It’s late August in North America and, even if you don’t have a big pot o’ basil on your front porch and a local family farm practically begging you to take their tomatoes off their hands; you more than likely have access to some primo basil and the best tomatoes of the year, so…
why not make a caprese za!?
And, while we’re at it, let’s add some nice olives and marinated garlic from the olive bar at the market and medianoche mayo.
Oh. Medianoche mayonnaise?
It is this genius, Cuban-inspired, take on aioli, and one of my very favorite condiments. Ever.
So. Why not use it on a za!?
•1 tsp yeast
•1/2 tsp honey
•2/3 cup warm water (110°)
•2 cups flour + additional as needed
•1 tsp salt
•1 tsp black pepper
•Olive oil for the bowl (and the dough)
•1 cup mayonnaise
•1/4 cup Italian dressing
•1 tbsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce (or your fave hot sauce, to taste)
•Greek olives, sliced
•Fresh basil leaves
Note: I picked up my garlic and olives from the olive bar at my local market.
First things first, make the medianoche mayonnaise by whisking the Italian dressing and Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce into the mayonnaise. Transfer to a covered jar and stash in the fridge for at least an hour to allow the flavors to meld.
Now, for the za! dough:
Add the honey and the yeast to the warm water in a bowl or 2-cup measure, stir to combine, and let rest for 10 or 15 minutes, until the mixture has developed a nice bit of foam on the top.
Combine the flour with the salt and pepper in the bowl of a stand mixer with a wire whisk.
Fit the mixer with the dough hook for the rest of the process.
Add the foamy yeast mixture to the bowl and mix on low until a soft dough forms.
Increase the speed to medium and knead for ten minutes, adding additional flour by the tablespoon, until the dough is smooth, elastic, and has cleaned the sides of the mixing bowl. I end up adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup (four to eight tablespoons) additional flour.
Once the dough has come together and, as you can see, nicely cleaned the mixing bowl, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to the bowl, remove the dough from the hook, shape it into a ball and place it in the bottom of the mixing bowl, turning so that all sides of the dough ball are lightly coated with the olive oil.
Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot for at least 90 minutes, until the dough has doubled in volume.
Note: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here: if you cannot get back to check on the dough in the specified time, no worries. You are the boss of that dough (an actual quote from Julia Child); and you can safely leave it in that warm spot for several hours or even overnight if needs be. Some folk claim that letting the dough double, then punching it down and doubling again makes for a better tasting dough.
It’s all good.
This dough, as it happens, is just about perfect after an hour or so, tho I’ve been known to ignore it at this stage for several hours until I am ready to deal with it.
Dough risen, we’re getting really close to making ‘za!
Heat your oven to 450°, add your za! stone (ours is cast iron and truly a thing of beauty) and heat for at least 30 minutes but it’s more better if you go a whole hour.
While your za! pan is heating, turn the dough onto a board lightly coated with cornmeal, press into a flattened disk, dust with a bit of flour, lightly cover with a clean kitchen towel or a bit of plastic wrap, and let rest until the pan is ready.
Once the pan (stone, flaming hot cast iron disk, whatever you’re using) is hot, I normally roll out my dough dimple the dough with my fingertips, then brush it with a bit of olive oil, then the sauce and whatever toppings I like, and then (try to) transfer it from the board to the pan.
Even using a peel, sometimes, it works and I can get the unbaked za! to the pan in one piece. Most of the time, I end up with a fine tasting but highly irregular looking za! – with great gaping holes in the middle.
Rolling the dough out on parchment paper helps, but then, ta-da!, I thought to try this method, which works a treat!
Once your dough has been rolled out, lightly dimpled with your fingertips, brushed with olive oil, and allowed to rest for one last 15 minutes, remove the heated stone, flaming hot cast iron disk, whatever you’re using from the hot oven and lightly sprinkle with additional cornmeal.
It’ll smoke a bit, don’t worry about it.
Now, transfer your rolled out but un-topped dough to the stone, neaten up the shape as needed.
Placing the dough on the hot stone, flaming hot cast iron disk, whatever you’re using and then topping it also begins to pre-cook the dough, which I’ve found helps to make for a nicely crispity crust.
I next spoon the medianoche mayonnaise over the surface, then top with the tomatoes, garlic, olives, pepperoni, mozzarella, and basil leaves.
Pop the whole shebang back into the oven for about 15 minutes, by which time the edge of the crust will be nicely browned, the cheese beautifully melted, and the rest of the toppings warm and oh, so tasty.
Really fine za!
And the crust, crispity, crunchy, pizza dough-y perfection.
Now that it’s baked, the za! is firm enough to transfer with the peel to a cutting surface without making a mess.
Note: you never want to cut directly on your pizza stone, flaming hot cast iron disk, etc., it is not good for the surface.
Rich enjoyed his as is; I drizzled mine with a bit of Sherry Peppers Sauce and thoroughly enjoyed it. You do what you like, but I think you will like this dough, and this take on caprese.
Mebbe especially that medianoche mayonnaise.