1 June 2013

Dandelion "Three Ways" Pizza

(I love when chefs on those reality cooking contest shows make things "three ways", so the name derives from that, they're just sensibly all in one bite, not spread out pretentiously across a platter.)

1 recipe dandelion flower pizza dough (see below)
a handful or two of semolina or corn meal
1 recipe dandelion green pesto (at room temperature so it's spreadable)
grated or crumbled feta cheese (preferably sheep's milk feta, unless you have a different preference)
1-2 large shallots, thinly sliced
1 tbsp (or more or less) dandelion capers
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven and a pizza stone on the lowest shelf to 450F.  If you don't have a pizza stone, don't panic.  You can use a baking sheet instead, but use second-to-bottom shelf or higher up.  There is a certain je ne sais quoi that will be missing from the baking sheet technique, but quite frankly if you've never used a pizza stone, you won't know what you're missing, so you won't miss it.  Ignorance is bliss and all that.  (Pizza stones are not terribly expensive and WILL change your life, so consider buying one.)

A batch of dandelion flower pizza dough will make about 4 individual pizzas (the plate in the picture is a pretty ordinary sized dinner plate).  So, divide dough into 4 portions and roll out on a semolina or cornmeal dusted board to a 7 or 8 inch diameter pizza base.  Let rise, covered by a damp cloth, until obviously thickened (~20 minutes in a warm house).  You can use as much of the dough as you need and store the remainder in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Spread pesto on your risen pizza dough.  The toppings of the pizza will weigh down the dough where you put them, allowing the dough where they are missing to rise more during cooking, resulting in the relatively thick pizza crust.  This is important to know so you can decide how widely to spread your pesto... it depends entirely on how much crust you want.

Cover the pesto layer with feta, cover the feta with shallot, sprinkle dandelion capers over the shallot.  Add fresh ground pepper to taste.  The toppings in the ingredient list will do for about 4 individual pizzas, so adjust for the number of servings you are preparing.  Since pizza is really photogenic at this stage, here's what ours looked like:

Slide your pizza onto the pizza stone. This sounds easy, it often is, but sometimes things go wrong... so take a deep breath and find your zen center or whatever you do to calm yourself.  The semolina or cormeal on the board will help with the slide; you may want a spatula (or clean broad putty knife) on hand to help get the pizza moving.  If you have put a lot of toppings on, these might weigh it down and make it difficult to slide, so be aware.  Hover the board just over where you want the pizza to be, slide the pizza forward as you pull the board back and voila, you pizza should land well.  This is now going to sound very cheeky, but: do try to do this swiftly so you don't lose too much oven heat.

Bake for 12-16 minutes until crust is golden brown, cheese is melty and shallots are just a bit crispy in parts.

Dandelion Flower Pizza Dough

1 c. yellow dandelion fluff
2 c. unbleached white all-purpose flour + 1/2 c. as needed + more for kneading as kneaded (heh)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. hot water (tap-hot, no hotter)
2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast (traditional)
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp unfiltered extra virgin olive oil (filtered will also work, as will non-virgins)

If you can't get the dandelions out, roots and all, before they flower, the least you can do is remove the flowers before they seed, right?  To collect the dandelion fluff, pick a bunch of dandelion flowers (avoid the ones with insects) and chop off the green end, leaving you with the lovely yellow fluffy part (petals, nectar, pollen, etc.)... do this until you have 1 cup's worth.  Work quickly so they don't brown.

In a large bowl, mix together dandelion fluff, 2 c. flour and salt.

In a heat proof bowl, mix sugar into hot water, sprinkle yeast over water to proof.  When the yeast is foamy, you are good to go.  If it doesn't foam try again with slightly cooler water (in case it was too hot)... if it still doesn't foam, chances are good you need to toss out your dud yeast and make a trip to the store.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the yeast mixture and oil.  Stir flour mixture in gradually until smooth and elastic.  Stir in more flour, a handful. at a time until you have a soft dough.

Turn out onto a well floured surface; knead until dough is smooth and starts to push back at you (5-10 minutes). Add flour as you need it (i.e. add flour if it gets sticky).  When it's ready, if you poke it, the imprint should slowly but absolutely, surely fill back in.

Rub a little olive oil on your hands and rub your hands over the surface of the dough.  Cover loosely with a damp cloth and let rest until doubled in bulk (30-60 minutes, thereabouts, depending on how warm and how moist your house is... ours is bloody freezing so we could be waiting for a couple of hours or more).  Punch down and knead lightly to remove trapped air bubbles; let rest for 10 minutes.  Now it's ready to use.


Given the success of drawing dandelion flavour out in our vodka infusion, we decided to give it a try as a bread flavour.  A quick Google search indicated other people had also tried this, so we figured that if we were crazy, at least we had company.  Our first attempt was with whole wheat flour, but whole wheat competes too heavily with the dandelion flavour... it also just isn't nearly as pretty because that beautiful yellow gets lost.  So really, use white flour.

The taste of dandelion bread is difficult to describe.  It tastes different than regular-arsed pizza dough.  Sunnier?  Buttery?  Floral-y and nectar-y?  Depends how many martinis you tasted beforehand...

The three-ways of dandelion in one dish might sound overwhelming, but we think it works, not just as a novelty, but as a dish.  And any day that ends with fewer dandelions in the yard than it started with is a good day.

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