What constitutes a Gourmet Pizza? Basically, a gourmet pizza is hand crafted and made with select toppings that support an overall flavor theme. The choice of bread dough, the thickness of the crust and the shape of the finished pie have to be factored in. The choice of pizza sauce or the decision to make a white pizza counts. Above all else, most pizza aficionados agree that the selection of cheese is what really makes the difference.
Pizza is a nice medium for showing off a great cheese. If the selection of cheese is good enough, little thought has to be given to deciding on which toppings to add. Whatever tastes good with the specific cheese makes the list of topping options, then the list can be narrowed down to create a flavor theme. When a nice select cheese is used, it is best to limit the number of toppings, so the great flavor of the cheese takes center stage.
Occasionally I find a cheese that might be good for making an interesting pizza. Today's pizza recipe features Hickory Smoked Armenian String Cheese. Armenian String Cheese is usually made with sheep milk or a combination of sheep and goat milk. Sheep milk cheese has a high fat content, so String Cheese will easily melt. The String Cheese making process is similar to how Mozzarella is made. String cheese is stretched at a specific temperature, so the proteins align. String Cheese can be torn by hand into long thin shreds.
There are two methods for adding a smoke flavor to cheese. Cold smoking cheese wheels, logs or blocks in a smokehouse is the traditional method. Modern cheese makers also soak the finished cheese in a smoke flavored liquid. The "Liquid Smoke" method is used in places where air pollution is a concern or if cutting cost will make a cheese product more competitive. Real smoked cheese can be featured on its own, while liquid smoked cheese is better suited for cooking.
Today's recipe features a Hickory Smoked Armenian String Cheese that is made with the "Natural Liquid Smoke" flavoring process, which is fine for making a tasty pizza. Keeping the toppings simple is the best way to let the light smokey flavor shine through. No sauce is needed, so this is a white pizza. A simple Napolitano style Margherita topping of tomato, basil and olive oil is a classic choice. Adding some Pickled Banana Pepper Rings adds a mild spicy flavor that goes well with the smoke flavored cheese.
Follow this link to the pizza dough recipe in this website:
• Pizza Dough
Hickory Smoked Armenian String Cheese White Pizza ~ Garlic, Tomato & Banana Peppers:
This recipe yields 1 large 16" pizza.
It is easier to pull thin strands of String Cheese by hand, than it is to use a grater to shred this cheese.
Step 1: Place a 19 to 20 ounce portion of pizza dough on a flour dusted countertop.
Use finger tips or a rolling pin to flatten the pizza dough into a round disk shape that is about 16" in diameter. The rolled dough should be about 1/4" to 3/8" thick.
Step 2: Lightly brush a pizza pan with blended olive oil.
Place the shaped pizza dough on the pizza pan.
Even the edges of the dough, so it looks nice.
Pat the edge of the pizza dough with fingertips to form the crust.
Step 3: Place 1/4 cup of olive oil in a mixing bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons of minced garlic.
Mix the ingredients together.
Brush the shaped pizza dough with the garlic oil.
Step 4: Sprinkle 2 loose packed cups of shredded Hickory Smoked Armenian String Cheese on the pizza dough. (Leave the crust bare.)
Step 5: Cut 3 or 4 fresh Plum Tomatoes into 1/4" thick slices.
Arrange the tomato slices on the pizza so it looks nice.
Step 5: Sprinkle 1/3 cup of Pickled Banana Pepper Rings in the pizza.
Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of oregano on the pizza.
Step 6: Sprinkle 1 cup of shredded Hickory Smoked Armenian String Cheese over the toppings.
Drizzle 1 tablespoon of virgin olive oil over the pizza.
Step 7: Place the pizza pan on a stone slab in a 450ºF oven.
Bake till the crust is fully cooked and a few golden brown highlights appear on the cheese.
Step 8: Remove the pizza pan from the oven.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of bias sliced green onion over the pizza.
Cut the pizza into pie shaped slices and serve on the pizza pan.
Viola! A great tasting gourmet pizza that will please guests!