In the midst of driving rain and the sort of wind that makes a mockery of umbrellas, I strode to the weekly farmers’ market, as eager for my produce as ever. I was happy to find the owner and staff of Wishing Stone Farm bravely battened down. Hiding behind the eggplants and chard was a basket of mushrooms- shiitakes grown right in Little Compton. Hoping to do them justice, I thought up this pizza with a little help from Sweet Paul and a visit to Farmstead. Something celebratory, as we completed harvesting the honey last week! It is rich with the autumnal flavors of shiitake, goat cheese, and sage, finished with our own honey.
Follow your own excellent judgment in the selection of goat cheese. Chèvre would give a nice tart contrast, bûcheron I suspect would be wonderful, but I couldn’t resist a slice of Twig Farm’s washed rind wheel. It is a funky and briny semi-soft mixed milk cheese, and it is excellent alongside the honied brown butter.
About this honied brown butter – I’m really onto something. A sweet and nutty and rich something that I could eat by the spoonful. If it starts to separate before the pizzas are ready, gently reheat and stir it smooth once more.
I chose to try baking the pizza on an upturned cast iron skillet in an attempt to maximize my oven’s somewhat feeble heat, preheating the skillet in the oven from the get-go. I didn’t manage it very gracefully, but I did receive a crust that is both substantial and crisp for my efforts. Whether or not you attempt the skillet method, I suggest preheating your cooking surface in the oven, then sliding the prepared pizza onto it from a semolina-dusted baking sheet.
Shiitake Pizza with Goat Cheese and Honied Brown Butter
makes two 10″ pizzas or equivalent
1 C warm water
1 1/2 t yeast
2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C semolina flour (for a crispy crust, but if there’s none in the pantry substitute all-purpose or cornmeal)
2 T olive oil
1/2 t salt
Combine the tepid water (what happened to the old fashioned term bloodwarm? I’m kind of fond of it), yeast, and flour in large bowl. Add the semolina flour, olive oil, and salt and work the dough around until it holds its shape. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes until it is smooth and elastic, adding up to 1/2 C more flour if it becomes sticky. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450ºF at the end of that hour, or at least 30 minutes before baking, with an upside down cast iron skillet inside.
Return the dough to a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 2 parts using a bench scraper or knife. Roll the pieces into balls, cover with a cloth, and let them rest for 20 minutes.
Shiitake, Goat Cheese, and Honied Brown Butter Topping
12 oz. shiitake mushrooms, or a mushroom mixture of your choice
2 cloves garlic
1 T olive or canola oil
6 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
3 T unsalted butter
about 8 sage leaves, chopped
4 t honey, River Farm’s own
sea salt & freshly ground pepper
Brush the shiitakes clean and divest them of their tough stems with a paring knife (reserve the stems for flavoring another dish if you like). Thinly slice the mushrooms, shallots, and garlic. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, shallot, and garlic with a dash of salt and saute for about 5 minutes, until the moisture they release has cooked off and the mushrooms begin to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
Roll and stretch the pizza dough into 2 rounds. Sprinkle semolina flour over a flat baking sheet and lay a round of dough across it. Top with half the mushroom mixture, half the goat cheese, and seasonings if you see fit. Open the oven and quick! slide the first pizza onto the upturned skillet. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 15 minutes.
While the first pizza is baking, dress the runner up in the same way on the baking sheet. Slide the first pizza onto a cooling rack, and slide the second pizza onto the skillet to repeat the cooking process.
Melt the butter in a small saute pan over low heat. Watch it carefully until it just begins to brown, then add the chopped sage and swirl it about. Continue cooking over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, until the sage is crispy and the butter has earned a nutty fragrance. Remove from heat, spoon the sage out of the browned butter, and set the sage aside.
Add the honey to the hot butter along with 1/8 teaspoon salt and swirl to combine. Drizzle the honied brown butter across the pizzas and sprinkle with the crispy sage. Enjoy!