Photo by Stacey Ballis

Make one now and freeze another for later

Stacey Ballis
August 09, 2018

You can’t swing a proverbial cat around the internet these days without hitting six homemade pizza recipes, most of which are great. You’ve got the artisanal ones using homemade sourdough starter and baked to order in someone’s DIY backyard brick pizza oven. And you’ve got the down and dirty ones using store bought crust and jarred sauce baked in your kitchen. Grilled ones and griddled ones, super thin crust and extra thick, loaded with sauce and toppings and cheeses, and barely gilded with seasoned oil and shaved vegetables. People are making unicorn pizzas and dessert pizzas and pizzas with crusts made out of cauliflower. They are doing mashup versions with everything from Korean BBQ to chicken tikka masala. I approve of every one of these.

But sometimes I want something a little more elegant, the flavors of pizza, but a bit schmancier. That is where this pizza came from. The base is a marriage of the classic Chicago butter pizza crust and a Provencal cornmeal tart crust. Instead of sauce, garden-ripe summer tomatoes are diced and seasoned and left to sit a bit to release some of their liquid so that they don’t make the tart damp or heavy. The cheese is a bit more judicious, and the overall effect is summery and light, perfect for the season where tomatoes can shine.

I’ve been making all sorts of versions of this pizza for years, sometimes adding meats or changing up the cheese, different herbs or spices. I’ve drizzled on pesto, tapenade, and artichoke cream. I love it as a light lunch with a salad or as an appetizer at a dinner party. And because I love it so much, I have altered the recipe to make a double batch of crust. I own two identical tart shells, so it is fine for one of them to live in my freezer prepped full of this crust, which means that I can make a pizza tart on impulse. If you don’t have two tart shells, freeze the second crust once it is rolled out. You can halve the crust recipe if you want, but trust me, once you have this once, you are going to embrace the idea of the freezer crust.

This is the most pizza-y version that I make but you should absolutely adapt to your personal taste. Crack an egg on it for breakfast or spice it up with chile peppers or swap out the tomatoes for diced zucchini or eggplant. Change out the Italian herbs for herbs de Provence and scatter some cured black olives and anchovies on top for a French feel. The crust can stand up to added toppings, so feel free to add whatever makes it feel like pizza to you.

Summer Pizza

Photo by Stacey Ballis

Crust Ingredients

For two crusts:

6 tablespoons sour cream
2/3 cup cold water
2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Directions

Whisk the sour cream into the cold water in a large measuring cup. (If you don’t have sour cream you can use buttermilk, plain Greek yogurt, crème fraiche.) Set aside. In a large bowl whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt until well mixed. Sprinkle the butter cubes into the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter or a pair of butter knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients in the same manner as you would for biscuits or pie crust. You want a mixture of coarse sandy bits and some pieces of butter that are the size of peas. The mixture is ready when you can squeeze some in your hand and it sticks together.

Stir the sour cream and water mixture until you have a pliable dough. Press the dough together into a ball, and cut in half. Form each half of the dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Place the 2 wrapped discs in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Retrieve the discs from the fridge and place each between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll into circles that are 1/8” thick, which should be enough for 2 9-inch tart pans with removable bottoms. If you have 2 tart pans and can lose 1 to the freezer, remove the bottoms from both and set aside. Remove the top piece of parchment from both crusts and center the tart bottom in the middle of the crust. Flip one over so that the crust is resting on top of the tart bottom and gently place the bottom into the tart pan. Use the parchment to gently tuck the crust into the corners of the pan, then carefully remove the parchment, easing the crust into all of the fluting and trimming the excess with a knife, or by rolling a rolling pin over the top of the tart pan to cut off the excess flush with the tart pan. Repeat with the second tart pan.

For the extra crust, line with plastic wrap, so that the plastic is resting right on the dough, and then place in a freezer ziptop bag in the freezer. The crust will keep up to 3 months in the freezer, thaw in the fridge before filling and baking. For the crust you are using right away, put it in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

If you do not have a tart pan to spare to the freezer, roll out the crust as indicated then place on a sheet pan in the freezer for 2 hours to freeze solid. Wrap the frozen crust well in plastic (without removing the parchment) and store in a freezer zip top bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before filling tart shell and proceeding with the recipe.

Topping Ingredients

To make one pizza: (if you are serving a crowd and want to make both, just double all of these ingredients)

4 ripe tomatoes (or other vegetables), diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried Italian herb mix
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons cornmeal
2 cups grated part skim mozzarella
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil to garnish (optional)

Directions

Toss the diced tomatoes with the salt and spices and place in a colander over the sink or a bowl to drain for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking tray with foil or parchment paper. Place the chilled crust on the tray. Sprinkle the cornmeal in an even layer over the crust bottom. Then place the shredded cheese evenly over the top, followed by the drained tomatoes. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the tomatoes and bake for 35-45 minutes until the crust is deeply golden brown and crisp. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing carefully from tart shell. Serve hot or at room temperature, garnished with chopped fresh basil.

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