while there are many advantages to living in maine, one of them is that indoor-pizza-making season hasn’t ended yet. it’s still cool enough up here during the day and especially overnight that cranking the oven up to 500° F for an hour isn’t forbidden (i see you coming, july).
sure, we can make grilled pizza in the summer, and that has its own charms, but there’s something to be said for the consistency of making pizza in the oven and knowing, really knowing, that it will be perfectly cooked, as long as i follow the magical 4 + 8 formula* and don’t glop too many wet toppings on the dough. (though in fairness to grilled pizza, i did figure out a lot of its quirks last summer and now have a pretty reliable method/recipe.)
*what is this magical 4 + 8 formula you ask? well, for those who don’t want to live in suspense until you get down to the actual recipe below, it’s this: prebake the dough for 4 minutes, take it out, top it (something more in the neighborhood of sparing than glutinous), then bake the whole thing for 8 minutes (if your oven only goes to 500° F; if it goes to 550° F, 7 is your number).
so, yes, grilled pizza is fun because it’s novel and it’s summer and we’re outside and there’s the fun thrill of potentially dropping our entire dinner on the ground and having to eat cereal instead but sometimes i just want the excitement to come from a new combination of toppings. as was the case here.
this pizza, specifically the toppings – kale, fig, and gorgonzola – started at the farmers’ market, where one of the farmers was selling “sweet siberian kale”. the little tag indicated that this variety of kale was sweeter than “standard” kale. sold! i bought a bunch and brought it home, with intentions of turning it into a pizza with dried figs. and indeed, that is just what i did.
except that i didn’t really plan terrifically well and the only viable cheese i had in the fridge was mozzarella. so that’s what i used. and the pizza was good (especially the kale!), but missing a little something, even when topped with basil and drizzled with balsamic.
so this past weekend, i went back to the same farmer at the market, hoping that he would have more of this delicious and mild kale that had proven to be so delicious the prior weekend. and lo, i was in luck! having procured more kale, i then picked up some gorgonzola to add to the pizza, along with the mozzarella and other toppings from last week’s pizza. i should note here, it’s really a special situation if i’m using gorgonzola: i mean, the cheese comes from the store already full of mold! i just don’t know…
it works here, though. as i suspected, the gorgonzola is exactly what the round one pizza was missing. we’ll just ignore the mold and focus on how delicious the two cheeses are with the kale and dried figs. and then the whole thing gets topped with fresh basil and balsamic vinegar to elevate it to pizza superstar status.
- 375 g. (13 ¼ oz. / 3 1/3 cups) white whole wheat flour (or 375 g. / 13 ¼ oz. / 3 1/8 cups all purpose flour – or a blend of the two that adds up to 375 g.)
- 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 10 oz. (1 ¼ cup / 296 ml) water (it doesn’t need to be warm)
- 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 40 g. (1 3/8 oz. / ½ cup) gorgonzola, crumbled (see notes)
- 129 g. (4 ½ oz. / 1 ½ cups) mozzarella, freshly shredded (see notes)
- 6 dried figs (60 g. / 2 1/8 oz. / ½ cup), stems removed and quartered lengthwise
- 2 large kale leaves (see notes), washed, dried thoroughly (no soggy pizza toppings!), and torn into bite sized chunks
- a few fresh basil leaves, torn into strips
- balsamic vinegar, for drizzling before serving
- 24 hours before dinner time: in a large bowl (if you have one with a tight-fitting lid, that’s ideal but not necessary), combine flour, yeast, and salt. stir with a large wooden spoon to mix. add water, stir with the wooden spoon until the dough comes together in a shaggy, messy lump. cover bowl, either with a tight-fitting lid or with plastic wrap, and set in a warm room temperature spot (anywhere that is not especially cold will work).
- 1 hour before you want to serve dinner: if you have one, put your pizza stone/steel in the oven. if you don’t have one, put a baking sheet in the oven (upside down if it has a rim, so that you can slide the pizza on and off the sheet easily). preheat the oven to its highest setting (500 – 550° F).
- tear off a sheet of parchment paper roughly the size of your pizza stone or baking sheet. sprinkle a bit of flour over the parchment. remove the dough from the bowl and plop in the middle of your floured parchment. sprinkle more flour over the top of the dough. either using your fingers to press it or a rolling pin, spread the dough out into a circle-ish shape. continue adding more flour to the top of the dough if sticky spots develop as you’re stretching it. if the dough starts to spring back and fight with you, put it in timeout for a few minutes and go prep the toppings. (this is why i start stretching the dough first, as sometimes it needs a rest mid-stretching.) when you come back to the dough, it will be ready to behave again. i usually stretch the dough out to a roughly 15-inch rough circle. leave it where it is until you have all of the toppings prepped and ready to go.
- prep all of your toppings so that everything is at the ready. (i’m not usually a big mise-en-placer but for certain recipes, like this one, i pretend to be since i don’t want the dough to sit around half cooked waiting for me.)
- keeping the pizza dough on the parchment, slide the naked dough and parchment onto a baking sheet (turned upside down if it has a rim). with pot holders and heat safe tongs sitting nearby, open the oven, pull the rack out with the stone/sheet on it, and use the tongs to grab a far corner of the parchment and use it to pull the dough into the oven (be careful not to burn the top of your arm or hand on the ceiling of the oven). push the rack back in, shut the door, and set a timer for 4 minutes.
- when the timer goes off, grab the transporting baking sheet (not the one in the oven) and tongs, open the oven, and grab the parchment/crust of the pizza near you to slide it out of the oven and onto the transporting baking sheet.
- shut the oven and set the dough and transporting baking sheet down near the toppings. carefully grab the edge of the crust, pull it up a little bit, and shimmy the crust a little, just enough so that the dough is not stuck to the parchment anywhere. (it’s easier to do this now, rather than later when the pizza is covered in toppings.)
- sprinkle the garlic evenly across the partially baked dough, then follow with the gorgonzola, mozzarella, figs, and finally the kale. make sure the kale ends up on top so that it can get crispy instead of soggy.
- repeat the process to get the pizza back in the oven, but this time just grab the crust on the far side and slide it off the parchment and transferring baking sheet so that the crust can crisp directly on the stone/sheet in the oven. set a timer for 7 minutes for 550° F or 8 minutes for 500° F. the pizza is done when the crust is golden brown and the mozzarella cheese that bubbles up through the kale has a few golden brown spots too. remove the pizza from the oven using the same method as before and transfer to a large cutting board. once cut, i put the slices we’re not eating right away on a cooling rack before we sit down to eat so that the crust doesn’t get soggy while we’re eating.
- to serve, sprinkle slices with torn up fresh basil leaves and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. since there are just two of us, i don’t douse the slices that are destined for leftovers with balsamic and basil upfront, preferring to add them after i heat up the slices the next day.
kale: though i wax poetic above about this siberian kale i found at the farmers’ market, you don’t need to hunt down this particular variety (though if you see it at your farmers’ market, grab it! it’s extra delicious in kale salads.). lacinato/tuscan/black/dinosaur (same thing, 1 million names) would also work as it also has flatter leaves and a milder taste than common curly kale. (here’s a quick kale primer (with photos!) before you head to the market/store.)
gorgonzola: i am a wimp when it comes to eating mold and/or, uh, “pungent” cheeses so, if you’re not, you may wish to increase the amount of gorgonzola used. the amount listed is calibrated to my people, the “yes please, but just a little bit” people. and because i know cheese can vary dramatically and i want to look out for my fellow mold-eating-skeptics, i used aged 90 days gorgonzola made with cow’s and sheep’s milk from trader joe’s, so i can at least vouch for the palatability of that one. feel free to use any gorgonzola you like; i just know how much i appreciate pre-screened options when trying new things (especially new things that intentionally contain mold…).
mozzarella: the amount of mozzarella cheese listed will NOT lead to your pizza being mistaken for the cheese lover’s deluxe from the local delivery place but i like that it doesn’t overwhelm the other ingredients and ensures that crust cooks through during the pizza’s short stint in the oven. if you think that a moderately-cheesed pizza will make you sad, add a bit more.
pizza dough adapted smitten kitchen’s lazy pizza dough, that she adapted from jim lahey’s recipe. this is the only pizza dough i ever make, a title that was immediately and irrevocably bestowed on this dough recipe the first time we pulled a pizza using it out of the oven. i’ve tinkered and tweaked over the years but this is the one.
nutrition facts are for 1 slice of a pizza cut into 8 slices