Prosciutto Extra Cheese with a Cheese-Stuffed Honey Crust
To make a pizza dough, I generally start with yeast and a bit of sugar to activate it. However, this past weekend, I wanted to try something different. I have friends that use substitutes for sugar, such as agave and honey, and I remembered a charcuterie board I once got at a restaurant that came with a piece of honey comb. In fact, I had a recipe from Chef John Folse using honey that came with my Lodge Cast Iron Pizza Pan. So I decided to try it. Maybe the honey would even add a new dimension to the prosciutto I planned to use.
Spoiler: I was not disappointed! I've noticed that the more sugar I add to a dough recipe, the more cake-like and spongey it becomes. The honey gave the crust a nice, golden hue. It had a light crunch on the outside and was soft on the inside, with just a hint of honey-baked sweetness. Not bad for just over an hour of work!
The Honey Dough
This is a quick-rising dough, so from start to finish, this pizza shouldn't take much over an hour. First, I warmed the water to 110° F, then added one and a half teaspoons of honey in place of the customary teaspoon of sugar. While the honey dissolved, I mixed the dry ingredients separately: a cup of the flour with the yeast and salt. I then added the honey-water to the dry mixture, along with the two remaining cups of flour. I then mixed in the olive oil. Don't forget the olive oil! (Sometimes I put the bottle right next to my mixing bowl so I remember.)
I kneaded the dough on a cold, marble countertop until it was elastic. The dough is ready when it stretches without breaking. The dough will be sticky at first, but don't add more flour! Just have faith in the process and keep workin' it. The knead can take longer in colder temperatures, but it generally takes me about 10 minutes. You are working toward what is called the "baker's window." The more you work the dough, the more the gluten structures form--kind of like a window pane, and you can begin to see the gluten membranes.
Once the dough had been worked enough, I put it into a slightly oiled bowl (a thin coat of olive oil around the edges) for proofing (letting the dough rise). You'll want to fold the edges of the dough toward each other and under so that it forms a seam on the bottom. It should look like a perfectly round ball of dough from the top. Then seal the top of the bowl with saran wrap. I then let the dough sit for about 10 minutes, or until it doubled in size. It's important to set the dough in a warm place to activate the yeast, so I generally place it on the stovetop while the oven is preheating.
After the dough has doubled in size, punch it back down. Then divide it in half and place each of the halves in two separate oiled bowls sealed with saran wrap to let rise for another 10 minutes or so.
After the second rise, the dough is ready to spread. I like to use the throw and toss method. It's not that hard, but if you're trying it for the first time, you may want to think of it like you're stretching the dough between two fists while also turning it in a circle. You start by stretching the dough around one fist, then bring in the second fist and slowly begin stretching the circle wider. Here you may want to try throwing the dough slightly in the air and catching it again. The dough is stretched in a circle through the centrifugal forces of spinning in the air, but also by the pressure of your fists working it. However, if you're not quite ready for this, here are basics of stretching out pizza dough from Real Simple. This process is complete when the circle is slightly larger than my pan. For one, the dough will likely contract a bit. But you still want an extra inch to fold over for a nice, thick crust. Leave an extra two inches for a stuffed cheese crust. Simply fold a log of string cheese underneath the edge. You'll need at least six mozzarella cheese logs to stuff the entire crust of one 13" pizza.
Pro Tip: never use cooking spray or anything oily on the pan. Always use cornmeal. Note that the best cornmeal comes from a box that looks like it was manufactured in 1925. The kind of thick, gritty cornmeal that may have gotten folks through The Great Depression is the only kind you should be considering. The rest is too fine and soft.
Topping the Pizza
For this pizza, I only stuffed half of the crust with cheese. (You can probably tell which half in the pictures below.) Next, I spread basil pesto from a jar over it. Once it was covered, I piled mozzarella cheese on top--close to 8 oz. There's no such thing as too much cheese. The moment you feel like you don't have enough, that's when you need to double down and put more on there. Lastly, I grabbed some prosciutto from the fridge and arranged it on top. I also added a handful of grated, sharp cheddar for color, and one thinly sliced garlic clove on top.
Finally, I put the pizza in an oven preheated to 400° F to cook for 15 minutes on my (also pre-heated) iron pizza pan.
The resulting crust had a beautiful golden hue and a fantastic crunch. The hint of honey-baked sweetness went perfectly with the prosciutto. The herb flavor of the pesto also worked nicely with the flavors.
Honey Dough Recipe: Makes two 13" pizzas
-1 1/4 cups of water heated to 110° F
-1 1/2 tsp. of honey
-1 tsp. salt
-1 packet of active dry rapid rise yeast
-3 cups bread flour (divided into 1 cup, and 2 cups)
-1 Tbsp. olive oil
-basil pesto sauce (homemade or from a jar)
-12-16 logs of string cheese (6-8 per pizza) to stuff the crust
-cornmeal to dust the pan
-jar of basil pesto (enough to cover pizza)
-16 oz. ball of grated mozzarella
-a package of prosciutto
-small amount grated sharp cheddar
-sliced garlic clove
Other Toppings to Try
-I was inspired by a charcuterie board, so any meat you might find on one would work, like bacon, ham, and sausage
-jalapeños and sautéed onions