I have a lot of cookbooks. Also, I love love love to read cookbooks. Before Andrew was born I loved to go to the bookstore and browse the cookbook section for hours at a time. (Now it’s in and out before any meltdowns or property damage occur.) Whenever I get a new cookbook or new cooking magazine, I save it for a time when I can fully enjoy it. You know, sit down in a quiet place and look through the whole thing undisturbed. It’s a guilty pleasure for me. Ben gifted me The Pastry Queen Cookbook for Christmas last year and that’s exactly what with it. One night I finally broke it out as my bedtime reading material. We were both laying in bed reading quietly, Ben with his book and me with The Pastry Queen when I suddenly sat up and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, what a GREAT idea!” Ben nearly fell out of the bed I scared him so bad, and then we could not stop laughing. I was referring to this recipe. It combines two of my favorite things – Caesar salad and pizza. Brilliant, I tell you!
This meal was exactly what I was hoping for. The Caesar salad was absolutely wonderful and definitely good enough to eat all on its own (in fact, I did just that after finishing my pizza). The combination of the salad and the crust was reminiscent of the Caesar salad with a baguette slice on the side I like to get for lunch sometimes. My only slight disappointment was that the crust was much thicker than the picture in the book showed, and I thought the crust to salad ratio was a little too high. Next time I will cut the quantity of dough in half and roll the crusts out to the same size so they are thinner and more crisp. I did end up with quite a bit of leftover dressing so if you don’t want the extra, you might consider halving it. This is a fun twist of a meal and I think it would be great for entertaining as well.
For the crust:*
1½ cups warm water (105-115˚ F)
5 tsp. instant (rapid rise) yeast
2 tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for brushing
2 tsp. honey
4-5 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. semolina flour (optional)
1 tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
¼ cup coarse cornmeal
Freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
For the dressing:
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 anchovy fillet
2 large eggs, beaten (or ½ cup pasteurized egg product)
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1½ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the salad:
1 large head romaine lettuce, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
To make the crust, combine the water, yeast, olive oil, honey, and 3 cups of the flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the semolina flour, salt, and red pepper flakes; mix on low speed until combined. Add in 1 more cup of the flour and mix until a soft dough comes together. Mix on low speed about 5 minutes to knead. Add additional flour, 1-2 tablespoons at a time as needed until the dough is smooth and tacky but not sticky.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover and let rise at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.
Coat 2 baking sheets with olive oil. Sprinkle the sheets with cornmeal. Preheat the oven to 450˚ F. (You can also use a baking stone, preheating it with the oven - no need to oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal just before adding the crusts.) Divide the dough into four equal pieces, transfer to a work surface, cover with a damp towel and let rest 10-15 minutes. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 3 hours.
With a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface, flatten each dough ball into an 8-inch circle. Brush each dough round lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with shredded Parmesan. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet or stone and bake until browned and crisp, about 10-15 minutes.
To make the dressing, combine the garlic, anchovy, eggs, lemon juice, Worcestershire, and mustard in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. With the processor running, add the olive oil through the feed tube in a thin, steady stream. Pour the dressing into a bowl, stir in the Parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste.
To make the salad, combine the lettuce and cherry tomatoes in a large bowl. Drizzle with some of the dressing and toss to coat; add more dressing as needed. Place a generous amount of salad on top of each warm pizza crust. Top with croutons and Parmesan shavings, and freshly ground pepper if desired.
*For thin crusts, halve the amount of dough but roll to the same diameter. They will need less time to bake.