Yesterday marked the beginning of YYC Pizza Week, a week-long celebration of all things pizza here in Calgary. Over 40 restaurants are busy churning out pizzas that range from the ordinary to rice-crust, from duck on onion pancake crusts to Montreal smoked meat on a potato latke crust, pie connoisseurs will be in heaven, with a portion of sales donated to Meals on Wheels, a local charity that provides meals to those with limited mobility, and others.
But while the restaurants are locked in fierce combat, we bloggers and food writers aren’t going to be left out of the fun. As part of the festivities, me and 8 others writers have been challenged to create our own pizzas, with the caveat that we must use at least one of the following three ingredients:
– Fire-Roasted Tomatoes (Boring!);
– Anchovies (Fuck Meh! If I wanted to make Stinky Tofu Pizza maybe…wait a tick…), and;
– Sweet Chestnut Purée.
In the end, I decided to go with the last one with the intention of making a dessert pizza. But immediately I was hit with the stark realization that I’ve never had the stuff before. And then, my brain went into total panic mode.
No, I told myself firmly, I have made my bed, so I was going to lie in it.
A little research and a bit of tasting later, and it seemed like maybe, just maybe, there could be an Asian twist to this? Chestnuts were sold freshly roasted on the street corners near where I grew up as a snack but what else could I pair it with? And then, it hit me. If I was going to do a dessert, why not base it on a cheese plate? I had one the last time I was at Winebar Kensington, so why the hell not?
So then the task began. What cheese? And what else would go well with that cheese. I had immensely enjoyed a Blue cheese once when I was flying home to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific’s Business Class. It was a Cambizola from what I remembered (it was almost six years ago, which for my ADHD addled brain is an eternity), but nevertheless, I knew blue cheese would be a massive piece of my puzzle.
So then, what went with blue cheese? Apparently pears do. That’s it! Pear, blue cheese, and…wait, now I needed something crunchy. Walnuts? Sweetened walnuts? With maple? Well now. Maybe I was on to something! Sure, it wasn’t Asian, but I can say it’s inspired by something Asian, right? And to cut down on the sweetness, a touch of salt for the maple walnuts. (I originally wanted to make brittle, but my candy making skills is another thing entirely…)
More research on crust and a shopping trip after work at Calgary Co-op later, I had my ingredients. After a bit of work later, my pear, Stilton and maple walnut pizza was born. As for the name? Stilton is British, and the maple walnut is Canadian. A little taste of Britain, with a few flashes of Asian inspiration, coupled with a little taste of Canada. For a transplanted Hong Konger, it’s rather apropos, isn’t it not?
Since I designed this pie to be a dessert, I made it 6-inches, with a thin crust. You can serve it in wedges or squares, as a hors d’oeuvre, or even as a vegetarian meal. I also cooked it in the grill (since the weather was still so nice outside!), which gave it a nice crisp texture for the crust. And if are not a fan of blue cheese, you can substitute it with cheddar. But if my dad (who does not like cheese) said, “hey, this isn’t bad.” — well, you get the idea! The recipe is below, so feel free to adapt and change as you like. As a wise man said, “the recipe is only the starting point. The flavour lies within your heart.”
(Oh, and did I mention that it’s vegetarian friendly? As a meatatarian, I’m kinda proud that the tofu-loving side of me can come out and play!)
Oh, and before I forget, there is a vote on which of the nine of us has the best pizza, so drop me a lifeline here and support my bid for ultimate YYC Pizza Week blogger pizza supremacy! (Insert Bela Lugosi-esque evil laughter here…)
UPDATE: It seems SOMEONE (no names) has also entered a pear pizza as well…and as we all know, mine is definitely better, so…please vote for me! Not for that other pizza!)
A TASTE OF BRITAIN & CANADA
(PEAR, STILTON AND MAPLE WALNUT PIZZA)
Crust Ingredients (makes 4x 6″ pies):
– 3 cups flour
– 1 2/3 cup water
– 1 satchel instant yeast
– 1 tsp sugar
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 tsp salt
Topping Ingredients (For 1 pizza):
– 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
– pinch salt
– 1/4 cup maple syrup
– 4 tablespoons chestnut purée
– 1 Bartlett pear, sliced thin
– 1/2 cup Stilton cheese, crumbled
– 1/2 cup Aged cheddar, grated (optional)
1. Combine yeast and sugar with lukewarm water, and let sit for a few minutes until it begins to bubble.
2. Add water to flour and salt, then the oil. Mix well until dough ball forms.
3. Knead dough until elastic, and set aside to rise for about 1.5 hours.
4. Slice pears thin, and toss with a little lemon juice to prevent browning.
5. Toast walnuts to a crunchy texture, and toss with salt and maple syrup, and set aside.
6. Once dough is risen cut apart and divide into 4 portions. Roll out each portion to approximately 6″ pies.
7. Brush on chestnut purée, and place pear slices on top. Crumble on cheese(s).
8. Preheat your BBQ grill to 500°F; once it’s close to that temperature turn off all burners except the two on the side, crank those bad boys to medium.
9. Cook pies with lid down for 10-12 minutes. until crust is brown.
10. Sprinkle walnuts on pies, and serve!