ROASTED FENNEL & GOAT’S CHEESE PIZZA

I think we’re due a pizza and movie night…

That’s right, it’s time to crack open an ice-cold beer, fire up that oven, toss some pizza dough and make the everyday struggle of choosing what to watch on Netflix. Tonight is going to be one of those lazy, slob on the couch nights where delicious comfort food, company, and TV is going to trump going out (<— this is basically me every night, btw.)

But, before you go reaching for that take-out menu (not that I’m judging you, I’m not) how about, just for a second, you consider not having someone make the pizza for you, but make it yourself?

I know, I know, this kinda defeats the purpose of a lazy, stay at home, drown yourself with beer (or wine, whatever your poison) and stuff yourself full of pizza night that we have planned but hear me out for a second.

This is what’s going to happen: You’re going to pull the pizza dough that you made yesterday from out of the fridge and let it sit for a couple of hours to rise. Then you’re going to roll it out and slather in with garlic-herb butter (at which point you could just throw it in the oven and have yourself some delicious garlic-herb pizza bread but let’s not get sidetracked).

Then you’re going to toss over thick pieces of roasted fennel, crumble over a hefty amount of goat’s cheese, add a sprinkling of sun-dried tomatoes and throw it into your oven for about 5 minutes – yep, that’s all it takes. And then, when that puffed up dough dripping with melted cheese emerges from the furnace you’re going to toss over shredded basil leaves and drizzle it with a pomegranate-balsamic drizzle.

The result: a cheesy, herby pizza that explodes with the sweet-tanginess of pomegranates which = the perfect pizza to sit on the couch and stuff your face with whilst catching up on your Netflix binging (what are you guys watching right now?)

My opinion on what makes a great pizza seems to change on a daily basis; pretty much reflecting the mood I’m in and how hungry I am – which, really, is how my opinion on every type of food is formed – I’m foodie-fluid like that.

One day I will tell you the best type of pizza is the traditional Italian-like pizza; a thin and crispy base, lightly topped with very few ingredients – between 2 and four – baked to crispy perfection with a simple flavor profile – and I’ll shovel that pizza away like there is no tomorrow.

And then, on others, when I’m tired and can’t be bothered to cook dinner and that take out menu is looking oh so inviting right now, I’ll decide that the best type of pizza is the one from one of the many great pizza joints near home. Sure, they’re still following the thin (ish) base format, but they are fully loaded with toppings – a kitchen sink kind of approach. You know the ones I mean; the Meat lovers (*drool*), the Supreme (which is basically the Meat Lovers with some added veggies just to easy our pizza stuffing conscience which = *double drool*) and all the other pizza suspects that can be found at any pizza joint around the world – which is your favorite?

It’s times like these that I’m also open to a whole range of pizza toppings especially the “gourmet” range which move as far away from their Italian heritage as possible: Greek souvlaki and tzatziki, lamb and roasted pumpkin, Piri Piri chicken, tandoori chicken, and even a “Swedish style” pizza loaded with Bolognese and drowned in bearnaise sauce…

…. wow, I’m drooling just thinking about all these delicious pizzas.

But, as amazing these pizzas are I still feel like I’m cheating on the “real” traditional Italian pizza. Don’t get me wrong, I perfectly alright with this – it doesn’t keep me up at night and, on nights where I do order take out I consider them the best pizzas ever (told you, foodie-fluid!)

But every now and then I feel like I should pull the reins in and get back to classic, authentic pizzas – or close to it, anyway.

(By the way, despite my differing opinions of pizza never, ever, do I consider the deep-pan style  – you know, where there’s more dough than actual topping – to be a pizza option. I mean, what’s that all about?!?!?!?)

So this recipe came out of a need to create something a little simple and straightforward, whilst still dipping an eager toe into the “gourmet” waters of pizza making. Having had very little experience working with fennel before (and I call myself a foodie!?!?) this was immediately ticking that box for me. Add a pomegranate-balsamic drizzle and slightly traditional // slightly gourmet pizza goals were achieved.

So grab a beer, fire up that pizza oven (aka your normal kitchen oven because who has a pizza oven just lying around the house?) and turn your home into your very own traditional, but slightly different, pizzeria!

Goat’s Cheese and Roasted Fennel Pizza

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • FOR THE PIZZA BASE (makes three pizza bases):290g unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ¾ cup of cold water
  • 2 tbsp polenta – for dusting
  • FOR THE TOPPING (makes 1 pizza): 50g butter, softened
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp dried herbs of your choice
  • 120g fennel, sliced into thin strips
  • 50g soft goat’s cheese (I used a semi-soft Chèvre), crumbled
  • 1 tbsp diced sun-dried tomato
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil, coarsely chopped

Instructions

  1. The day before you want to make pizza: Sift together the flour, salt, and yeast until well combined. Add the water and olive oil and bring it together into a dough. Knead for about 10 minutes (this can be done in your mixer with a dough hook) until the dough is a soft and slightly sticky dough. If you are using a mixer, the dough should clear the sides of the bowl but still stick to the bottom. Add a little flour or water to adjust if necessary (a tablespoon at a time).
  2. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and cut into three equal pieces. dust with flour and shape into balls. Take one of the dough balls and place them onto a plate. Spray with spray oil and cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  3. You can do the same with the other two balls (they can be on the same plate as the first) if you want to make more that one pizza but, if not, brush them with cooking oil, place them in freezer-safe bags/ containers and freeze for up to three months, transferring to the refrigerator 24 hours before you want to make pizza again.
  4. Two hours before you want to make the pizza, remove the dough from the fridge. Place the dough on a floured surface, and dust the top with flour. With floured hands, gently press the ball into a disc shape about ½ inch thick. Place back on the plate, mist with spray oil and leave in a warm dry place for two hours. Repeat with the remaining dough balls if making more than one pizza.
  5. An hour before making the pizza, preheat your oven to 200°C / 390°F. Place the fennel on a lined baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until cooked. Remove and set aside. Now turn the heat of your oven up to its hottest temperature (mine reaches around 260°C /. If you have a pizza stone, now is the time to put it into the oven.
  6. Once the dough has stood out of the fridge for two hours, transfer it to a floured surface and knead for a minute. Now roll the dough out into a large circular shape (it doesn’t have to be perfect – you can see mine wasn’t!) Sprinkle a generous layer of polenta onto the back of a baking sheet/ pan and place the pizza base on top.
  7. Stir together the butter, garlic, and dried herbs and spread over the pizza base, leaving ½ – 1cm gap around the edge. Add the roasted fennel, goat’s cheese, and sundried tomato to the base.
  8. Once the oven is hot enough, slide the pizza from the baking sheet onto the pizza stone. If you don’t have a pizza stone, place another baking sheet into the oven moments before you are ready to cook the pizza and slide it on to this. The cooking time will depend on how hot your oven can get and, through several tests, I find the pizza can turn from undercooked to overcooked very quickly. Start at three minutes and, if still not cooked (the base should be golden and crispy around the edges) keep checking it at 1-minute intervals until done.
  9. Whilst the pizza is cooking, combine the pomegranate molasses and balsamic vinegar. Once cooked, remove the pizza from the oven and allow to stand for a minute before drizzling over the pomegranate-balsamic drizzle, and sprinkling over the chopped basil. Slice and serve.