This might sound like a curious mix of things to call a pizza, but stick with me because this was exciting. Back when I first talked about the book Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition, I said something about how it wouldn’t be long before I tried the brioche pizza. Well, it was only a couple of months, and the brioche pizza is but one part of the story. This is also about how I finally made homemade ricotta. You see, one of the ingredients for the pizza is fresh ricotta, and there’s a recipe for that in the book too. I had been saying for months that I wanted to try making ricotta and quark and mascarpone, but I kept avoiding those projects. Everyone told me how easy it is to make ricotta and asked why I’d never done it. Deeba at Passionate About Baking inspires me by making several fresh cheeses including ricotta, and the Cosmic Cowgirl has instructions for three different ways of making it on her site. And so, at last, it was time, and if I was going to do this, I was going to do this right. I headed out to a farmers’ market on a chilly first day of spring morning and purchased a gallon of incredibly fresh, locally produced cow’s milk from Way Back When Dairy. I quickly learned that making ricotta is so easy it’s silly and that really fresh milk makes really delicious ricotta.
That gallon of whole milk, three quarters of a cup of distilled white vinegar, and a tablespoon of salt were placed in a large pan and brought up to 140 degrees F while stirring constantly. Then, it was left to continue warming to 175 degrees F. The separated curds were then spooned into a cheesecloth-lined mesh strainer with a base that was sitting in a large bowl. The strainer needs a base so that it can stand above the liquid that drains. It drained for about an hour, and voila, beautiful ricotta was born. That was the key to this pizza’s toppings. Ricotta with honey and pistachios is a natural fit, and then pushing those flavors a little by contrasting the sweetness with some savory heat was what resulted here. Those toppings just happened to have been on brioche dough.
Don’t call the butter police. I know this will sound like a lot of butter, but that’s brioche. The dough was started by mixing sugar, warm water, and yeast. Flour, additional sugar, and salt were combined, and then eggs and the yeast mixture were added to that in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. While mixing the dough, it was necessary to stop from time to time and pull the dough down off the dough hook and then continue. Then, softened butter was added one tablespoon at a time allowing each bit to be incorporated before adding more until the 16 luscious tablespoons of butter had been added. The dough was briefly kneaded by hand on a floured surface and was left to slowly rise in the refrigerator for at least four hours or up to two days. It was a lovely dough that was actually very easy to roll out for pizzas.
To make these pizzas, pistachios were fried in olive oil and then removed, drained on paper towels, and were coarsely chopped. After the olive cooled a little, red pepper flakes and sliced garlic were added to it. That flavored oil and some of the pepper flakes and garlic were brushed onto the rolled out pizza dough. The oil was topped with chopped pistachios and scoops of fresh ricotta. The pizza baked for about thirteen minutes, and then it was drizzled with honey and sprinkled with fleur de sel. I should explain that this isn’t really the kind of pizza to serve for eating several big slices while watching the game although I’m sure it would taste just as good whether a game was being watched or not. Rather, this is more of a pizza to cut into small pieces to be enjoyed with a cocktail. The rich dough was a very suitable platform for the creamy ricotta, sweet honey, and spicy hit of pepper. I wasn’t sure Kurt would love this, and neither was he. After tasting it, he claimed that the toppings really worked well together, and I couldn’t have agreed more. I also thought it was a great use of my very first fresh ricotta.