Sunday, 9 September 2012

Fig, fennel, pistachio and peppercress pizza

My new camera has arrived and I have barely put it down all weekend. I am still getting used to its hefty size and weight, it is a lot bigger than my old point and shoot. Also, having a lens that I can manually focus is taking some getting used to. I have trouble deciding what to focus on and I still have not figured out how to control the white balance to my liking. The biggest change though is adapting to putting some distance between myself and the subject of my pictures. I am used to taking pictures up really close with my old camera. Using the fixed lens on my new camera requires me to step away from the focal point of my camera lens.

The subject of my pictures today was a fig pizza and the lovely ingredients used to make it. Local figs are starting to pop up at the grocery store and I figured now is as good a time as any to make a fig pizza. The only reason I have not made one yet is because it has been done so many times before. I think it is so popular because of how pretty figs look inside; figs are good but their flavour is a bit unusual. I would say they require getting used to before you can truly appreciate them. Also, finding figs that are at the perfect point on the path from firm to soft helps.

I originally intended to garnish my fig pizza with arugula but the arugula I found at the farmers market today was not looking its best. Instead I picked out the prettiest green I could find, which happened to be this peppercress that has a nice subtle and refreshing flavour. The other main ingredient on this pizza is fennel, roasted until just soft. I also added some raw pistachios and a soft goat cheese to the pizza before baking. The final pizza was reminiscent to me of peanut butter and jelly, I suppose because of the fig and pistachio combination. Maybe a strange comparison but it was delicious. I made two pizzas, one with and one without a tomato sauce base. I liked them both.

My usual pizza dough recipe is posted below. For variations you can look through my past posts. The latest alteration to my dough recipe is the use of this not-so-easy-to-find type 00 flour. If you can find it, and are confident in your dough making abilities, I would advise trying it out. You might be amazed at how it improves the quality of your pizza dough. If you are still working out the kinks in your pizza making skills, I would stick to a less expensive flour option - better not to waste those experimental pizzas using this precious ingredient.

So, here are some pictures taken with my new camera. I did not get to play around as much as I wanted to because a pesky wasp was insistent on buzzing around my pizza. The lighting in my house is dreadful so I always take my pictures on my patio. I was able to capture these shots in between swatting the wasp away with a towel but he kept returning. I opted to enjoy the pizza warm rather than wait out the intimidating insect.

Fig, fennel, pistachio and peppercress pizza
Makes 2 small pizzas

1/2 cup tepid water
1 tsp sugar or honey
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour - organic is best! (more if necessary and extra for pressing out dough)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp olive oil

4 figs, thinly sliced
1 fennel head, sliced
2 tbsp pistachios, chopped
Peppercress or arugula
Goat cheese
Grated fresh parmesan
Extra virgin olive oil
optional tomato sauce (see below)

(make dough)
1. Stir honey or sugar into water and sprinkle in the yeast. Let stand 5 minutes.
2. Mix in the oil and salt and 2.5 cups of flour. Make sure the dough is not too dry otherwise your crust will also be dry, so adjust with flour or water as needed.
3. Knead for 5 - 10 minutes until you have a slightly sticky ball (you can use a bread machine to do the mixing for you if you have one - just make sure to power it off after 10 minutes of mixing).
4. Lightly coat dough in olive oil. Place in a bowl and cover.
5. Let the dough rise on the counter for 1 - 2 hours.

(make sauce)
6. Meanwhile, if you opt to use pizza sauce, make according to the directions at the bottom of this post. The sauce cooking takes about 30 - 45 minutes. The other pizza toppings can be prepared while the sauce is simmering.

(roast fennel)
7. Preheat oven to 400F.
8. Slice fennel and lightly brush with olive oil and season with sea salt.
9. Spread the fennel out on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
10. Cook for 15 minutes and remove from oven.

(preheat oven)
11. Move oven rack to the top of the oven and place the pizza stone on this rack.
Increase oven temperature to 500F or higher if you can.
 ***If your oven is really hot the pizza will cook really fast. The faster it cooks, the moister your pizza dough will be. Preheating your oven is an essential part of this process.

(make pizzas)
12. Divide pizza dough into 2 balls, tucking the torn side underneath the ball and shaping it to be smooth on top. Set aside 1 round, covering with a bowl or towel to keep moist.
13. Shape the other round into a pizza by pressing out with your palms and finger tips. Use all-purpose flour to keep the dough from sticking to the counter and to your hands. If the dough is resisting being pressed out, let the dough relax for a minute before continuing to flatten.
14. Transfer flattened pizza dough to a baking sheet sprinkled with flour, semolina flour or corn meal.
15. Cover dough with a tea towel and allow it to puff up slightly for about 10 or 15 minutes. The timing depends on your preference and the temperature of your kitchen. If you want a thinner crust then don’t let the dough rise for very long.
16. If desired, spread a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce onto the dough. Otherwise, brush the dough with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil.
17. Top pizza with roasted fennel, sliced figs, pistachios and crumbled goat cheese.

(cook and serve pizzas)
18. Place pizza in oven (on baking sheet) and cook for 2 minutes.
19. After 2 minutes, when the dough has firmed up, remove the pizza from the oven and shake it gently off of the pan and directly onto the pizza stone. 
(Having the first 2 minutes of cook time ensures your dough is firm enough to not collapse as you struggle to get it on the stone).
20. Switch the oven to broil and cook an additional 3 - 5 minutes or until the crust is deep brown and cheese is bubbling. The timing depends on how hot your oven is and how close your pizza is to the top of the oven 
21. Remove the pizza from the oven (I use a pair of tongs to pull the pizza onto a pan or cutting board).
22. Sprinkle the pizza generously with fresh Parmesan and top with fresh watercress. Season with sea salt or fleur de sel.
23. Repeat the process with the remaining dough, starting with step 13. 

Quick fresh tomato sauce
Bring a small pot of water to near boil. Cut a small slit in the bottom of 3 or 4 tomatoes and add to water for one minute. Remove from hot water and place in ice water until cool enough to handle. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a separate pot and add 1 crushed garlic clove. Cook for a couple of minutes. Slide the skins off of the tomatoes, cut them roughly and add to pot with a pinch of sea salt and 1 tsp of honey. Simmer until thickened for about 30 minutes. Stir periodically and break the tomatoes apart further with a spoon while you stir.


  1. Fig and fresh greens--such a perfect topping for pizza!

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