Photo: Herbscapes.com 2023
by Preston Brady III, Herbscapes.com 2023
I became addicted to pizza made with a cornmeal crust several decades ago while living in San Francisco. There was a restaurant called Vicolo, on Ivy Street, who made the best pizza in the city. One of their secrets: cornmeal crust. Back then it was an expensive pizza, a little over $20.00 for a small pizza, but it was worth every dollar because people understood you get what you pay for, and this pizza was worth paying for. I recently experimented by making my own cornmeal crust pizza. Research revealed the best approach is to mix the cornmeal with flour, using more flour than cornmeal because otherwise you are basically eating pizza toppings on top of flat cornbread. Mixing the cornmeal with yeasted flour still gives you the pizza crust taste and texture, only this pizza crust is crunchier. I will pause here and say if you don’t want or like a slightly crunchy pizza crust, then this is probably not for you. But, if you are interested in a variety of pizza crusts including traditional flour, give yourself a break and just order from the wide selection on Amazon.
My receipe for the above pictured pizza was quick and simple. First, I emptied a packet of yeast into 1/4 cup of very warm water, then sprinkled in a half teaspoon of sugar to activate it. I poured this over a cup and a half of unbleached flour, added more water then stirred to make sure there was enough to moisten all of the flour. I then added a half a cup of yellow cornmeal (but you could use white.) I spoon mixed the dough and cornmeal together, adding in a dash of salt, a pinch of sugar, and a teaspoon of freshly chopped rosemary, until it was all moist and rounded. I added a little more water because of the cornmeal and once the dough formed a ball I placed it in a small bowl and set it aside. Some recipes call for you to put the dough in a plastic bag, but this may not be a good idea since the dough will expand and could “explode” out of the bag. While the dough was resting, I prepared the toppings which included fresh garlic and small pineapple pieces, along with the pepperoni, tomato and onion. I used a tomato-based sauce – nothing fancy since I already had rosemary in the crust and the garlic, tomato, onion and pineapple would complement the pepperoni. However, I also have since tried a tomato pesto I found in a jar at the supermarket, and it makes an excellent crust topping if you like your crust sauce not soupy. If you are not a fan of tomato you could try the basil pesto sauce in a jar (or make your own – another recipe, another time.) The oven has been pre-heating at 425 and now I lightly greasy a shallow pan with raised edges with olive oil. You want the raised edges, so the crust rises up over the top for the crunchiest part of the pizza. Simply spread out the dough with your hands, careful not to stretch it too far. If you did not make enough dough to fill the pan, move what you have to one side as opposed to the center, so you will still have some raised crust. If there are any holes in the dough, simply move it back together. If you are in need of a good pan for this recipe, take a look at this one at Amazon:
Bake the pizza crust alone for about 8 minutes. It needs to have a solid look to it – light brown, but don’t fully cook the crust. Take it out of the oven and add the sauce and then a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese. Add the pepperoni, tomato, onion and pineapple side by side and then top lightly with the fresh garlic. Sprinkle a little thyme over the mix and add some more mozzarella. Let the pizza bake about 20 minutes. When you see the crust edges a golden if almost dark brown, the pizza should be done. Allow the pizza to rest on the oven for at least five minutes. Make sure you keep oven gloves around the exposed edges in case someone else wanders in and wants to move it. A this point you can lightly sprinkle a little more herb such as rosemary, thyme or even better – fresh oregano that I know you have growing in your herb garden. If you’ve never had a cornmeal crust pizza, you are in for a nice surprise. It takes pizza to a new level – and not only pizza. Stay tuned for more recipes including desserts, using a cornmeal texture to compliment the flaky, flour pie crust.