We were in San Francisco last week, and for me, no trip to that city is complete without a visit to the Zuni Cafe. On this visit I had an extraordinary pizza that was the inspiration for this one. A rich cow’s milk cheese was topped with the freshest corn and finished with a sprinkling of fresh lime zest. Subtle and delicious.
My version is a little less subtle. To the Zuni formula, I’ve added sliced jalapeño and a garnish of fresh cilantro — both of which I think complement the fresh corn without overwhelming it and add bright, fresh flavor to the pizza.
As with all pizzas, I think the keys to success are a very hot oven and a light hand with the toppings, particularly the cheese. I’ve included dough recipes below. (I mix up a batch weekly or so and keep it in the fridge.) But frozen pizza dough from the market works well too.
dough for 1 10-12 inch pizza crust (recipes below)
2-3 ounces (but no more than 3) of yellow cheddar cheese
1 ear of fresh corn
1 large jalapeño pepper
about 2 teaspoons olive oil
salt to taste
a handful of fresh cilantro leaves
1. Put a pizza stone (or an inverted baking sheet if you don’t have one) in the oven and preheat to 550F.
2. Grate the cheese, thinly slice the pepper (discarding the seeds) and cut the corn from the cob. (I think the easiest way to do this is to first slice off the fat end of the cob to make a flat surface, stand the cob up on this end, and then slice off the kernels with vertical strokes of a very sharp knife — top to bottom– rotating the cob as you go.)
3. Liberally dust a pizza peel (or a cutting board if you don’t have one) with cornmeal. Pull and stretch the dough into a roundish, 10-12″ shape. (Don’t sweat the details –if it gets holes, pinch them closed; if it’s not round enough, work on your perfectionism issues. If the dough becomes hard to work, let it rest for about 10 minutes and then come back to it.) Transfer to the peel, smooth it out and give the peel a good shake to make sure the dough will slide freely. (If it doesn’t, take it off and sprinkle on more cornmeal.)
4. Working quickly, spread the cheese evenly over the dough, leaving about a one-inch border. Then add the corn and jalapeño slices.
5. Transfer to the pizza stone and bake for 6-9 minutes, until the crust is crisp and browning and the cheese is bubbling. (To reliably transfer the pizza to the stone without crumpling it up, place the front edge of the peel near the back edge of the stone. Then raise the handle of the peel to tilt it slightly. The pizza should begin to slide off. (If it doesn’t, give the peel a shake and tilt it a bit more.) With the peel tilted toward the stone, swiftly and smoothly drag it backward (keeping the leading edge in contact with the stone as you go), leaving the pizza behind.)
6. When the pizza is done, remove it from the oven and, while it still piping hot, grate the zest of the lime (green part only) over the pizza with a microplane grater. Then drizzle on the olive oil and season with a couple of pinches of salt. Garnish with the cilantro leaves and serve immediately.
Recipes for Pizza Dough
1. Traditional Neapolitan-Style Crust
(for 4 10-inch (25cm) pizzas, adapted from A16 Food and Wine by Nate Appleman and Shelly Lindgren)
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups (355ml) warm water (about 100F or 38C)
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups (945ml) all-purpose flour
1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let it proof for 10 minutes (until you have a soft, frothy paste on top of the water). Stir in the olive oil and salt.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour and yeast mixture and mix together on low speed for about 2 minutes. Then knead the dough on low speed for about 10 minutes, or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and looks smooth.
3. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest for about 5 minutes. Then return it to the mixer and knead it on low speed for another 10 minutes until the dough is very smooth and soft.
4. Lightly coat a large bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to this bowl and turn it so that it’s completely covered in a film of olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
5. The next day, punch down the dough, then fold over the sides and turn the dough over in the bowl. Return to the fridge for at least 24 more hours.
6. About two hours before you’re ready to make pizza, remove the dough from the fridge and cut into four pieces. (You can also just cut off what you need and return the rest to the fridge. The dough will keep for at least a week.) One at a time, cup each piece in your hands and turn over the sides until you have formed a smooth ball. Place the balls on a floured work surface and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let them rest for 90 minutes to two hours, or until they have doubled in volume. (If a skin starts to form on the dough, dampen it again — a skin will prevent it from rising properly.)
7. Pat the dough into a disk and then stretch it into a round 10-12 inches in diameter and about 1/4 inch thick. Place on a cutting board or pizza peel generously dusted with cornmeal before proceeding. Top as desired and bake in a very hot oven –at least 500F (260C).
2. Whole Wheat Crust
(for two 10-inch (25cm) pizzas)
(adapted from Quick Whole Wheat Bread Tart Dough in Salad as a Meal by Patricia Wells.)
3/4 cup (180ml) whole wheat flour
3/4 cup (180ml) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more if needed and for dusting
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon table salt or fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup (160ml) lukewarm (about 100F or 38C) tap water
2 teaspoons olive oil
For the crust:
1. Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse to combine.
2. Add the oil to the warm water and then, with the motor running, gradually pour the liquid into the food processor until the mixture forms a sticky ball. (This should just take a few seconds.) If the mixture is too dry and won’t come together, add 1 to 2 more tablespoons of water. If it’s extremely wet and sticky, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour.
3. Transfer the dough to a clean floured surface and kneed for about a minute. Form into a ball.
4. Cover with a cloth and let rise for at least 10 minutes before rolling out. (Or keep it in the fridge for up to 4 days, punching down as necessary.)
5. Divide in half and roll out or stretch on a lightly floured surface to a diameter of about 10 inches (25cm). The crust will be thin –about 1/4 inch (5mm)– but it handles easily.
6. Transfer to a pizza peel or cutting board generously dusted with cornmeal before proceeding. Top as desired and bake in a very hot oven –at least 500F (260C).