Brussel Sprout and Bacon Pizza

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Ok, so this is not a picture of pizza, if you hadn’t already figured that out. That is a picture of the panettone I made for Christmas and I’ll blame my long absence from blogging on my current obsession with baking sourdough creations from the sourdough starter I ordered from King Arthur. It has made panettone (which also had no less than 31 egg yolks and 2 sticks of butter, and made amazing panettone bread pudding Christmas Day), regular sourdough loaves, whole wheat sourdough with walnuts and cranberries, sourdough pita bread, and now sourdough pizza crust. Which will now bring us around to a picture of pizza.

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Specifically, the sourdough pizza topped with bacon, roasted brussel sprouts, and a poached egg that I made for dinner today.  I used the same recipe I used for making sourdough pita, but I doubled the quantity so I would end up with 4 (8 oz) pizza dough balls.  I prefer using weight measurements for baking since it’s a lot harder to mess up a recipe that way, but in cooking I’m a lot more lax, to the point that most of the time I don’t even measure things.

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Sourdough Pizza Crust

13 oz sourdough starter

1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

6 oz distilled water (this is because chlorinated water and sourdough yeasties are not friends)

11.5 oz unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon table salt

Combine sourdough starter, yeast, water, oil, and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the dough hook. Beat on medium speed until well-combined. Mix in the flour, until the dough pulls away from the bowl sides, adding more flour by the tablespoonful if necessary. Continue to mix on medium speed for 5-7 minutes, until the dough is elastic and you can stretch it thin enough to see through it before it starts to tear (this is called the windowpane test).

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Lightly grease a clean mixing bowl with olive oil and add the dough to the bowl, covering loosely with saran wrap and leaving to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 - 1/2 hours. In the meantime while your dough is rising, if your oven takes forever to preheat like mine, go ahead and preheat it to it’s hottest temperature (mine can do 550 F), with a pizza stone placed on the lowest oven rack.

Once the dough has risen, divide it into 4 portions of about 8 oz each and shape each into a ball.  Let them rest for 15-30 minutes before beginning your pizza construction.  I rolled my crust pretty thin since that’s the way I like it, but you can always roll it thicker if you want a chewier crust, you’ll just probably want to pre-bake the crust before you add sauce and toppings for a few minutes to make sure it isn’t doughy in the middle.  

As luck (and the contents of my refrigerator) would have it, I happened to desire bacon, roasted brussel sprouts (pan-roasted in the bacon fat so they’re nice and healthy), and since I tend to think most things can be improved by adding an egg on top, a poached egg. For excellent instructions on how to poach an egg, see this recipe from Bon Appetit (but I only use 2 Tbsp of vinegar for each egg because 1/2 cup per egg seems ridiculous and I don’t want to taste vinegar instead of egg). For my sauce I used the marinara sauce I had previously made and froze. I had a little wedge of Pecorino Romano kicking around in the fridge, so I added some of that to my usual cheese combination of Parmigiano Reggiano and whole-milk mozzarella.  Any of the dough-balls that you don’t want to bake immediately can be wrapped in saran wrap and refrigerated- they should be just fine for making more pizza tomorrow or the next day, just let the dough come to room temperature before rolling out.  

Once the dough has been rolled out to desired thickness, I place it on a sheet of parchment paper before I go any step further. I’ve had more than one near-disaster of pizza-on-pizza-peel-violence, so I ‘cheat’ and just bake the pizza on the parchment paper, which will turn black but should not smoke or catch fire (at least mine doesn’t!). The pizza peel still gets in on the pizza action as I use it to transfer pizza-and-parchment to the preheated pizza stone, but I don’t have to worry about the crust sticking to the peel.

So now we top our pizza! This list of toppings is for one pizza, and I’m more or less guestimating the measurements so you can be creative and top with whatever toppings you prefer.

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/3 cup (sorry, I didn’t really measure, just went by looks) homemade marinara sauce

4 strips of cooked bacon, crumbled

about 1 cup roasted brussel sprout halves (pan roasted in the bacon fat until mostly tender, since they’ll keep cooking once in the oven)

1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano

1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1 cup grated low-moisure whole milk Mozzarella

poached egg (s) for topping the finished pizza

Brush the crust with the olive oil before evenly spreading the marinara sauce over the crust, leaving a border along the edges.  Sprinkle on the Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses, then top with the brussel sprouts and bacon and then finally sprinkle the Mozzarella on top.  Transfer the pizza on the parchment paper to the pizza stone in your preheated oven and bake at 550 for 8-10 minutes, until the crust and cheese are nicely browned. Cool for a few minutes before slicing and top with a poached egg.   

Potato Leek Soup

When the days are rainy and gloomy, there are a few choices to be made. You could huddle over your blue light box and sob uncontrollably until the sun comes out again in July, oooooor you could try to make the best of it by making warm, comforting soups that always taste even better after you’ve come inside and shed the wet rain coat and boots and maybe had a mug of coffee or hot tea. This potato leek soup is one I’ve been making for awhile, but I usually never measure my ingredients. This means that once you’ve got down the basics, a pot of soup is normally pretty forgiving so you can add or subtract things as you desire. Love garlic? Add more.  Don’t have any vampires to ward off? Add less.  Hate leeks? Use yellow onion….etc etc. 

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp butter

2 medium-size leeks, white and light green part only

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 lbs yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 1 ½ in pieces

2 cups less-sodium chicken broth or water

2 cups whole milk

salt and pepper to taste

garnishes: crumbled crispy bacon, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, chopped chives

This is what happens when you photograph on the floor.

A word about leeks: Cut off the root end of the leek and then cut again between the light green portion and the dark green stalk. Discard the dark green stalk, and peel off the outer layer of the remaining white/light green portion of the leek (The outer layer can get tough). Slice the leek into quarters lengthwise and then dice them. Also, they are diiiirty. They can have sand & grit trapped inside the little rings, which is not the flavor of soup we’re shooting for here, so I always swish the chopped leeks around in a bowl full of water to loosen any dirt before I lift out the leeks, leaving the dirt behind in the bottom of the bowl.

In a large pot (6 qt is the size I used), melt the butter over medium heat, then add the leeks. The goal is to soften them, not brown them, so turn the heat to medium-low. Add the minced garlic and stirring occasionally, continue to cook the leeks until soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Add the potatoes and the chicken broth or water and some salt (I added 1 tsp kosher salt at this stage), and turn up the heat again to medium so the liquid starts to come to a boil before you turn it back down to medium-low so the soup will simmer rather than boil. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. I like to have soups with at least some texture to them, so I don’t puree this soup; rather, I use my potato masher to mash it up until it reaches a thicker consistency with small pieces of potato still visible.

Heat up the milk (either in a small saucepan or in a measuring cup in the microwave) until almost boiling. The reason for this is if you add cold milk to a very hot liquid, chances are high the milk will curdle. It won’t ruin the taste of your soup, but it will look a little funny. Add the milk to the pot, then add more salt to taste (I added about ½ tsp more) and a pinch or two of freshly ground black pepper.

Sprinkle the chopped chives on top.  Either eat it this way and be perfectly happy with it, or if you’re concerned it doesn’t have enough calories, top it with crumbled cooked bacon and/or shredded sharp cheddar. It’s ok, I won’t judge.