Written Recipes
Brad's Signature Pizza with Sausage, Goat Cheese and Avocado
Brad English

Being last isn't always a bad thing.  As I often say, one of my favorite pizzas to make is the one that develops with left over ingredients or by chance.  Making pizzas is no small task.  You don't generally just make one pizza - at home anyway.  You prep and throw a few pies together because it's a bit of work and the operation does create a bit of a mess no matter how you manage it.  When you add in photography as part of your mise en place you get flour and ingredients all over the place -- but it's so much fun!  Besides all that, pizza is also meant to be eaten as a left over.  It's good cold the next day for breakfast straight out of the fridge and how many things can you say that about?

I set out to make my 4th version of the Signature Pizza using a Hot Italian Sausage as the anchovy replacement.  As I was shopping, I thought of the Buonchristiani Lamb Fennel Sausage Pizza I first made earlier this past year (see archives) and decided to pick up some fresh goat cheese to go toward that concept, and to also try changing another main ingredient to see what would happen.  So, here I was about to make version 4.  I think there was a leak in my glass.  I kept having to refill it as I made my pizzas.  I have to say, I think I enjoy having a sip of good wine or beer while I'm cooking as much as I do when eating the finished product.  In the same sense I think, for me, the act of cooking is half the fun of eating, so why wouldn't the tasting of wine or beer while you pull your ingredients together make for an enhanced experience just as when you pair the final dish?  I think this further explains why food is so important to us.  It really is a a gift that we gather around on a daily basis as we share our lives with one another.  I enjoy sharing a home cooked meal with friends, either here or at their house, but for all of these reasons, I think some of my favorite dinner parties are when you gather and cook together, essentially making the dinner prep part of the dinner party. 

But, this time I was alone in the kitchen.  The family was circling, but busy doing other things while they waited for the next pizza to emerge from the oven.  Alone, I had to march on, knowing that they would soon gather and, hopefully, enjoy what I was making.  I know Owen would.  He's like Mikey - he eats everything!

The ingredients on top of this version of the Signature Pizza are basically the same as the previous except for the substitution of the Sausage and Goat Cheese.  As I was assembling the pizza an avocado, sitting in a bowl on the counter, caught my eye.  It was ripe.  Okay, why not?  When life puts a chalkboard sign in your path, pay attention!  While the pizza cooked, I decided to cut it open and throw it on the pizza after.  It was green and would certainly look cool, and I thought it would be an interesting texture and mellow flavor accent on top of the spicier sausage and distinct goat cheese.  I have a nice bottle of balsamic vinegar that a friend gave me from the Central Coast.  It's surprising that I still have it, because it's so good you feel compelled to drink it, not drizzle it!  At the end, this sweet vinegary drizzle proved to be the final touch of a lucky accident. 

This is a terrific pizza!  There are layers and layers of flavors that come at you from between the cool topping of avocado to the warm crusty dough on the bottom.  The Birra Basta, with it's fruity earthiness, handled this quite well.  Each of my four variations of the Signature Challenge Pizza (see previous postings), in fact, delivered a slight variation of flavors to work with,  challenge, and blend with the Bruery's beer.  What a great way to experiment on playing with a pizza and pairing concept, coming up with a number of similar but interesting variations.  It was also a pizza feast!  I'm still a fan of Kelly Whitaker's original anchovy version, but I sure had fun creating some options to share with my family, who all agreed that these were some of the best pizzas yet!


Brad's Home Made Pizza Quest Challenge Pizza - with Hot Italian Sausage, Goat Cheese and a Sliced Avocado Topping:

Pizza Quest Signature Beer Pizza Dough  *Any dough will work, but I have to say it's worth it to make this dough.

Burrata cheese

Fresh Goat Cheese

Hot Italian Sausage - or, any other sausage you may feel like trying

Sliced Chilis (Hot or Mild)

Preserved Lemon   *Kelly Whitaker made his own in a pressure cooker.  Lacking the time and skills, I found a baking product called Lemon Curd to use instead.  It gave a nice tart lemon flavor in bursts, as well as a sweet finish.

Greens  *I had some wild arugula around.  This worked great.

Kalamata Olives - I had picked up some at the market and decided to use a few.

Fennel Salt
*I didn't have that, so I diced up a little fennel greens and sprinkled some sea salt to finish the pizza.

Sliced Avocados

Good quality Balsamic Vinegar to drizzle


INSTRUCTIONS:
Spread the dough to your desired size. 

Add Peter's Herb Oil to dough (see archives)

Add the Goat Cheese and then put a little Burrata in the center (bear in mind that it will melt and cover).

Add the pre-cooked, but not browned sausage (it will brown and crisp in the oven on the pizza)

Add the sliced Chilis

Add a few pinched Kalamata olives for little salty briny flavor bursts

Add the lemon curd, or preserved lemon in little dabs around the pizza.  This is meant to be a surprise, not an all over flavor.  It's not a flavor you would think of for pizza, but when used sparingly I've become a big fan.  That may have to do with the fact that I have a Birra Basta sitting next to me that Patrick Rue and his team infused with lemon peel during the brewing.  Maybe...


Into the oven it goes…

While the pizza cooks, cut the avocado in half.  In the skin, make 1/8" slices lengthwise.  Scoop them out with a spoon.

Take the pizza out after 8-10 minutes, or when done (in a convection 525 oven I am getting closer to a 6-7 minute bake). 

Lay the avocado slices over the hot pizza.

Sprinkle or drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the pizza

Cut and serve…

This one is a keeper!  So good --  you have to try it!


Enjoy and Happy New Year!!!!


 
Signature Pizza with Jalapeno Cured Bacon
Brad English

I'm still working on my Pizza Quest Signature Pizza series.  I set out to make a few versions to try with a glass or two of my Birra Basta.  I can't just let the keg sit there, right?  It was all created to be used; The Bruery didn't brew this beer to pour it down the drain.  The makers of my "new" kegerator surely wanted beer to flow through it.  I know I'm onto something here. 

As so many artisans explain, quality food starts by using the freshest ingredients you can get.   As I got into home cooking, I watched a lot of Molto Mario.  One of the things I picked up early from watching was that you use what is fresh. If you set out to make a recipe that calls for Bluefish and all you can find at the market that's fresh is the Sea Bass - you substitute!  Go fresh.  Buy local quality food as close to it's original environment  as you can.  This isn't exactly the right example here, but I bring it up because when I shop for pizza ingredients, I have a general list and look for those ingredients, but keep an eye out for something that says, "Here I am!  I am fresh!  I am bold!  I am your future!"  I haven't found that thing yet, but I often find some other interesting ingredients to work with. 

I was browsing the meat department looking for another option to this Signature Pizza.  I had some things in mind, but was definitely browsing.  "Hello there" it said.  I introduced myself.  We got along immediately.  I don't know how we had never met before.  "I'm always in your neighborhood!?" I said. By now the butcher was about to call security on me.  He wasn't used to customers talking to his bacon display.  But, this wasn't just bacon.  It was a proudly sliced pile of Jalapeño Cured Bacon. 

Ok, now back to reality.  How do you not try that?!  I knew I was looking for some spiciness and salted pork.  I didn't know it would be brought together in this way, but there she was.  Beautiful in all her glory.  Sorry, I slipped away again. 

The pizza is pretty much the same as the previous few.  It turned out delicious which was to be expected.  If you can't find a Jalapeno Cured Bacon, I imagine using a quality bacon and adding some thinly sliced, or chopped jalapenos would work as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Brad's Home Made Pizza Quest Challenge Pizza - The Jalapeño Cured Bacon Variety:

Pizza Quest Signature Beer Pizza Dough (see Instructional archives)
*Any dough will work, but I have to say it's worth it to make this dough
Squash Blossoms
*I couldn't find any, so I substituted a baby Belgian white endive
Burrata Cheese
Lemon Preserves
*Kelly Whitaker made his own in a pressure cooker.  Lacking the time and skills, I found a baking product called Lemon Curd to use instead.  It gave a nice tart lemon flavor in bursts as well as a sweet finish.
Old Glory herself - House Cured Jalapeño Bacon (We met at Whole Foods, if you're interested)    
Fresh Greens
*I had some wild arugula around.  This worked great.
Fennel Salt
*I didn't have that, so I diced up a little fennel greens and sprinkled some sea salt to finish the pizza.


Spread the dough to your desired size. 

Add the Burrata Cheese to the center of the dough, factoring in how it will melt and cover.

Lay out the endive leaves

Add the lemon curd, or preserved lemon in little dabs around the pizza.  This is meant to be a surprise, not an all over flavor.  It's not a flavor you would think of for pizza, but as you'll see in some of these recipes I've become a big fan.  That may have to do with the fact that I have a Birra Basta sitting next to me that Patrick infused with Lemon Peel during the brewing.  Maybe...



Add the cooked Jalapeño Bacon (or bacon with sliced chilis)


Into the oven it goes…

While the pizza cooks, toss some greens with a little herb oil or a favorite dressing. Or, you could just put the greens on as is.

Take the pizza out after 8-10 minutes.

Lay Salad mixture over the hot pizza.

Sprinkle the Fennel and a little Sea Salt across the pizza (sparingly).

Cut and Serve…

Oh, and pour your next glass of bier!


Enjoy!



 
The Signature Pizza with Sopressata and Chilis
Brad English

I love our Signature Pizza.  I didn't come up with the recipe but, I was a part of the creation of the question, and the following ideas, that ultimately came together to become it.  I think how lucky we were to have Peter come up with a brand new dough that brought beer into the pizza - a pizza being designed to be paired with a beer that was to be created to pair with the pizza!  What came first... (no, this is not an Abbott and Costello routine, though it could be)?  As Peter wrote about in his Signature Dough Recipe post, you could just add beer in place of the water and do the same, but he "didn't want to waste a perfectly good beer."  (Maybe I'll give that a shot in the coming weeks as an experiment for those of you who don't have access to the Malted Barley crystal. When we were with Kelly Whitaker at Pizzeria Basta at the beginning of this journey we did make a test dough with a Bruery beer in it.  It was great.  I'll definitely have to follow this up with a liquid beer dough for those of us who are just home cooks).

I also think about how lucky we were to have met Kelly and his restaurant partner Alan Henkin.  They took this idea and ran with it.  They gave a lot of time, and put in a lot of effort, to create a one of a kind, truly unique pizza.  I was like a kid in a candy store watching it all happen.  Peter, Kelly, and Alan were also like kids in a candy store when we visited The Bruery, first taking a tour and then getting to make pizzas right there outside the brewery door in a mobile wood-fired oven.  I can only assume that owner Patrick Rue, and Tyler and all the guys at The Bruery felt equally delighted as they got to test their brewing skills to match the "Signature Pizza."

 

When Kelly made the final batch of pizzas in Denver for what we called "The Big Reveal," he brought a variation for the anchovies.  I actually requested that he bring something along so we could try a a different variation with the newly created Birra Basta and see how that went with it as well.  Kelly, being Kelly brought a house cured pork belly.  If you have read any of my writing here you know I am a huge fan of salted/cured pork products.  Well, that pizza was definitely a winning combination with the Birra Basta as well.  So, here at home, I thought it only fitting to try a few versions of my own.  On top of that, my family, other than my son Owen, doesn't much like fish.  Anchovies, I learned from them, are at or near the top of the list when you don't like fish! 

For this first variation I used a mild Sopressata salami, as well as some thinly sliced Anaheim Chili Peppers.  The rest was basically the same as the original.  I wanted to push this pizza a little toward Kelly's house cured pork, but also adding another accent with the chilies.  It works!  There's a lot going on here, from the savory sopressata, buratta cheese, and herb oil, through the chili's announcement that it's joined the party, to the subtle ping of the lemon curd popping in and saying "Hello there!"

Oh, and it did go down quite well with our "friend," the glass of Birra Basta (yes, I managed to acquire a keg of that amazing brew now living in my special kegster fridge) playing off some of the same flavor notes that Kelly established, and adding a few more to challenge the pairing.

Brad's Home Made Pizza Quest Challenge Pizza - The Sopressata Edition:

Pizza Quest Signature Beer Pizza Dough
(*Any dough will work, but I have to say it's worth it to make this dough -- see the archives in our Instructional section)

Squash Blossoms
(*I couldn't find any, so I substituted a baby Belgian white endive)
Burrata Cheese

Preserved Lemon (*Kelly Whitaker made his own in a pressure cooker.  Lacking the time and skills, I found a baking product called Lemon Curd to use instead.  It gave a nice tart lemon flavor in bursts as well as a sweet finish.)

Sopressata salami (mild, or slightly spicy)

Anaheim Chili Peppers, or any other chili such as a Hatch, or even thinly sliced Jalapenos if you want a little more heat.

Fresh Greens
(*I had some wild arugula around.  This worked great.)

Fennel Salt
(*I didn't have that, so I diced up a little fennel greens and sprinkled some sea salt to finish the pizza.)

Peter's Herbed Oil or any flavored herbed oil (see archives)

 

Instructions:

Spread the dough to your desired size. 

Add the Burrata Cheese (considering how it will melt, spread, and cover).

Lay out the endive leaves.

Add the lemon curd, or preserved lemon, in little dabs around the pizza.  This is meant to be a surprise, not a dominating flavor.  It's not a flavor you would think of for pizza but, as you'll see in some coming recipes, I've become a big fan.  That may have to do with the fact that I have a mug of Birra Basta sitting next to me that Patrick infused with Lemon Peel during the brewing.  Maybe...

Add the Sopressata and Chili Slices

Into the oven it goes…

While the pizza cooks, toss some greens with a little of the herb oil or a favorite dressing. Or, you could just put the greens on as is.

Take the pizza out after 8-10 minutes, or when done.

Lay the greens over the hot pizza.

Sprinkle the fennel and a little sea salt across the pizza (sparingly).

Cut and Serve…

Oh, and pour your second glass of bier!

This is a terrific pizza, if I do say so myself!  I hope you'll try it and let us know what you think.

Enjoy!




 
Brad's Signature Pizza
Brad English

Pizza Quest was an idea that popped into my mind a couple of years ago.  I called my buddy Jeff about the book I just read  - Peter's "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza".  Not long after I was corresponding with Peter and Jeff about how we could make this idea a show.  It still isn't a show on TV, but we have launched the website and if it's anything, it is an adventure in and of itself.  We have put some hard work into the site and hope it's been as enjoyable to our guests as it has been for us. 

Another idea came along about 6 months ago and many of you have been following our quest to challenge Patrick Rue and his brewers over at The Bruery.  It was quite an experience watching and living that idea as it blossomed from it's inception to us chasing this unique beer and pizza pairing across the western United States.  I find myself at home now, thinking back on the whole thing, and I'm smiling.  It was just amazing to be me standing with the likes of Peter Reinhart, Kelly Whitaker and Patrick Rue.  My father is an actor.  I remember when I was younger - oh, so much younger. He had come home from filming an episode on Cheers during it's hay day.  He said it was like stepping in and playing on a Super Bowl Team for the week.  As I wrote in a previous photo caption, I felt like I was standing with giants. 

We didn't move the world.  But, we moved our lives a good measure toward our common quest for a better quality of life.  Each of us can participate in this everyday, or as often as we wish.  True artisans like Kelly, Patrick or so many others we have met along the way do it for a living.  But, it's there for all of us to experience as we challenge ourselves to participate in life.  It's amazing to me, even as one of the nuts behind Pizza Quest, that pizza can be such an interesting way of exploring these aspects of life. 

One of the benefits of being a Pizza Quester is that you get a few perks.  We don't get many, but the few we've gotten have been nice indeed.  Patrick offered me a keg of Birra Basta since they didn't bottle it.  I didn't have a kegerator, but always wanted one.  So, now I have a kegerator and a keg of Birra Basta - a beer brewed by a great brewery that was at least partially inspired by my ideas.  How cool is that? 

Now, what better way to enjoy the beer than to make the pizza it was created for?

Here's my first version of the pizza that Kelly created to rest atop of Peter's Signature Bruery Pizza Dough.  I will follow this up with a few more variations on this pizza in the coming weeks, which all turned out amazing as well.

 

Brad's Home Made Pizza Quest Challenge Pizza:

-Pizza Quest Signature Beer Pizza Dough
*Any dough will work, but I have to say it's worth it to make this dough (you can get the flour by contacting Central Milling -- see the link to their site at the top of this page).
-Squash Blossoms
*I couldn't find any, so I substituted baby Belgian endives
-Burrata Cheese -- it's a blend of fresh mozzarella filled with creme fraiche or mascarpone cheese.
-Preserved Lemon
*Kelly Whitaker made his own in a pressure cooker.  Lacking the time and skills, I found a baking product called Lemon Curd to use instead.  It gave a nice tart lemon flavor in bursts as well as a sweet finish.
-White Anchovies
*I found a marinaded white anchovy at Whole Foods.  It was delicious - was dressed in a lemony/herby oil - which I used to toss into the greens.
-Greens
*I had some wild arugula around.  This worked great.
-Fennel Salt
*I didn't have that, so I diced up a little fennel greens and sprinkled some sea salt to finish the pizza.

 

 

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

Spread the dough to your desired size. 

Add the Burrata Cheese around the center of the dough (it will melt and spread).

Lay out the endive leaves.

Into the oven it goes…

While the pizza cooks, toss some greens with the white anchovies.  Again, these were dressed in a nice lemony herby oil.  I didn't add anything else to the salad.

Take the pizza out after 8-10 minutes.

Add the lemon curd, or preserved lemon in little dabs around the pizza.  This is meant to be a surprise, not an all over flavor.  It's not a flavor you would think of for pizza but, as you'll see in some coming recipes, I've become a big fan.  That may have to do with the fact that I have a Birra Basta sitting next to me that Patrick infused with Lemon Peel during the brewing.  Maybe...

Lay the salad mixture over the hot pizza.

Sprinkle the fennel and a little sea salt across the pizza (sparingly).

Cut and Serve…

Oh, and pour your second glass of bier!

This pairing works.  The crust sets it all up and you are literally experiencing a flavor affair in your mouth.  You then take a sip and it becomes something else, similar but altogether different.  Enjoyable is a word that comes to mind.

I ate this pizza all by myself.  I had some other ideas along these lines that I wanted to share with my family - but they wouldn't go near the white anchovies with a 10 foot fishing pole!  Of course, I'm not talking about my son Owen - he actually walked in and had one of the slices. 

More to come on this...






 
The Marinara
Brad English

I think the Marinara Pizza may be many pizzaiolos favorite to make.  It is a pizza pie with no cheese and I think reflects the skill and passion of a pizza maker's ability to evoke deep flavors from such simple ingredients.  I remember asking Pizzeria Basta's Kelly Whitaker what his favorite pizza was to make and he said, without hesitation that it was the Marinara.  He said, "My favorite pizza goes back to the basic principle of being as simple as possible…the marinara." 

Marinara sauce is said to come from the term Mariner's sauce.  One of the folk legends about the history of this sauce says that it was invented after the Spaniards introduced the tomato to Europe and it quickly became the sauce of choice for those at sea because it was simple, easy to make, was flavorful and wouldn't spoil as fast as other sauces on their long journeys.  No matter where it came from, it is a simple sauce that is full of the robust flavors of quality tomatoes.

The traditional Marinara Pizza has tomatoes crushed, or blended, sliced fresh garlic, fresh oregano, extra virgin olive oil and maybe some sea salt to taste.  Some pizzerias may use basil instead, or in addition to the oregano.  This pizza not only allows the skill of the pizza maker to come through, but really showcases the quality of the individual ingredients. 

This is the perfect tomato based pizza for me to explore my skills, and experiment with these new Bianco DiNapoli Tomatoes that I've been loving. 

The Marinara Pizza

Dough - Central Mills 00 flour (or your favorite Napoletana dough recipe)
Bianco DiNapoli Hand Crushed Organic Tomatoes (or your favorite brand)
Thinly sliced fresh garlic
Fresh oregano leaves
Extra virgin olive oil

 

This pizza is all about balance.  Since there is nothing on top of the tomatoes you have to layer enough sauce to ensure that the sauce doesn't dry up, or dry out in the oven.  I think the longer bake times in a home oven can make this more of a dance, than if it were done with a 90 second bake in a wood fired oven.  Top with the ingredients keeping balance in mind.  This pizza is all about the tomatoes.  The garlic, oregano and oil are there as accents.

Add your sauce - in this case simply hand crushed tomatoes.  I didn't add any sea salt to any of my pizzas using these tomatoes.  There was no need. There might be, however, if you use a different brand (especially since Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes are only available to a few pizzerias and not to the public--sorry!!)

Add the thin slices of garlic

I added a little olive oil prior to baking.


Into the oven!

When it comes out, add the oregano leaves and drizzle with a little more oil.


Cut, serve and Enjoy!

 

 

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