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This is a real treat for me and I hope that it will be a special treat for all of you. Our friend Sverre who lives in Norway is an amazing cook, has just recently entered Norwegian Pizza championships and placed a very close 3rd! I was thrilled when he agreed to share his experience and his prize winning recipe with me so that I could share it with you. Thanks You Sverre and Congratulations!
Sverre’s Norwegian Pizza Championships Story:
With over 250,000 visitors during its four days duration, the annual Gladmat-festival is Norway’s largest food festival and has been a decade long tradition. One of the biggest events, with over 400 spectators this year, was the Norwegian Pizza Championship.
Sverre Bech-Sjøthun’s pizza, judged by, among others, the director of Norwegian Institute of Culinary Arts, came in 3rd, only one point from 2nd place, so this is a real treat:
The objective of this recipe was to come up with a pizza that is not overly complicated to cook, yet offer a real gastronomic experience. The result is a pizza with exceptionally crisp, slightly “chewy” and tasty crust, and where the cheese and toppings enhance rather than compete with each other. The toasted hazelnuts add a nice flavor and texture in the finish, while parsley brings freshness to it all.
Note that I am being very particular in my description, but don’t get scared by the level of detail – I just want to make sure that you don’t miss anything. The dough, for example, is made in under 10 minutes, and the total time is approximately 40 minutes including prepping and watching the sauce reduce, so you’ll have plenty time to enjoy a glass of wine – or crack open a cold one while you cook.
Pizza with Fennel, Gorgonzola and Porcini Recipe
Dough (enough for 3 two-man pizza)
Note: Made the day before
The key to getting the perfect crust is long fermentation time, as it gives you optimal development of flavor: enzymes will break down the complex carbohydrates in the flour to simpler carbohydrates.
In other words, we’re trying to release sugars trapped in the complex starch in the flour. Some of this becomes “yeast food”, while most become available to the palate as flavor and to the crust as color (caramelization). This caramelization of the crust is what gives you the ultimate crunch as well as a flavor and texture of the crust one simply cannot achieve with short fermentation.
The reason that everything is measured in weight is that the flour has different density depending on handling, transport etc. Weight is thus the most accurate measurement.
- 12.5g (o.4oz) fresh yeast, crumble in:
- 400g (14oz) cold water (fridge cold)
- Dash of good olive oil is added
- 600g (21 oz) unbleached all-purpose wheat flour added
- Dash of Maldon added
Salt should not be in direct contact with yeast. Salt kills yeast (which is why it makes such a good preservative).
Knead the dough until you get smooth dough that clear the sides of the bowl, but not the bottom. You will notice that the dough will change consistency after 5-7 minutes, from really sticky to “silky smooth”. I prefer to use a hand mixer and dough hooks rather than my hands as they will transfer heat to the dough, and this is not desirable.
Sprinkle some flour on the dough and use a dough scraper to loosen it from the bowl, then add a little bit of olive oil and rotate the dough until it is all covered. Cover with plastic wrap, then set to rise in the refrigerator for at least a day, but up to 3 days.
Divide into 3 equal pieces (using a scale), put the dough in a food-grade 5 liter plastic bag or zip lock covered with a little oil (the bag needs to be big to allow the dough to rise). Put one in the fridge, while the other two are put in the freezer and stored for later use for up to 3 months. The frozen dough is set to rise in the refrigerator the morning before serving.
This dough also makes the most amazing rustic bread. Spread with either cheese or dip in some good olive oil (or The Cannery’s Lobster Oil!) with balsamic vinegar…
2 hours before making the pizza: take the dough out at room temperature, and place on a sheet pan dusted with a bit of flour – preferably Italian durum wheat (semolina) as it doesn’t burn as quickly as all-purpose.
Gently press the dough into a disc, as circular as possible, then lift the disc and form it gently to a roughly ½” thick disc. Make sure the sheet pan is still evenly coated with flour, then put the dough back on the sheet. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap (I tend to split the plastic bags that already have oil on them)
Minimal processing and pressure (don’t you dare use a rolling pin, as this will completely de-gas the dough) throughout the process ensures a very light, airy and crispy crust. Gluten is the protein that gives the dough the elastic springiness that often forces you to squeeze out all the gas with your rolling pin – allowing the dough to rest and not work it too much relaxes the gluten, thus making the dough incredibly easy to handle.
40 minutes before making the pizza: Preheat the oven as hot as possible. Most home ovens go to 230C to 250C (450 to 550F). If you have convection oven, use convection, but only turn the fan on after you’ve put the pizza in the oven, or you’ll end up blowing out all the hot air when you put the pizza in it.
Just before baking: If you think the dough need more shaping, gently lift and pull the edges to the desired shape – again NO rolling pin, as this will “deflate” the dough and make the crust dense. Spread the sauce, cheese & toppings.
Into the hot oven, bottom shelf for 4-10 minutes. It’s done when the cheese has a nice, golden color and the crust golden with darker caramelization. Slide the pizza onto a grill or wood chopping board and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. The grill or wooden chopping board ensures that no condensation forms under the crust while resting, and the crust will stay crisp.
Sauce (enough for at least 3 pizza)
- 800 grams (30oz) tomatoes on the vine
- Olive oil for sauté
- 4 Shallots, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced / pressed
- 1 tablespoon Marjoram
- 2 tablespoons Oregano
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 to 1.5 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper (taste)
- 1 to 1.5 teaspoon salt (taste)
In a large sauté pan (about 24cm), sauté the minced or pressed garlic and chopped onion in a bit of good olive oil until they are shiny, but not brown – the garlic will be bitter if it turns brown.
Meanwhile, give the tomatoes a criss-cross cut on top and blanch in 1 liter of water for about 20 seconds, but stay alert – if blanched for too long they’ll get soggy and difficult to handle – remove tomatoes with a slotted spoon or a spider immediately when you see the skin just start to peel off in the water. Put into ice water to stop cooking process immediately. Remove skin.
Cut tomatoes in half; remove stem, wet core and seeds. The seeds have a bitter taste, so we want to discard the seeds, but the core of the tomato contains by far the most umami, so we want to keep that. Pass the core through a sieve over the sauté pan with the onion.
Chop the outer flesh of the tomato and add to the sauté pan. Add the herbs and spices and let it reduce for 15-30 minutes, until you get a slightly thick consistency, like a slightly chunky ketchup. If a smoother consistency is desired, you can use a blender, since the tomato seeds are removed, and you don’t have to worry about the bitter aftertaste the seeds would give otherwise. Blending the sauce makes it easier to spread on the dough.
The flavor will develop further if you let it sit in the fridge for a day. Leftovers can be put in a freezer for up to a month.
- 100g Jarlsberg
- 100g mozzarella (ideally buffalo)
- 50g Gorgonzola
- 1 Small fennel, finely sliced length-wise (julienned), sautéed in oil until just soft
- Porcini in small chunks, lightly browned in butter
- 100g Entrecote (rib eye), raw, in thin strips on top of the cheese
Before serving, sprinkle on top of the pizza (in this order):
- 50g Hazelnut, chopped and toasted
- Handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Put the hazelnuts in a plastic bag and use your knife-butt to crush them – make sure most have an even size. Toast in a dry pan, continuously tossing the nuts so they won’t burn. Pass to a small bowl and shake it gently. The smallest bits will sink to the bottom of the bowl, and the larger bits will come to the top. Use the larger bits and discard the dust and the smallest ones.
I hope you will enjoy this incredible recipe – let me know if you tried it and send me your comments, suggestions and pictures if you can!