Looking back on my life to this point, I can say that I feel truly blessed. While there have been some hurdles along the way (and some of 'em were biggies), I am privileged to have come so far from humble beginnings, to have found my niche as a cook and food writer, and to have had some amazing culinary experiences over the years.
Among other things, I've had the pleasure of holding Charmaine Solomon's hands in my own; chatted over lunch with Margaret Fulton on her 80th birthday; eaten a home cooked dinner in the kitchen of Elizabeth Chong; sourced artichokes out of season for Diane Seed; pulled rock lobsters from the ocean off Robe in South Australia before dining on a meal of crayfish cooked by Christine Manfield; visited the farm and cooking school of Geoff Jansz in the NSW Southern Highlands; enjoyed a range of desserts cooked by Joanne Weir; and introduced Rick Stein to the seafood available in my home town.
One particularly memorable encounter was a luncheon at Primo Estate (famed for its wine, olive oil and vinegar) in the company of the cream of the world's food media, including Ian Parmenter and the late (great) Vincent Schiavelli and his wife. Before our party sat down to eat at a long table inside a barn, we mingled in the olive grove, enjoying crisp wines with slices of pizza bianco fresh from wood-fired ovens set amongst the olive trees. Oh my, I'm salivating at the thought of it all. That had to be one of the best pizzas I have eaten, until yesterday.
With freshly picked, home grown zucchini blossoms at hand, and a yearning to create my own original version of pizza bianca or white pizza, I have created what I believe is undoubtedly THE BEST pizza I have ever tasted. Not only did it look rather beautiful, in terms of flavour it was so squisito, so buonissimo, that I must confess I stuffed my face and ate the entire thing to myself. And I made another for my brunch today. (You shouldn't feel sorry for my Peter, dear readers, as I made other pizzas tailored especially for his tastebuds). ☺
A couple of pointers with my recipe: please note that when I make pizza dough, I prepare enough to make eight medium sized pizzas. Any leftovers are either refrigerated for use the following day, or frozen for another time. With the rosemary, less is more. Please don't be tempted to scatter sprigs of it all over the pizza, use only a tiny amount, otherwise it will overpower the delicate flavour of the zucchini blossoms. And when I write 'spears', I mean pluck off the tiny pointed leaves from the rosemary stem and chop them finely (see my photographs). Buon appetito! Enjoy.
PIZZA BIANCA WITH ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS
For the dough* (sufficient for 8 pizzas):
800g strong baker's or pizza flour, sifted
7g dried yeast
1-2 teaspoons sea salt
2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
For the topping (for an individual pizza):
1/2-1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1-2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
6 fresh rosemary 'spears' or leaves, chopped
2-4 fresh zucchini blossoms, gently washed, patted dry, slice in half lengthways
ground sea salt, to taste
ground white pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
To make the dough, combine the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook, turn on the mixer and add the lukewarm water and olive oil to the flour. Mix slowly for two minutes on a low setting, then turn up to a higher setting and mix for two minutes, then turn back down and allow the mixer to knead the dough for five to ten minutes, or until the dough forms a smooth and springy ball. (Or knead by hand until the dough is shiny, elastic and smooth).
Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and stand the bowl in a warm spot in the kitchen (free from draughts) until the dough has doubled in size (one to two hours). Sometimes I leave it a little longer. Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured board and cut it into eight even sized pieces. Knead each piece into a smooth ball and place on a lightly floured board (covered with a clean tea towel) and allow the dough balls to rest for 15 minutes while you prepare the toppings. Meanwhile, your oven is preheating to 235 degrees C.
When you're ready to roll out your pizza bases, work on a lightly floured board and roll out to the size of your pizza stone or pizza tray. Use your hands and the rolling pin to work and stretch the dough to shape. I like a nice thin pizza crust, but you can leave the dough thicker if you wish. Transfer the base to a lightly oiled metal pizza tray, or if you are using a pizza stone transfer the dough to a lightly floured pizza board or pizza peel. Alternatively, if you're using a pizza tray, press the dough into the tray, leaving the edges raised and a little thicker than the base (see my photos).
Sprinkle the mozzarella and parmesan evenly over the pizza base (not too quick), then arrange the zucchini blossoms over the top (see photos). Scatter the chopped rosemary over the pizza and finish with the sea salt and white pepper, and the olive oil.
Place the pizza in the preheated oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on your own oven, until the cheese has melted to golden, and the base is cooked through. Slice and serve immediately.
*This quantity will make dough for eight pizza bases. Any leftover pizza dough can be wrapped in cling film and frozen until you are ready to use it. Simply defrost the dough before use.
Tell me dear readers, what is the best pizza you've ever eaten and where were you when you ate it? (I'm waiting for stories of Napolean pizza eaten in Napoli!). Do you like white pizza? Do please share your stories and experiences! I love hearing from you.
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