Friday, September 3, 2010

The Pizza Chronicles, Continued: Potato Pizza and A Glimpse of Crust Perfection

Potato pizza has long been a (rare but beloved) favorite of mine, and we had a particularly delectable version at Pizzaiolo in Oakland recently enough that it's been on my mind. That one came with an egg on top, which is the most amazing thing ever and which I think is relatively common in Italy and Australia but tragically uncommon here. Clearly, our next pizza attempt had to involve an egg. And potatoes. And something to give the crust a bit of flair.

Crust (adapted from the NYTimes recipe):
1 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
5/8 cups stone-ground whole wheat bread flour
3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp plus one pinch salt
3 pinches chopped fresh rosemary leaves (2-3 sprigs)
2 pinches lemon zest (grated on a microplane, else very finely minced)
Coarsely-ground cornmeal
Olive oil for brushing on the crust at the end

1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
Cheese, ideally from pastured cows (e.g., jack and parmesan, or goat gouda might work well here)
3 medium-sized red, white, purple, and/or yellow potatoes
1/2 red onion, sliced
Leaves from 1 sprig of rosemary (left whole)
1 egg, from a pastured chicken

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, add the sugar, and stir gently. Let sit 3-8 minutes until it looks a little foamy. Add the olive oil.

Combine the wheat flour, white flour, salt, minced rosemary, and lemon zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to mix. With the machine running, slowly add the yeast mixture in through the top, and let it keep mixing until the dough forms a ball.

Lightly sprinkle a wooden cutting board or other flat surface with flour. Dampen your hands with a little water, then remove the dough from the food processor. Knead on the cutting board for 3-4 minutes, sprinkling more flour if necessary (you want the dough to be smooth and not sticky -- a little tacky is fine, and you want it to stick to itself when you fold it over, but it shouldn't stick to your hands). Form the dough into a ball.

Lightly grease a bowl with olive oil. Place the ball of dough in the bowl so that a smooth, round side faces down, then turn over so that this side is up (you want the top to be smooth for the dough to rise properly). Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for 80-90 minutes until doubled in size. (An ideal rising temperature is around 80 degrees. If your house is on the coolish side, turn the oven on for literally just 2-3 seconds after you hear the burner come on, then leave the bowl in the slightly warmed oven.)

Meanwhile, gently boil the potatoes in a small pot until just tender (about 10-20 minutes, depending on their size). Drain, run under cold water to cool slightly, and slice.

Saute onion over medium-low heat until soft. Set aside.

When the dough is ready, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush the flour off your cutting board and sprinkle it with cornmeal. Take the dough out of the bowl and gently form a ball, then place on the cutting board and begin gently pressing and stretching it outward to form a flat pancake. You want to end up with a flat disc that's about 12" in diameter (the outside crust should not be raised or pinched or anything -- the whole thing is flat).

Rub the dough with the minced garlic, then sprinkle with enough grated cheese to lightly cover everything but a ring around the outside. (If you're using parmesan, you might grate a little into the outside crust as well).

Lightly oil a pizza pan or baking pan and sprinkle with cornmeal. Gently transfer the pizza to the pan, using your hands or a spatula. Next, arrange the potato slices in concentric circles on top of the pizza, then sprinkle with the onion and top with the rosemary leaves. Make sure the center of the pizza has a flat spot (potato slices are fine, just be sure they're not overlapping here), and carefully crack the egg onto the middle of the pizza.

Bake in the oven on the middle rack for 10-15 minutes, until crust starts to turn golden and egg white is white. 

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and brush the crust with a little olive oil (you can add a small pinch of lemon zest to the olive oil if you love lemon zest -- this will make the crust taste delectably close to a lemon bar -- or a little minced garlic). Slice creatively to avoid breaking the yolk (think parallelograms), and serve.

Serves 2 with something leafy and green on the side.

Good enough to dream about. Not that I necessarily did. But if one were prone to dreaming about food, one might select, as a centrally featured topic one night, this pizza.

Or, you know, just eat it.

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