerk a cornmeal-dusted uncooked pizza from your peel (or rimless cookie sheet) onto a piping hot stone. Trust.
White Pizza with Spinach
- 1 lb pizza dough (homemade, preferably, or from your local Italian market)
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 4 oz mushrooms, washed and sliced
- 1 cup frozen chopped spinach
- 1/2 cup cooked, shredded chicken (optional)
- 1/2 cup aged pecorino romano cheese, grated
- 1 1/2 cups whole-milk mozzarella, grated
Place pizza stone on top oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees for a good 20 minutes. Sprinkle flour and cornmeal on a pizza peel or a rimless cookie sheet.
In a small skillet, heat the olive oil and garlic together over low heat for 5 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant and beginning to brown (if the garlic burns or gets overly brown, toss it all and start over). Pour off into a small bowl, return skillet to heat, and increase heat to medium-high. Add mushrooms, season, and saute 3-4 minutes until they begin giving off their water. Add spinach (no need to defrost) and cook another 4-5 minutes or until the veggies have given up most of their liquid.
Shape the pizza dough into a 14″ to 16″ round, first patting in out on a floured counter using your fingers, then picking it up, laying over the knuckles of loose fists, and using the dough’s weight to gently (GENTLY!) stretch it further. Use enough flour to prevent sticking, but not so much to completely coat the dough. If you have trouble getting the dough to stretch, let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. Place pizza dough onto prepared cookie sheet.
Pour garlic oil evenly over crust, spreading to within 1/2″ of edges. Sprinkle pecorino romano and half of mozzerella over the oil. Top with vegetable mixture (and chicken if using), then remaining mozzerella.
Using a fast, forward-then-back jerking motion, transfer pizza from peel to hot pizza stone in oven. Bake 8-12 minutes (checking every minute after 7) or until crust is golden and bubbled and cheese is evenly browned. (Alternately, bake pizza on a thin pizza pan – shape and top on pan, don’t worry about tossing. Baking on a pan takes a few minutes longer to get crust done, and it won’t get as crisp.)
Allow to cool on stone/pan for several minutes before slicing and serving.
Easy Thin-Crust Pizza Dough
The thing with dough is…it’s tempermental. Humid days, it can be stickier than all get out. Dry winter days, you might need to add more water to get it moist. I usually do this by “feel” not measurement – once again underscoring why I’m not a very good baker.
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 package instant yeast
- 3/2 to 3/4 cup warm water
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp honey or sugar
In the bowl of a stand mixer, use dough hook to mix flour, salt and yeast (and sugar, if you aren’t using honey) together. Add water, olive oil, and honey, and mix on medium speed until the dough comes together in a ball and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Add more flour/water as necessary – the dough will stick to the bottom but not the sides. It should not be overly wet or shaggy, but not to dry/floury/stiff either.
Allow the mixer to run for 5-7 minutes to knead the dough and develop the gluten. After this is complete, form the dough into a ball by pulling edges under. Place into mixer bowl (no need to wash), drizzle with olive oil, and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for at least an hour, or until doubled in size. Punch down and proceed.