It’s not a secret that I have a dislike for baking. I don’t really care to bake because it is scientific and requires precise measurements, and if you mess something up you need to start over. In cooking, if something goes awry, chances are the recipe can be salvaged. Unless of course if it’s in flames (and it’s not supposed to be). That would be bad.
A few weeks ago I went to North Dakota to visit my eldest daughter, Sami, and her family. While there I got to care for and cuddle my three adorable grandchildren, all girls ages five, two and three months. They are sweet and kind to each other, and absolutely beautiful. I wanted to be the perfect grandma and offered to watch the girls while Sami and her husband, Brad, were at work. After the first day, I had a whole new respect for Sami. Not only was she a wife and mother to three babies, she also worked full time. When she got home after work, I was so relieved and impressed: she immediately went to the kitchen and started dinner. I was so exhausted I would have ordered pizza. Not Sami, she’s a budget-minded mom and she loves to cook. I am so proud.
By day three the girls and I were getting into a pattern and things were going smoothly. We had our breakfast, played some and watched every Tinkerbell movie available on Netflix. It was glorious.
When I arrived in North Dakota one of the first things Sami said to me was, “I have leeks. What do I do with them?” The first thing that came to mind was the leeky goat pizza Beau Schooler from The Rookery makes. He was the chef at a different restaurant when I first had the Leeky Goat, but that pizza made an everlasting impression in my culinary mind. I explained to her the primary concept and we made plans to have it for dinner later that week.
Sami and I hit the grocery store to get pizza ingredients and I inquired if there was a local pizzeria where we could acquire some pizza dough. She scoffed at me. Yes, literally scoffed at me, and told me it was about time I got over my fear of making dough. (I personally felt it was rude to scoff at one’s mama.) That night I was introduced to the art of simple pizza dough. And it really was simple.
This is the part where I confess the reason that I don’t make dough is one primary ingredient: yeast. It seems so complicated to me. One has to put the yeast in a certain amount of water at a certain temperature. If it’s off by any measure of degree then one has to start over. This is too much work in my opinion. Sami, on the other hand, thinks quite the opposite.
“Woman, really, just get a candy thermometer, and use warm tap water. It’s not rocket science.” She didn’t overtly scoff, but it was definitely implied. Smarty pants.
She of course is so practiced at this kitchen voodoo that it seemed like nothing. In fact, as she was preparing the yeast and grabbing ingredients to make the dough, she was also cuddling the baby.
Handing over the baby, she commenced to rolling the pizza dough into a crust and then we added toppings. I made caramelized leeks and candied walnuts to go on the pizza. We added a pear, sautéed spinach with garlic, and the goat cheese. Just before serving we added a light drizzle of honey. The combination of sweet, savory and salty made for an incredible mixture of flavors.
I’d like to add that the dough recipe came from the Newman family cookbook. Sami is now a Newman by marriage and their family has collected their favorite recipes and compiled them into a fabulous cookbook. I love that she’s in a clan that understands the importance of family and food.
This week I present a dish that is part my culinary input, but mostly my Sami’s: Leek and Goat Cheese Pizza. Since I can now make awesome pizza crust I’ll be making a lot more pizza delights at home. The best part is you can use whatever toppings you desire.
Until next time…
Eat and enjoy,
Alisa’s Pizza Dough (from the Newman Family Cookbook)
1 1/3 cup warm water (110o – 115o)
1 Tablespoon yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 ½ cups flour
In large bowl combine water, sugar, salt and yeast. Wait about 10 minutes while the yeast blooms. Add flour and mix well. This is where the kneading happens. Continue to knead the dough until it is no longer crackly in texture and becomes smooth and shiny. Place in oiled bowl and cover with tea towel to rise. This takes about 30 minutes.
Punch down dough and cut into sections. You can make large or mini pizzas, whichever works best for you. Using a bit more flour, roll the dough until thin and top with favorite toppings. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.
Leek & Goat Cheese Pizza
2 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces goat cheese
1 bunch fresh spinach, remove stems
1 pear diced or thinly sliced
½ cup mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper
In small skillet combine brown sugar, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Melt together and add leaks. Cook on low heat until leeks are soften and caramelized. Set aside.
In same skillet, combine 1 tablespoon olive oil and chopped garlic. Simmer on medium heat for about a minute to release the garlic flavors. Add spinach and sautee’ until soften and reduced. Set aside.
In separate small skillet, combine 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1 tablespoon butter. Melt together and gently toss in chopped walnuts. Stir until well coated and continue cooking about 3-5 minutes until toasted through. Remove from heat and set aside.
To build pizza: Roll crust and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add leeks, spinach, pear slices, and goat cheese. Top with nuts and mozzarella cheese.
Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle with honey prior to serving.