I’ve cooked pizza in ovens, in a fire place when the power was out and in various barbecues, both coal and gas fired. My dream, however, is to make pizza in a Toney River bonfire. I’ve read you can make dough using ocean water by running it through a sieve then heating gently to bring it up to ‘tepid’ before adding the yeast. You then press the dough into a roasting tin and top it with whatever is best that moment in the summer, then cover the tin with foil. Nestle the pan into the glowing driftwood coals, and I imagine by the time you’ve rinsed your hands in the waves, the pizza will be ready.

This dream is carrying me through these grey drizzly days of April when winter is drawing to a close but spring has not yet sprung. So until bonfire season, I’ll be making pizza, practising, working the soft dough and topping it with ‘whatever is best that moment’, creating second nature muscle memory so I’m ready when things get wild.

That’s the beauty of pizza; it rolls with the seasons. The base can vary – saltwater, spelt, or dough purchased from the grocery store – while toppings can be whatever is in season, whatever you love.

April calls for wintry greens like kale and radicchio or fruit from the cellar topped with a splash of micro greens grown on the window sill (or found in special shops or on a friend’s window sill). A fresh sunny-side-up egg nestled in crumbled sausage is the perfect pizza centrepiece for early Spring – a promise of life that’s soon to come. And why not add a touch of maple syrup; it’s at its best, right now.

The following recipes capture this special time of year, with wild dreams thrown in. They are designed for one 10-inch pizza base. Pizza dough recipes – either spelt or regular flour – follow, but feel free to buy dough from the grocery store or from your favourite pizzeria. Or, get creative and use tortilla or naan bread as a base – just divide or multiply toppings accordingly.

All pizzas were tested in an electric oven, but feel free to nestle them into any hot spot that hits 450°F, or the temperature of red-hot, driftwood coals on a Northumberland Straight beach.


Pizza_Pear-and-blue-cheese

Pear with Blue Cheese and Micro Greens

Pear topped with the heady, saltiness of blue cheese is one of my favourite combinations. If you’re not into blue, substitute goat’s cheese or feta. As for the crown of micro greens, I’ve grown them through the spring months in trays in my sunny kitchen; they’re the perfect pop of green when life is grey outside. If you’re not into growing, Wayne of North of Nutty Farm sells his beautiful micro greens at The Earltown General Store or look for Bramble Hill Farms at the New Glasgow Farmers’ Market.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 fat pear, cored and sliced
2-3 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
Handful of micro greens
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Have one rolled out 10-inch pizza round ready and waiting on a piece of parchment paper.
  2. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  3. If using a pizza stone, slide the stone onto the lower rack of the oven so the oven preheats with the stone inside.
  4. If not using a stone, slide parchment, with pizza, onto a baking sheet. Drizzle pizza dough with olive oil and spread it around with your fingers. Fan pear slices over dough and top with pieces of blue cheese.
  5. Slide pizza into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, until pizza is golden and crispy around the edges. Garnish with micro greens and salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Slice and serve.

 


Pizza_Sausgae-and-egg

Sausage with Spinach and a Sunny-side-up Egg

We get our eggs delivered every other week by my friend Stephanie of Sweet Earth Farm, just outside of Earltown. In the summer we pick up at the farm, where we get to hang out with farmer and chief egg washer Sadie, Stephanie’s eight-year-old daughter.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 Italian sausages (or substitute your favourite)
4 cups loosely packed spinach
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 fresh egg
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Have one rolled out 10-inch pizza round ready and waiting on a piece of parchment paper.
  2. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  3. If using a pizza stone, slide the stone onto the lower rack of the oven so the oven preheats with the stone inside.
  4. Heat olive oil in a fry pan over medium heat. Cut a slit down the length of the sausages and tip filling into the pan. Discard the casing. Break sausage up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. When sausage bits have cooked through, add spinach to the pan. Stir to just wilt the spinach, then take pan off the heat.
  5. If not using a stone, slide parchment, with pizza, onto a baking sheet. Cover pizza with sausage and spinach. Make a little space in the centre of the pizza for the egg to sit, then top pizza with parmesan cheese. Slide pizza into the oven and cook for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, gently crack an egg into a small bowl. Take pizza out of the oven and tip egg into the well, then slide pizza back into the oven. Cook for five minutes more, or until egg is cooked to your liking and pizza base is golden and cooked through. Season with salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Slice and serve.

 


Pizza_Burnt-maple-butter-kale

Burnt Maple Butter Kale and Feta Pizza

The following toppings will fill one 10-inch pizza round, with extra kale chips for snacking. It’s best to make the kale chips first, then cook the pizza base, and top with the chips. The kale will scorch if cooked in the high temperature required for a pizza. But, if you don’t mind that extra singe, cook them all at once.

Have one rolled out pizza round ready and waiting on a piece of parchment, then get going on the burnt maple butter. Alternatively, make the butter anytime in advance and pull out when needed.

Burnt Maple Butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
8 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Heat maple syrup in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Let the syrup bubble away, without stirring, until it’s volcanic, about 10 minutes. Christina uses a candy thermometer – she let it go until 350°F. I go by colour – the bubbles will start to blacken around the edge of the pan – this is what gives the butter the ‘burnt’ quality. Don’t panic. Swirl the pan and take it off the heat. Slowly, one by one, add the pieces of butter, whisking well as you go. It’s important to keep it smooth – you don’t want the butter to separate from the syrup. When everything is smooth, whisk in the salt. Pour mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer and allow to cool. Whip, using the paddle attachment, scraping down the sides every so often, until very light and fluffy. Scoop butter into a container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

 

Kale Chips
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves chopped and washed
1/4 head of radicchio, thinly sliced (for colour and to counterbalance the sweetness of the burnt maple butter – totally optional)
2 ½ tablespoons burnt maple butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Heat oven to 225°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and cover with torn kale. Drizzle over burnt maple butter and sprinkle with sea salt. Use your hands to toss it all together, making sure each piece is coated. Spread kale across the sheet. Bake for 40 minutes, or until ‘chips’ are fully dehydrated and crisp. Cool. (Don’t cool them in the oven, like I’ve done, then forget about the chips then crank up the heat to make pizzas. Kale chips are still good singed, but it’s not ideal).

 

Pizza
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 tablespoons crumbled feta

Turn oven up to 450°F. If using a pizza stone, slide the stone onto the lower rack of the oven so the oven preheats with the stone inside. If not using a stone, slide parchment, with pizza, onto a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over dough (spread it around with your fingers), then scatter feta over top. Slide pizza into the oven (or onto stone) and set the timer for 8 minutes. At this point the pizza should be golden brown around the edges, puffed in places, cooked through, and the feta golden. Pull out of the oven and top with kale chips. Slice and serve.


Pizza_Dough

Spelt Pizza Dough

I buy Speerville’s Spelt Flour – I like its unique, nutty flavour. Spelt is gentler for those with gluten intolerance, but it isn’t ‘gluten free’. Makes 4 x 25cm / 10-inch pizzas

Ingredients:
1 ¼ cups (300 ml) warm water
2 teaspoons (2 sachets) dried yeast
4 ½ cups (525 g) spelt flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle yeast over warm water and leave for 5 minutes or so until it’s bubbly.
  2. Put flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and all yeast water in stages, mixing well as you go. Add the oil and continue mixing.
  3. Use your hands to transfer the mixture to a lightly floured surface – dough will be a shaggy mess. Knead the dough (fold in half towards you, turn a quarter turn, push away from you with the heal of your hand, fold, repeat) for about 10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic.
  4. Place ball back into the mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel, and leave in a warm place to rest for about an hour until doubled in size.
  5. Turn the dough back onto the floured surface and divide into four balls.
  6. Spread a few tablespoons of olive oil on a baking sheet. Place balls onto sheet and roll them around in the oil. Leave to rise again in a warm spot for another 30 minutes.
  7. Knead balls, one at a time, for a minute on a lightly floured surface. Press the dough out flat and, using a rolling pin, shape it into a round circle, about 10” in diameter. Using your knuckles press just inside the edges to raise them slightly. At this point, slide dough onto a piece of parchment.
  8. Preheat the oven to 450°C. If using a pizza stone, place it on the middle rack and allow it to preheat with the oven. When dough is covered with toppings, slide dough onto pizza stone, or onto a baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes, or until crispy and golden and the base is cooked through.

Traditional Pizza Dough

This dough uses the ‘sponge’ method where some of the flour is added to the water and yeast, and this ‘sponge’ is allowed to rest before the rest of the flour is mixed in – a baby step towards sour dough. Makes 4 x 25cm / 10-inch pizzas

Ingredients:
4 teaspoons dried yeast
1 ¼ (300 ml) lukewarm water
4 cups (500 g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Dissolve the yeast in about 2 tablespoons of the lukewarm water.
  2. Add about 2 tablespoons of the flour, mix to a smooth paste, then stir in the remaining water. Cover and leave the yeast mixture for about 30 minutes or until it is bubbling and foamy.
  3. Whisk the flour and salt together in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the yeast liquid and remaining water. Work the ingredients together using a wooden spoon by pulling the flour into the liquid mixture until it comes together.
  4. Use your hands to transfer the mixture to a lightly floured surface – it will be a shaggy mess. Knead the dough (fold in half towards you, turn a quarter turn, push away from you with the heal of your hand, repeat) for about 10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a round loaf and cut into 4 even-sized pieces. Form each piece into a ball and leave them all to rise under a clean tea towel for about 1 ½ hours, or until they have doubled in size. (This can happen in the refrigerator overnight. Let dough balls come to room temperature before baking).
  5. Use one ball of dough for one pizza. Punch down the dough and knead for a couple of minutes on a lightly floured surface. Press the dough out flat and using a rolling pin shape it into a round circle, about 10” in diameter. Using your knuckles press just inside the edges to raise them slightly. Leave the dough to rest for 10-15 minutes. At this point, slide it onto a piece of parchment paper.
  6. Preheat the oven to 450°C. If using a pizza stone, place it on the middle rack and allow it to preheat with the oven. When dough is covered with toppings, slide dough onto pizza stone, or onto a baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes, or until crispy and golden and the base is cooked through.
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Lindsay Cameron Wilson
Lindsay Cameron Wilson believes that food is the portal to all good stories. You can find her in her Halifax kitchen developing recipes, writing food stories, standing on her kitchen counter photographing food, hosting The Food Podcast or eating sandy marshmallows on the Northumberland Strait with her husband and three boys.