Friday Night Pizza: Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese
It’s Friday, and in our house, that means pizza night!
One of the things I’ve been thinking about doing with this blog is a “Friday Night Pizza” series, since B and I have had a tradition for the past few years of making our own pizza on Friday nights. It actually started as a “pizza and sci fi” night (since we used to watch a particular sci fi show while eating our pizza), but now it’s just a general pizza and movie night. I really love this tradition of ours: we’re both usually too tired on Friday night after a week of working to go out and do much of anything, so Friday nights are our time at home to unwind and eat some good pizza.
When Friday Night Pizza at our house began, we were buying the dough at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods; both of their brands are pretty good. But about a year into it, I came across Susan’s recipe for pizza dough over on A Year in Bread, and we have never looked back: this is the best pizza dough I have ever tasted! It’s crispy, chewy, and has a great flavor. Plus, you can make it early in the evening and be ready to bake the pizza about 2 hours later. I usually make my dough with about half white whole wheat flour, since we both like the taste of it.
If you’re going to make pizza at home often, I can’t emphasize enough how much a ceramic baking stone can improve your results. The fact that it retains heat so well is a boon for any bread baking that I do, but the pizza crusts especially benefit from it: they are crispy, light, and pleasantly chewy. We have a roughly 14-inch square ceramic baking stone in our oven, and it’s fabulous.
I have to say that most often, our default pizza topping is thinly sliced red and green peppers, sliced mushrooms, Muir Glen pizza sauce, cheddar and mozzarella. Sometimes we’ll throw in sausage. Tasty, to be sure, but I’m looking to explore a bit more of the possible topping combos out there, and we’ve been doing that more and more lately.
Speaking of that, the first pizza topping combo that I’m posting, shown above, is inspired by a pizza I used to always order at Veggie Planet in Cambridge, MA. Veggie Planet called it “Lunch for Henry” — Henry was the owner’s cat, and apparently he liked this pizza. Who knew cats liked pizza? My version has roasted butternut squash, caramelized onions, thyme, and goat cheese — I really love the sweet squash and onions with the tangy goat cheese.
Got any favorite pizza topping combinations? Send them along; we’d love to try them!
Pizza Dough (makes two 12-14 inch pizzas, four 6-8 inch pizzas)
From Farmgirl Susan on A Year in Bread
3 cups bread flour, or 1 1/2 cups bread flour + 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp instant yeast (sometimes labeled “Rapid Rise” yeast), or 1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups warm water (about 90-100 degrees F)
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. If you’re using instant yeast, whisk that into the flour. Otherwise, if you’re using active dry yeast, dissolve it in the warm water and let it sit until the yeast starts to foam, about 5 minutes. Add the warm water to the flour and salt mixture and stir with a spoon until it’s blended, then turn the sticky dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 3 minutes, until it gets slightly more smooth and elastic. Sprinkle a little more flour on the dough as needed to prevent it from sticking while you knead.
Place the ball of dough into a lightly oiled large bowl and cover it with plastic wrap or a dishtowel. Let it rise for about 2 hours, until doubled in size.
Divide the dough in half and form each half into a ball (for two 12-14 inch pizzas.) At this point, you can freeze the dough balls in ziploc bags for future use. Fully defrost and let the dough come to room temperature before you use it (I usually take mine out of the freezer Thursday night if I’m going to make pizza on Friday.)
When you’re ready to use the dough, gently flatten the ball into a disk and let it rest for about 10 minutes. I like to just use gravity to shape and stretch the dough: pick up the disk and hold it by the edges. Let the dough hang from your hands while you rotate it, until it stretches out into a rough 12-inch circle.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F, preferably with a ceramic baking stone in the oven. Generously dust a pizza peel or the back of a sheet pan with cornmeal, and place the stretched dough down on it. Cover with toppings and slide the pizza onto the baking stone in the oven. If you don’t have a baking stone, just bake directly on the sheet pan. Bake for about 7-10 minutes, until it’s browned the way you like it.
Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese and Thyme Pizza
1 to 1 1/2 cups butternut squash, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and roasted for about 25 minutes in a 400 degree oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper
4 oz goat cheese
1 cup caramelized onions
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
a few gratings of parmesan cheese
Lightly brush the pizza dough with extra virgin olive oil, then distribute the toppings as follows: caramelized onions, butternut squash, then dots of goat cheese. Sprinkle all over with a little grated parmesan cheese, then sprinkle the thyme over the pizza.