A week or so ago, I found an unforgettable recipe for pizzettas (little pizzas). The crust, when perfectly baked, is edible gold with enough spring and chew beneath a thin but lustful crispness. As far as pizza goes, I enjoy a slice or two now and then, but homemade pizza sprinkled with crumbly blue cheese, ripe pears, walnuts, fresh thyme and chives, is something truly meant for the gods, or more specifically Bacchus (known as the god of fruitfulness, wine, and intoxication in Roman mythology). I think he would also dig into a pizza topped with butternut squash, blue cheese, gruyere cheese, garlic, and fried sage leaves with equal abandon.
I set to work making the dough. This was before I checked the kitchen supply for blue or gruyere cheese, pears, and chives, none of which were available, except for the walnuts stashed away in the freezer and the package of fresh thyme hidden inside the cheese drawer.
Right in the middle of kneading, I decided to save the blue cheese versions for another time and to use whatever vegetables, fruit, and cheese on hand.
Found pizza toppings:
eight ounces plain goat cheese
a hunk of Parmesan cheese
meltable vegan mozzarella cheese (for my son, L, who is lactose intolerant)
three red onions
two cooked sweet potatoes
three roasted red beets (sliced and bathed in olive oil, salt, and pepper)
a bunch of swiss chard
pure maple syrup
one sauteed celery root
one jonagold apple
turned into four pizzettas seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon or balsamic vinegar:
beet, swiss chard, walnut, and goat cheese pizzetta (tossed in a maple syrup vinaigrette)
sweet potato and vegan mozzarella pizzetta (for L)
The least unadorned caramelized onion and cheese, was the favorite by far. I think Bacchus would still approve, if nothing else, he could pick off all the toppings and sop the crust in a glass of wine.
What’s in your refrigerator right now that could top this mythic pizza dough?
Mythic Pizza Dough
adapted from Laura Werlin’s Cheese Essentials: An Insider’s Guide to Buying and Serving Cheese by Laura Werlin
Yield dough for 4 pizzettas
1 packet (.25-ounce) dry active yeast
1 tablespoon cane sugar
1 1/4 cups soy milk
3 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
To make the dough, Oil a large bowl; set aside. Fit a stand mixer with a dough hook. Place the yeast and sugar in the mixing bowl. Heat the milk just until it begins to feel warm (it should feel like warm bath water). Add the milk to the yeast mixture, stir, and let proof until very foamy, about 10 minutes. Add 3 cups flour, salt, and oil, and mix until the dough forms a very loose ball around the hook, about 5 minutes. The dough should be soft but not too sticky. If necessary, add more flour until the dough is a little tighter, keeping in mind that you want to do this slowly so that the dough does not get tough. It should form around the hook loosely with about 3/4 of the dough wrapped around the hook and the rest on the bottom of the bowl.
Knead the dough in the mixer for 5 minutes. Transfer tot he prepared bowl. Turn the dough to coat with oil and cover with plastic wrap or a thin towel. Let rise for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper sprinkle liberally with flour. Punch the dough down and divide it into four 8-ounce balls. Place the balls of dough on the baking sheet, wrap in plastic wrap, and let proof in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
(If you don’t plan to use the dough at once, you can freeze the balls of dough after you shape them. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator to thaw and rise).
To make the pizza, preheat the oven to 500 F. Put a pizza stone in the oven if you have one or use a baking sheet.
Roll each ball of dough into an 8-inch round. Lay them on a baking sheet or floured baking peel. Distribute your favorite toppings evenly on each round. Brush the edges of the crust with olive oil.
If using a pizza stone and baking peel: Put the pizzettas on the peel and slide them onto the pizza stone. Cook for 8 minutes or until the dough is golden and the cheese begins to look creamy.
If you are not using a stone and peel, put the pizzettas on a baking sheet but cook them about 2 to 3 minutes longer.
Remove from the oven and garnish with fresh herbs. Serve right away.