Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Kamut flour pizza

Homemade pizza might not seem like a very grand way to celebrate a birthday, but to that I reply: it depends on what you drink with it.
Accompanied by a bottle of velvety Taittinger Prélude made only from premier cru grapes, this humble standby became a feast worthy of a momentous event in Philippe's life. We had at first thought of takeaway pizza but decided instead, for the same price, to splurge on the best ingredients at the Italian deli.
I came home with a wobbly white ball of buffalo mozzarella, silky Parma ham, spicy sausage, marinated artichokes and bright red confit tomatoes, which are a little juicier than the sundried variety. I also made use of a fresh ewe's milk cheese I had bought at the market and baby spinach leaves (the combination pictured here). But what made the pizza really exciting - to me, anyway - was the crust, for which I used a combination of organic bread flour (type 65 in France) and kamut flour.
Last week at the Biocoop I picked up a small bag of this slightly coarse, creamy-yellow flour, which I had previously known only as the base for a dense bread sold in organic shops. I wasn't sure I wanted to make 100 per cent kamut bread at home, but I suspected it could work well in combination with other flours.
When I want to know more about anything from amaranth to quinoa I always turn to Jenni Muir's invaluable book A cook's guide to grains. Here, I was amused to learn that kamut is a made-up brand name, meaning "soul of the earth" in ancient Egyptian. The grain itself does have ancient roots, and one web site claims that its revival began when a Montana farmer planted seeds that may have come from an Egyptian king's tomb (he obtained the seeds from his son, a World War II pilot).
Whatever its origins, kamut has impressive properties. A relative of durum, it can be grown organically more easily than other wheats and is high in protein, lipids, amino acids, vitamins E and B, and minerals such as magnesium, iron and zinc. Interestingly, despite its high gluten content kamut is often tolerated by people with wheat sensitivity.
For my pizza crust I used 20 per cent kamut, resulting in a pale yellow, slightly sweet dough with a lightly crunchy texture. I mixed and kneaded it by hand, but you could of course make this dough in a food processor, mixer with a dough hook or bread machine.
I don't have a baking stone so coopted my socca tin instead, a heavy copper dish in which this Niçois chickpea pancake is traditionally baked. I let the socca tin get very hot in the oven and slid each pizza onto it, keeping the pizza on a piece of parchment paper. You could use a very hot baking tray instead, the heavier the better.

Does it seem strange to you to drink champagne with pizza? I think there are times when a really good wine tastes best with food that doesn't try to upstage it. Or maybe it's just that I would drink champagne with just about anything.

Though kamut is not a herb, it is a plant so this will be my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, created by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen and hosted this week by Truffle from What's On My Plate.

Kamut flour pizza
Serves 3 greedy or 4 average people

Apologies to American readers for the lack of cup measures, but the longer I live in France the less I "do" cup measures. Keep in mind that 130 g of flour = 1 cup. If you can't find Kamut flour, feel free to use a small quantity of whole wheat and/or semolina and/or rye flour instead.

The dough:
400 g white bread flour (15 oz)
100 g kamut flour (4 oz)
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 packet dried yeast
1 tsp light brown cane sugar (or other sugar)
325 ml warm water (1 1/3 cups)

The sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 big, juicy garlic clove
400 g canned Italian crushed tomatoes (15 oz)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Pizza 1: Small pieces of buffalo mozzarella, torn by hand, thin slices of spicy cured sausage, sundried or semi-dried tomatoes
Pizza 2: Small pieces of buffalo mozzarella, torn by hand, Parma ham (prosciutto), marinated artichokes
Pizza 3: Fresh ewe's milk or goat's milk cheese, broken into pieces, sundried or semi-dried tomatoes, fresh baby spinach leaves

For the dough:
Combine the two flours and salt in a large bowl. Heat the water (I use spring water or filtered tap water, but by all means use tap water if yours tastes good!) until warm and combine with the yeast and sugar. Pour this mixture into the bowl with the flours and mix until a dough forms. I start off using a plastic pastry scraper and finish with my hands. Add a little more water if necessary to form a dough that's on the sticky side.
Wash your hands, then oil a work surface and your hands. Knead the dough for a few minutes, until smooth and velvety. Return to the bowl, cover with a plastic bag and set aside to rise for about 45 mins.

For the sauce:
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium flame. Before it gets very hot, add the chopped garlic. Stir for 30-45 secs, just until the garlic starts to turn pale golden. Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil and add the oregano and salt. Turn the heat to medium, letting the sauce bubble and reduce until thickened (about 10-15 mins). Season with pepper to taste.

When the dough has nearly doubled in size, punch it down and divide into three balls. Set these aside to rest, covered, for a few minutes so they will be easier to roll out. Heat your oven to its maximum setting, placing the rack near the bottom of the oven. Heat your pizza stone or baking tray at the same time.

Roll out each ball of dough quite thinly on a lightly floured board and place on a sheet of parchment paper. You can pile them up if you need to, lightly flouring the surface of the dough.

Prepare the pizzas one at a time, first coating them with a moderate amount of sauce, then scattering the toppings over the sauce. Finish with a drizzling of good olive oil. Using the paper to lift the pizza, transfer it to the hot pan. Bake until the crust is golden, checking underneath to make sure it's lightly browned.

Serve the pizzas as they emerge from the oven.


Nora B. said...

Hi Rosa,
I think that it's a fabulous way to celebrate a birthday. Champagne and good company goes with everything, especially such a pizza. One can't go wrong with all that wonderful ingredients you chose, as well as that pizza dough. Parfait!

Happy Birthday to Philippe!

p/s: using your socca tin was pure genius!

Lucy said...

Pizza and champagne is a classic birthday treat. Less, as they say, is more!

Rosa said...

Nora, it's always hard to go wrong with good ingredients, isn't it? And good champagne!

I love my socca tin for pizza. I use it all the time to make pissaladière (more than I use it for socca, in fact).

Lucy, you reassure me!

Truffle said...

I can't begin to tell you how wonderful this sounds to me! Thanks for contributing. The roundup should be posted on monday.

Susan said...

There is no informal treat more luxurious than an artisan pizza. A pie like this deserves to be celebrated with champagne. Best wishes to Philippe on his birthday. Let's all drink to that, too.

Rosa said...

I look forward to it, Truffle! WHB is always a lot of fun, and I am rarely organised enough to take part.

Susan, Philippe says a big "merci"!

Laurie Constantino said...

Interesting post about a grain I've never used (although it sounds very like the indigenous wheat grown on the island where our home is). As for pizza and champagne, particularly pizza made from the quality ingredients you describe, they are a perfect combination. But then again -- I think champagne goes with anything anytime!

Rosa said...

Laurie, I agree with you about champagne: anywhere, anytime, with anything and (almost) anyone! The indigenous wheat sounds intriguing. Do you know what it's called?

Kalyn said...

I haven't really heard about kamut flour before, but it sounds very interesting! The pizza looks delicious.

Rosa said...

Thanks Kalyn! I think there is a lot you could do with kamut flour. I'm thinking of savory muffins next.