DOLLOPS OF SAVORY WHIPPED CREAM HELPLESSLY DESTABILIZE UNDER THE BLAZING HEAT OF THE OVEN, RENDERING INTO A PUDDLE OF SALTY, OILY, HERBY AND CREAMY MAGMA
You know, I try not to make pizzas nowadays.
Off carbs? I wish. Gluten-free? Is there any other diet more torturous by design? How about an oven that shuts down in the middle of nowhere for no reasons whatsoever? OK, yeah I have that. But, no. No, not for any of those things. In fact, the reason is a simple and straightforward one, in fact, one that deals with our most basic instinctual fear which drives, I believe, most human behaviors… the fear of dying alone.
Wait, pizza can do that? Yes, pizza can do that. How? By making me fat.
Now before you cast your judgements, yeah, shut up. And for the rest of my kins who are wondering, really? Have I seen what I’ve been making lately? Pizza is hardly the enemy. Yeah you got a point there. But see, out of all the self-destructive conducts that traffic through my kitchen on a daily basis – buffalo wing soup dumpling, charsiu pineapple buns, chicken confit grilled cheese or Chongqing little slurps – you’d be surprised to find out that pizzas, by far, premeditates on this hateful motive the most. Don’t take my word for it. Ask Jason and his dignity, too, is willing to testify.
So yeah, I try not to.
But then what the fuck is a woman who’s in pizza-rehab, squatting and hugging a book by Joe Beddia, who allegedly, owns a pizzeria in Philadelphia?
It’s not what it looks like and I can explain it. First of all, the book was a gift, and whoever the giver may or may not know about my predicament so leave her alone. Seconds of all, I’ll be honest to say that I wasn’t expecting a breach of trust here, a trust that assumed this was just another Pizza book that dealt with nothing more than a generic dough recipe and a few classic safe-zone toppings, you know, red sauce, white sauce/béchamel, blah blah. Nothing I couldn’t resist. Nothing in here was gonna hurt me, I said, as I read on unsuspectingly.
But a line was crossed, and a yellow tape was ripped, as the moment I saw the words “spring cream”, on page 64 line 1, there was no going back.
What… what is a “spring cream”, my love? (sorry this is usually where my inner Gollum emerges) Whipped cream, mah friends, whipped, cream. As Joe calls it “emulsified in the food-processor”, hey, I think I know a whipped cream when I see one, and the idea of dollops of savory whipped cream helplessly destabilize under the blazing heat of the oven, rendering into a puddle of salty, oily, herby, and creamy magma… quite frankly, overwrote all my good senses. Any junkies would tell you that relapses are never easy, filled with disgrace and defeat and hyper-aware self-loathing, especially, especially one that takes you to a level of high that blows your mind as you crawl in joy and tears of shame. I torn through the soft yet chewy, translucent crumbs of a slice that draped in a sinister fashion, tasting the thick yet lightly fluffed broken cream whipped with spring herbs and garlics, occasionally stung by the kick of pickled chilis but was told that it was all okay by the soothing fragrance of dill. I felt good. I felt good as I felt bad, and it was all too confusing to compute as the heat of summer relentlessly approaches.
Here, my friends. Who loves company more than misery? Fatness. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
Adapted from Pizza Camp by Joe Beddia
- 1 cup (242 grams) heavy/whipping cream
- 1 tbsp (15 grams) fish sauce (the original recipe uses salt to taste)
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- juice from 1/4 lemon
- 1 small garlic, peeled
- 1 small handful scallion
- 1 small handful basil
- 355 grams(1 1/2 cup) water
- 8 grams (2 tsp) light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
- 13 grams (1 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
- 500 grams (3 1/2 cups) bread flour
- 19 grams (1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp) fine sea salt
- semolina flour for shaping
- thinly shaved garlics, 1 for each pizza
- finely grated dry mozzarella
- fresh dill fronds
- finely diced pickled red chilis
- extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
- freshly ground black pepper
- aged pecorino romano to finish
- MAKE SPRING CREAM: You can make this either before use, or up to 5 days ahead of time. In a food-processor, add heavy cream, fish sauce, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, scallions and basil. Pulse several times until the cream becomes softly whipped. Transfer into an air-tight container and chill in the fridge until needed.
- PREPARE THE DOUGH: The original recipe suggests letting the dough proof for 24 hours in the fridge for the first rise, then 3~4 hours at room-temperature for the final rise. But for me, after the first 24 hours, the dough barely expanded, and after several hours sitting at room-temperature, not much "rise" had happened either. So I ended up putting the shaped dough back in the fridge for another 24 hours. This accidental, more than 48 hours fermentation gave me the most soft, translucent and chewy crumbs with crusty exterior. I'm not sure if it would be the same had I only done it for 24 hours. So I'm going to lay out both options for you and you can decide as your schedule see fit.
- In a large bowl, whisk together water, light brown sugar and instant dry yeast until the mixture is cloudy-looking. Whisk in the extra virgin olive oil thoroughly, then add the bread flour. Use a sturdy spoon to mix everything together until there is no dry flour left. It should a wet and sticky dough. Now cover the bowl with plastic-wrap and let sit for 30 min, in order for the flour to hydrate. Afterward, add the fine sea salt and incorporate it into the dough with wet hands. In a slow and gentle motion, fold the dough onto itself several times until you feel that the salt is completely and evenly integrated. Cover again with plastic-wrap and transfer into the fridge to ferment for 24 hours.
- Now, for me, after 24 hours, the dough barely expanded. And It's ok. Scrape it onto a well-floured surface and divide into 2 equal portions. Fold a few corners of the dough inwards over itself, then flip it with the seam-side down, and shape it into a ball. (From here on, I like to use semolina flour to prevent sticking, which doesn't affect the moisture level of the dough as much as regular flour). Place the dough-balls on well-floured surface, cover loosely with plastic wrap (make sure the top surface is well-floured, too), and let rise again UNTIL FULLY DOUBLED.
- This is supposed to take 3~4 hours at room-temperature, and if your dough doubles, great, proceed as the following. But for me, the dough only expanded minimally. So I ended up putting the dough (well covered) back in the fridge for another slow rise overnight (about 12 hours)(what was meant for dinner became lunch). Next day I took the doughs out of the fridge and it took another 2~3 hours for them to be ready (fully doubled, and doesn't spring back when you dent it with a finger).
- BAKE THE PIZZA: 1 hour before baking, preheat the oven on 500 F/250 C. Instead of heating the pizza stone (or cast iron grill sheet as I did) in the oven, I suggesting heating it on stove-stop over direct high heat for 6~7 minutes before you need it, then transfer it into the oven for baking. This heats the pizza stone or cast iron up to a much higher temperature than the oven can, thus resulting in a crustier bottom crust.
- Place the dough-ball on a well-floured surface, then gently, use the back of your fingers, make a dent around the edges to form a raised ring (see photo). Hold the dough by the ring (like holding a hula hoop) and gently lift the dough up and suspend it in air for a few seconds, then rotate by a few degrees and repeat. You're essentially letting the weight of the dough pull and stretch itself out. If the dough springs back and feels resistant, let it rest for another 5 min. Then lay the dough flat and gently pull outwards to form a perfect round shape.
- Spread 1/2 of the spring cream evenly across the surface (for each pizza), then scatter thinly shaved garlic, grated mozzarella (NOT TOO MUCH), dill fronds and diced pickled red chilis on top. Drizzle with a bit olive oil and dust with black pepper, then bake in the oven for 5~10 min until the crust is golden browned. Grate aged pecorino romano to finish.
The book suggested other toppings, but I kept it pure and simple with fresh dill and pickled chilis. I really wouldn't add anything else.