Sometimes you happen upon a dish that is so perfect, so soul satisfying, that to change the recipe seems like a crime.
This is how I feel about cheese pizza – the classic mozzarella and tomato sauce combination is such a perfect marriage of flavors that I’ve rarely been tempted to stray from the classic. So while I’ve been making my own pizza for years (one of those things that is very impressive to say, but is actually very easy to do), they’ve all been of pizza margarita variety.
But ever since The New York Times did a series on healthier pizzas that featured toppings like potatoes, arugula, and walnuts, I’ve been wanting to branch out with my pizza toppings. I didn’t actually want to try their recipes – I don’t want whole wheat flour in my pizza dough, thank you very much – but I was inspired to experiment with flavor combinations of my own.
My chance came this weekend, when I had a couple of hours to kill and several unused food items sitting in my fridge. For the dough, I use Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe from The Bread Bible. People area always incredibly impressed when I say I make my own pizza dough, but they really shouldn’t be. Beranbaum’s recipe should be renamed “pizza for the lazy;” it requires no kneading and rises in less than two hours. The dough bakes up slightly chewy, with a crisp crust that is a wonderful foil for any topping you could imagine.
This time around, I topped my pizza with items that were sitting in my fridge and needed to be used up: spinach, goat cheese, and eggs. I’ve been wanting to try eggs on pizza ever since I read about it on The Kitchen, and it is absolute genius. The slightly runny, savory eggs, the tart cheese, and bitter spinach, were a wonderful combination of flavors, and their soft textures were a lovely contrast to the crisp, chewy dough.
So the next time you have some random ingredients sitting in your fridge that need to be used, look no further than pizza. You may find a new pizza you like as much, or even more, than the classic cheese variety.
Spinach, Goat Cheese and Egg Pizza
Pizza dough recipe from The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour (4 ounces), preferably unbleached all-purpose or Italian-style
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 liquid cup water at room temperature (70 to 90 degrees)
4 tsp. olive oil
Approximately 2 cups spinach leaves, washed and ready to use
2 oz goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, instant yeast, and sugar. Whisk in the salt (this keeps the yeast from coming into direct contact with the salt, which would kill it).
2. Make a well in the center and pour in the water. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, gradually stir the flour into the water until all the flour is moistened and a dough just begins to form, about 20 seconds. It should come away from the bowl but still stick to it a little, and be a little rough-looking, not silky smooth. Do not overmix, as this will cause the dough to become stickier.
3. Pour the oil into a 2-cup measuring cup (to give the dough room to double in size) or a small bowl. With oiled fingers or an oiled spatula, place the dough in the oiled cup and turn it over to coat on all sides with the oil. Cover it tightly. If you want to use the dough soon, allow it to sit at room temperature for 1 hour or until doubled. For the best flavor development, make the dough at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours ahead, and allow it to sit at room temperature for only 30 minutes or until slightly puffy. Then set the dough, still in the measuring cup, in the refrigerator. Remove it 1 hour before you want to put it in the oven.
4. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees 1 hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone on it before preheating.
5. With oiled fingers, lift the dough out of the measuring cup or bowl. Holding the dough in one hand, pour a little of the oil left in the cup or bowl onto the pizza pan, and spread it all over the pan with your fingers. Set the dough on the pan and press it down with your fingers to deflate it gently. Shape it into a smooth round by tucking under the edges. If there are any holes, knead it very lightly until smooth. Allow the dough to sit for 15 minutes, covered, to relax it.
6. Using your fingertips, press the dough from the center to the outer edge to stretch it into a 10-inch circle, leaving the outer ½ inch thicker than the rest to form a lip. If the dough resists stretching (as will happen if you have activated the gluten by overkneading it), cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for a few minutes longer before proceeding.
7. Brush the surface of the dough with any remaining olive oil. Cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to sit for 30 to 45 minutes, until it becomes light and slightly puffy with air.
8. . Set the pizza pan directly on the hot stone and bake for 5 minutes.
9. Remove the pan from the oven and spread toppings (in this case, goat cheese and spinach, salt, pepper, and eggs, which you crack directly on to the dough) over the dough. Return the pan to the stone for 5-10 minutes or until the toppings have melted (and the eggs are set) and the crust is golden; or, for an extra-crisp and browned bottom crust, using a pancake turner or baker’s peel, slide the pizza from the pan directly onto the stone. After 2 minutes, slip a small metal spatula under one edge of the pizza; if the bottom is golden, raise the pizza to a higher shelf.
10. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and cut with a pizza wheel, sharp knife, or scissors. Serve hot.