goat cheese and summer squash pizza, plus pizza dough

Here’s another recipe using summer squash, since it’s the time of year when markets are overflowing with the stuff. I’m a huge fan of baked goat cheese, so when I saw this recipe awhile ago on SmittenKitchen, I knew I’d be trying it as soon as summer squash were in season.

My love affair with baked goat cheese began in a far away and much cooler clime, when I took a visiting friend to Hall at my Cambridge college, and the starter for the evening was a round of goat cheese on an oat biscuit (the British kind of biscuit), baked. Hall at Cambridge is pretty much like the dining hall in Harry Potter, minus the magical ceiling and floating candles – everyone wears black robes, servers bring out 3-course meals on silver trays, there are stained glass windows and an ornate vaulted ceiling. The food was of good, solid quality most of the time, with the exception of a certain dreaded “assorted crab” risotto, which seemed to go away halfway through my second year there, only to be reincarnated into crab cakes that suspiciously contained all of the same ingredients (minus the rice). Occasionally, the food was truly excellent, as it was the night I had the baked goat cheese (followed by duck with some sort of prune sauce, if I remember correctly). The goat cheese was tangy, creamy, warm and gooey, a revelatory eating experience. At my sad local grocery store, I can only get chèvre, a soft, young goat cheese, not the firmer kinds with rinds, which is what I had in Hall. It is still delicious, especially once it is made warm and creamy through baking. Note the creamy, lightly-browned cheese poking out at the edges of the pizza:

Yum. After the heat wave that has enveloped the Northeast for the last few days, the thought of sitting in a non-air conditioned Hall wearing a thick black robe does not sound in the least bit appealing. This pizza, on the other hand, is perfectly summery, with a squeeze of lemon juice helping to lighten the flavor. If you’ve never made pizza from scratch before, it is definitely worth the try. Once you know how to make pizza dough, which is one of the easiest yeast doughs you can make, you can experiment in probably infinite ways with toppings. It’s much cheaper than ordering pizza, and you can put exactly how much sauce, cheese, and toppings you would like on top. Before I get to the recipe for the goat cheese pizza, we’ll start with a recipe for the crust.

Pizza Crust

This recipe makes enough for one small-ish, thin crust pizza. I find that it is enough for two people for dinner when paired with a salad. If you prefer a thick crust, you can double the recipe. If you want a healthier crust, the original recipe says that you can substitute up to half of the white flour with whole wheat flour. I plan to try this at some point, though I haven’t just yet.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (see note above)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (should not be hot, or it will kill the yeast)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix together the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add the water and olive oil and stir until the mixture begins to clump into a ball (you won’t be able to incorporate all of the flour).

Dump out all of the contents of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface, and knead everything into a ball. If you are finding this difficult, turn the bowl upside-down over the dough to cover it, and let it rest for 2-5 minutes. After resting, the dough should be easier to work with. I find this necessary during the winter, when my kitchen is quite cold, but not so much when it is warm. I’m sure there’s a good explanation for this somewhere.

Once you’ve got the dough into a ball, knead it for 1-2 minutes. Here are some helpful tips on kneading, if you’re not sure how to do it. Lightly oil the bowl you mixed the dough in – I usually pour in a splash of olive oil and swirl it around to cover the bottom. Put the ball of dough back in the bowl, and roll it around to coat all sides with oil. Cover it with plastic wrap, and leave it in a warm part of the kitchen for 1-2 hours, until it has doubled in size. One way of testing whether your dough is ready is to poke it – if the dough springs back, it needs some more rising time, but if it stays indented where you poked it, it is ready to go.

Once your dough has risen, put it back onto a lightly floured surface. Press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the dough back into a ball shape, cover it with the plastic wrap, and let it rest for 20 more minutes.

During this final rest, you can prepare the toppings for your pizza. For most pizzas, you should bake them at your oven’s top temperature – generally 500 degrees F (unless you have a monster oven like mine that heats about 75 degrees higher than the temperature on which I set it). You should preheat the baking surface for your pizza while the oven is preheating – if you use a pizza stone, it will take about an hour to heat up, while a baking sheet will take around 30 minutes. If you only have baking sheets with edges, you can turn them upside down and bake the pizza on the bottom side.

When your dough has finished its final rise, it’s time to stretch the dough with your hands. This would be tricky to explain with just writing, so I’m sending you to this video, where Melissa Clark of the New York Times will show you exactly how to stretch dough. As the video will tell you, you don’t have to worry about getting your pizza into a circle – I’ve never managed this yet. I usually end up with a rectangle, and it’s still very tasty.

You can follow her directions for sliding the fully-topped pizza onto your pizza stone/baking tray. Or you can try my lazy method, which is to remove the baking tray from the oven, pick up the stretched dough and place it onto the tray, top it very quickly, and then slide it back into the oven. Eventually I’ll work up the nerve to slide it in. With most pizzas, you should then bake it for about 10 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned and blistered, and serve immediately.

Adapted from SmittenKitchen

Ok, that was a lot of instructions, but during most of the time required to make pizza crust, the dough is rising (i.e. not requiring any attention from you), and once you try this once or twice, you’ll be able to do it without pulling out the recipe again. And now for the goat cheese pizza.

Goat cheese and summer squash pizza

I made a few adaptations from the original recipe. I found the lemon in the original to be a bit too much for me, so I’ve cut the quantity of lemon juice. I also happened to have some pine nuts lying around, so I thought I’d throw some on, and I highly recommend doing this – they provided a nice, salty crunch to contrast with the soft cheese and squash.

1 batch of pizza dough
4 oz. soft goat cheese, at room temperature
Juice of about 1/3 of a lemon
1/2 medium green zucchini, sliced into the thinnest rounds you can manage (probably easier if you own a mandoline)
1/2 medium yellow squash (or yellow zucchini), sliced as above
1-2 leaves fresh basil, torn into small pieces
1 tablespoon pine nuts
Olive oil, to drizzle over pizza
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (note the lower temperature for this pizza).

Place the goat cheese in a small bowl, and squeeze your 1/3 of a lemon over it. Salt and pepper to taste, and stir to mix evenly. Spread the cheese over your stretched pizza dough. Sprinkle the torn basil over the cheese. Arrange zucchini and squash slices over the cheese, in a pattern, if you like. I decided on alternating rows of zucchini and squash, and thought it was rather pretty. Drizzle olive oil over the pizza, salt and pepper to taste, then slide into the oven.

Bake for 10-15 minutes. How long it takes will depend on your oven, so I recommend checking it often. During the last 3-4 minutes of baking time, quickly remove the pizza from the oven, scatter the pine nuts on top, then return to oven for the rest of the baking time. Pine nuts don’t take long to toast, and if you put them on at the beginning they will be burnt by the time the rest of the pizza has finished. The pizza is done when the crust is golden brown, and the zucchini looks roasted and is starting to curl up at the edges. Slice, and serve right away.

Adapted from SmittenKitchen


One Comment on “goat cheese and summer squash pizza, plus pizza dough”

  1. […] you want a slightly less involved crust, my older version has similar ingredients, but involves a lot less kneading – it also only makes one crust, but […]

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