Monday, April 8, 2013

Beer pizza...with fennel, leeks, pears, gouda, and arugula, because of course

Okay, so it's really just beer bread as the crust, but doesn't 'beer pizza' inspire a mix of curiosity and mild revulsion, much like kamikaze all-of-the-pop-flavors-plus-ketchup-and-black-pepper drinks that one kid always liked to concoct at Jr High functions? Alright, slightly less gross, but still. 
 Anyway, I realize that to really capitalize on the whole  idea I probably should've made it the most obvious pizza: red sauce, pre-shredded mozzarella, pepperoni. Let the beer shine, as it were. And that was the plan. Fortunately for our taste buds and unfortunately for the, uh, high concept pizza, I was at Trader Joe's and the cheese was calling to me. I saw fennel on the shelf, all pre-de-fronded, and I was done. An adaptation of this recipe for pear & gorgonzola flatbread soon followed. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to mention that while I really enjoyed the toppings, the beer-bread-as-crust idea was way better as a soundbite than as an actual dish. I suspected as much, but it was worth a shot anyway. This would be an awesome pizza made on your favorite crust recipe - I'm partial to the long-ferment no-knead in the recipe above, with Smitten Kitchen's version a close second. 

I forgot to take a picture until it was mostly eaten...oops.

Beer Bread
This is the recipe I found online in several places. I'm sure it would be tasty as an actual loaf of bread, and it used up the leftovers from racking my lager earlier, but I don't recommend it as pizza dough. Many recipes also add in a step of melting 1/4 - 1/2 C of butter, pouring some in the pan before the batter and then the rest on top. Herbs, cheese, and other mix-ins are also suggested.

3 c flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
12 oz beer, any kind, although the consensus seems to veer more towards malty than hoppy

Preheat oven to 375. Mix dry ingredients, add beer, mix until just combined. No kneading or rise necessary - pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. 

Gouda, Pear, and Fennel Pizza with Leeks and Arugula
This is the good part. And yes, the cheese does go on after it bakes. It melts a little into the toppings, but it keeps its actual taste and texture.
Also, it's not a pizza-making tutorial. There are many wonderful ones online already, like Smitten Kitchen's or Simply Recipes's.

2 small or one large leek, finely sliced and rinsed well
1 fennel bulb, likewise sliced and rinsed
1 tbsp butter or olive oil
1 large or 2 small pears
Aged gouda, or any strongish cheese you like, shaved into thick curls - less than the amount of mozzarella you'd use on a pizza, but more than the parmesan you'd sprinkle on pasta. Whatever you want, is what I'm saying. It'd probably also be good with dollups of chevre!
A few handfuls of fresh arugula, washed and dried
1 batch of your favorite pizza dough

Heat your oven as hot as it goes, and slice the pears, thinly - maybe an eighth of an inch or so. Saute the leeks and fennel in butter over medium-low heat until they start to caramelize and brown. Prepare your dough however you prefer, spread the leeks and fennel over the dough, and then layer the pears on top. Put it in the oven for 7-20 minutes - sorry for the extreme variation - depending on how hot you get the oven and how thin your crust is. When the pears have softened and started to brown, pull the pizza out and shower it with the cheese. Top with handfuls of arugula, slice, and serve. 

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