Friday, May 23, 2008

Pizza revisited

Even long after I feel I have completely mastered a recipe or particular cooking method I still find that I continue to ponder and plot ways to make the dish even tastier. My beloved tofu and bell pepper recipe for instance is one that I am constantly tinkering with adding different spices and peppers, noting how they impact the dish (for better or worse), and making notes for future preparations of it. Pizza is another thing I am constantly playing around with and trying to improve upon. As delicious as my pizza creations have been there was one particular thing that I had not yet attempted to replicate that was leaving a void in my pizza loving heart.

Honey whole wheat crust

As a bread lover the crust has always been one of my most favorite parts of a pizza. You know those people that eat pizza and at the end of the meal have a plate full of crusts? As a child I was the exact opposite of that. In fact when I was a little one it was not uncommon for me to pull all the toppings off of the pizza and just eat the crust. Growing up we always had whole wheat breads around the house so I developed a taste for wheaty baked goods from an early age. Naturally, one of my favorite types of pizza crusts was made with the same ingredients, hearty grains, whole wheat and a touch of honey.

Making a dish that must be wheat free taste like something called honey wheat at first seemed like an impossible task but you know me I am always up for a challenge in the kitchen. So after a few days of pizza contemplation I came up with a plan which yielded this delicious recipe that has most definitely filled that sweet wheat crust pizza void in my heart.

Greek pizza with sweet “wheat” crust

For the crust

1 Cheebe all purpose baking flour pack (made with 1 egg and 1 egg white)
1 ½ tablespoons maple syrup or honey

For the toppings

A dollop of olive oil
1 package frozen spinach, thawed a smidge
2 teaspoons fennel, ground
salt and pepper to taste
1 can or jar of pizza sauce
¾ cup low fat ricotta cheese
¾ cup feta cheese, crumbled
3 or 4 chopped tomatoes, guts removed
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped

Preparing the crust

Following the Cheebe directions for ingredients prepare your dough (I always use 1 egg and 1 egg white instead of 2 whole eggs). When you are at the stage where you add the milk or milk substitute add in the 2 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey as well. Once the dough is mixed and kneaded roll out into a pizza shape, prick with a fork and put onto a pizza pan that has holes in the bottom to bake for 20 minutes.

*I have found that this holey pan is the key to getting a firmer, crisper crust with the Cheebe dough.

Preparing the spinach

While the dough is having its first round in the oven you can prepare your toppings. Put some olive oil in a pan and heat over medium high. Once the pan is hot add your thawed spinach. Cook until spinach breaks down, about 5 minutes. Add to this your ground fennel, stir and then season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for another few minutes and then turn off the heat and let cool for a minute or two. Take some paper towels and press them upon the spinach to absorb some of the liquid that has drained from the spinach. You may need to do this a second time with a change of towels as you want most of the liquid to be drained from the spinach.

Topping the pie

By the time the spinach is ready your dough should have finished its first round of cooking. Swirl the top of your pizza crust with the tomato sauce (use as much or as little as your heart desires) and then sprinkle your spinach evenly atop the sauce. Next speckle the pizza with little dollops of ricotta cheese and then complete your decorating with a generous sprinkling of crumbled feta. Pop this in the oven for another 10 minutes.

Tomato topping

While the pizza is on its last round of cooking you can prep the tomato topping. Chop and remove the guts of the tomatoes cutting the meaty parts into bite sized pieces. Add to this the chopped mint and stir until combined.

Finishing touches

Once the pizza is done baking turn the broiler on low and cook the top of the pizza for 1 or 2 minutes, just to give the ricotta a slight golden hue. After slicing the pizza and plating it serve with a generous portion of the mint and tomato mixture on top of each slice.

This sweet, crispy crust is my favorite one yet! The toppings are equally delicious too, so much in fact that even a crust lover like me would not dare to scrap the toppings off of this pizza. If by chance I was dining with a crust hater I might though be inclined to offer to help them clear their plates of any unwanted bready bits!

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