Goats Cheese & Truffle Mushroom Pizza
(+ Basic Pizza Base Dough)
Making your own pizza base sounds so unnecessary, doesn’t it? Like why bother? Well I’ll tell you why you should bother – because it’s 1,000 times better than any nasty Make-Your-Own you find at the back of a supermarket. That’s why. The idea of a pizza has been tainted by cardboard boxes and cellophane wrap and it saddens me. People now think that unless a pizza comes drenched in a tomato sauce and given 5 toppings for £3 then it’s not a pizza. This here is my testament against this logic.
A pizza dough is like any other dough. It requires a mixture of flour, water and yeast, a snappy little punch around with your knuckles and it’s done. You can even freeze the damn thing if you don’t want to use it all. The whole idea of making your own pizza base is that you get that crispy, crumbling pizza base the way Italians WANTED you to eat pizza. Nowadays, a pizza base is either like eating an envelope or it’s like eating an un-risen sponge cake. Why bother when you can make a delicious, crisp pizza base of your own?
As this encouragement of creating one’s own pizza base was done in spite of supermarket pizza conformity, I decided that the toppings I recommend should also too be offered to you in protests. So this here pizza is not your average pizza – it’s what I call a ‘white’ pizza and this fantastic combination came to me courtesy of a little trip to America.
Last year I took a trip to Miami and as we landed at the crack of midnight, I was absolutely starving and was in no mood for tablecloth and decorum. We sat on the beach front of South Beach Miami in an Italian restaurant where the menus were handwritten by actual Italians – the way Italian restaurants should be! As soon as I saw the words pizza, goat’s cheese and truffle oil in the same sentence I didn’t care what came with it, I just knew I wanted it. It was the most decadent, light yet full flavoured crunchy pizza I had ever tasted. So good that I even wrote down every ingredient in my phone and vowed to try and recreate it when I got home. Thank you Miami Italians – I am forever in your debt.
So don’t look at this recipe and think that because it contains truffle oil, it’s bourgeois and therefore ridiculous. Truffle oil is like £2 now in a supermarket. So when you go and get it… don’t be tempted just to go and get a readymade pizza. You will be thoroughly disappointed.
Start by making your pizza base. Pour 300ml of boiling water into a jug before adding a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper and allow this to cool. Then, into a large bowl tip 500g of regular old flour with a packet of dry yeast. Don’t worry about making wells or any of that nonsense, just pour the warm water straight in and either with a big spoon (or your hands, like I do) mix everything until it turns into a spongy but stiff ball. If it feels too tight, add a little more water. If you are using a spoon, regularly scrape the dough off by hand. It can be a nightmare to wash up – therefore you may as well be an animal and wash your hands!
Sprinkle a bit of flour onto a flat work surface and splat your dough ball on to it. Now start the kneading process, which is my favourite thing in the world. I confessed my love for kneading in my Simple White Loaf post a few months back. Just push the dough with your knuckles, drag it back with your fingers and repeat. It’s therapeutic and brutal all at the same time. Do this for about 15 minutes. Chuck it back in the bowl, cover it with a tea towel and put it somewhere dry and warm like an airing cupboard for an hour for it to double in size.
Once the hour is up, remove the ball from the bowl, throw it hard back on to the kitchen surface (so ruthless!) and then play with it a little more. Now rip this ball up into four separate mini quarters and roll each quarter out into whatever shape you want for the pizza. You could try and go circular but I prefer the longer rugby shaped things. I find the canvas much bigger. Grab a big roasting train and place all the rolled out shapes on to the tin to await your toppings.
I mean here you could put whatever the hell you wanted on but I am going to give you a specific topping in memory of my Miami trip. So – preheat the oven to 220C (yes we are going hot here!) before melting some butter in a frying pan. Add a little truffle oil to the melting butter in the pan before dropping in a handful of chopped mushrooms (any mushrooms) and cooked until they have softened. Don’t fry until they are completely cooked otherwise they will just shrink too much in the oven – you just want them soft, that’s all.
Now turn your attention back to the waiting pizza bases. Slather them with the truffle oil before grabbing yourself some goat’s cheese. Ripping up the goat’s cheese liberally, dot the bases with the goat’s cheese until they are evenly dotted. Bearing in mind the cheese will melt and cover the base so you don’t want it too clumped together. Now strew with the partially cooked mushrooms.
Tuck some peppery branches of rocket amongst the mushrooms and goat’s cheese but reserve a slight handful for later. Now crush over some black pepper – no salt, there’s enough in the base and in the cheese – before covering with a final slurp of truffle oil. Slide into the oven for about 15 minutes until the base is golden and crisp, the mushrooms have taken on a beautiful gloss and the cheese and melted into its savoury marshmallow splendour.
As the rocket on the pizza would have nicely wilted, you want a final hit of something peppery, so snip up the leftover rocket leaves with a scissors and scatter over for a final peppery bite.
Eat hot with a glass of wine.
Once you make these and realise how easy they are to make, seldom will you crave a pizza and march to the back of a supermarket for a build your own. Like I said, I know the thought of making your own pizza base seems pointless when pizza is so readily available in stores but with all the kneading, punching, throwing and slapping of dough, sometimes some culinary brutality is exactly what you need.