Editor’s note: Welcome to Almost Fit. As you may have noticed, I’ve been away from the site for a little while taking care of some personal matters. I’ll be writing a short post soon to explain, but in the mean time, this post is a recipe I just came up with for tonight’s dinner that I just had to share. Thanks for reading.
Since I’ve started making all of our own bread, having bread dough around has meant that pizza has become a staple for us. The great thing about homemade pizza is you are in control of the ingredients, meaning that you can eat very well using the pizza “format” for your meal.
Throwing a handful of fresh ingredients on homemade dough is not only simple, it is something everyone should know how to do. From start to finish, this meal takes no longer than ordering the delivery of an industrially produced pizza that generally includes ingredients that you can’t verify as being real food. At least, in my long, prior history of ordering pizza delivery, I do not believe I’ve ever asked the person who answers the phone whether their pepperoni has nitrates, which should probably be the least of my concerns.
In talking over dinner and evaluating the meal, my wife and I figure that in the last 6 months I’ve probably made over 100 pizzas at home, often as dinner for friends. The keys to this are the bread dough recipe from Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day, and a decent baking stone. That’s truly it. I generally make 2-3 smaller pizzas per meal, 1 for the kids (though I enjoy it too), and one that is a little more on the experimental side. I’ve made as many as 5 for one night of entertaining, serving them to guests as they came out of the oven.
For tonight’s dinner, the first pizza course was a classic tomato sauce and mozzarella pizza with artichoke hearts and olives. Believe it or not, that was the “kids” pizza; our kids love things like olives, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts - a fact that I attribute (science or not) to the fact that these elements are common in the food we eat, so our kids have developed a taste for them.
For the second pizza course, I took a few risks. Tonight’s pizza creation, the Ham and Creole Cream Cheese Pizza turned out exceptionally well - good enough that I thought I’d share it right away. Actually, given that I’ve been quiet on this site over the last couple of months (I will explain in an upcoming post), I’m going to call this December’s recipe. I’ll be returning to writing more soon, including a fresh batch of food suggestions, but for now you get pizza. There could be worse fates.
Recipe: Ham and Creole Cream Cheese Pizza
First things first: This pizza has nothing in common with low fat anything - and in my opinion, it’s probably best to let it stay that way. The key to enjoying this pizza is, as always, moderation. The richness of the ingredients makes this possible if you slow down a bit and listen to what your stomach (not your tongue) is telling you. That of course is easier said than done; but you will find that with a glass of wine and a salad, a couple of pieces will satisfy. And if after a 1/2 an hour you’re still hungry, have another piece! But if you play your cards right, you’ll have a great lunch of leftovers the following day. Or breakfast, if like me, you just can’t wait.
One other thing: The Creole cream cheese is important in this dish because it is lighter in flavor (and a different texture) than typical cream cheese. We were lucky this week because our raw milk supplier was also selling homemade Creole cream cheese, so that is where we found it. If you can’t find Creole cream cheese, Mascarpone is a good substitute, and is that much richer.
- Bread/Pizza dough: Either the Boule recipe or the Olive Oil recipe from Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day (highly recommended) - Creole style cream cheese - 1 yellow onion - Good quality ham, cut into 1/4″ strips - Goat cheese - Calamata olives - Corn meal
With the baking stone on the center rack, preheat the oven to it’s highest setting (my oven goes to 550 degrees). While the oven preheats, form an orange-sized handful of dough into a ball (see the instructions in the book on how to handle the dough effectively), and let it rest until the oven reaches temperature. While the dough rests, prepare the toppings. Slice the onion and saute the slices lightly in a combination of butter and olive oil. Remove the onions from the heat as soon as they start to turn toward translucent - meaning slightly undercook them. The onions finish cooking when they’re being baked on the pizza. Slice the ham into strips.
When the oven reaches temperature, sprinkle the work surface and the dough with flour, and then roll the flour out to a roughly 12-inch circle. (I typically roll my dough out to about 6 inches or so, and then throw it to get it thinner, and because, well, it’s fun.) The dough should be about 1/8″ thick when you’re finished, with no holes. On a bread peel or the bottom side of a flat cookie sheet, sprinkle corn meal to prevent the dough from sticking, and then lay the dough on the peel or sheet. Immediately add the cream cheese - if you wait, the dough will shrink. Sprinkle the ham, caramelized onions, and calamata olives on top of the cream cheese. Using your fingers, drop good-sized pinches of goat cheese around the surface of the pizza according to your taste.
Slide the pizza directly onto the stone and bake for 7-10 minutes. Watch the pizza carefully once you reach 7 minutes, and let it cook until the surface starts to brown.
Note: You’ll notice that I didn’t specify the quantities of some of the ingredients. That is primarily because all of the toppings should be added “to taste”. We happen to love goat cheese, so we add it liberally. I find that roughly equal amounts of onions and ham is a good measure. But experiment and see what works for you.
Serve while it’s hot, alongside a good salad. In our case the salad was spinach and romaine, blue cheese, pears, candied pecans, and an orange muscat vinaigrette.