Sunday, February 5, 2012

Beer-Cheese Pizza

The Setting: A sunny Super Bowl Sunday.

The Soundtrack: The "keyboard" on Oia's bouncer. It plays classical tunes like the composers never conceived possible.

Steaming up the Oven: Beer-Cheese Pizza and Sweet-Onion-Roasted Hot Wings.

The Scenario: Prepping for the big game.

There was a time when I followed sports--like SERIOUSLY followed sports--but these days the big game is more of an excuse to try out some fun recipes and hang out with Hoosband on the couch than anything else.

I admit I wasn't even sure who was playing until this morning, but I've been sure of the menu all week.

The wings are a winning take on a football favorite, but the pizza has "new game-time go-to" oozing out of every last cheesy, beery bite.

Beer-Cheese Pizza
This pizza was inspired by some of my favorite beer-cheese appetizers from the brew pubs we've haunted over the years and by some tasty beer cheese and pretzels my sister-in-law made while we were home for the holidays. The beer-spiked pizza dough is essentially Morgan's Pizza Dough with a couple of tweaks. One 12-oz bottle of beer will flavor both the dough and the sauce. I use a smooth mocha porter for this recipe, but a well-balanced bock would work well, too. You want to use a brew is that is slightly more malt-forward than hops-forward with subtle sweetness, nice roasty notes, and minimal lingering bitterness. You can make the cheese sauce in the same bowl you used for the dough, making clean-up that much easier.

1 12-oz bottle of beer (I use Rogue Mocha Porter)
10 oz bread flour
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 T olive oil, plus more for coating bowl
2 tsp brown sugar
2 1/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
1/2 tsp coarse black pepper
8 oz Neufchatel or cream cheese, softened at room temperature
8 oz (2 cups) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
Coarse cornmeal for pizza pan

Measure out 6 oz of beer and microwave for 30 seconds. Set aside. Reserve remaining beer for sauce.

Using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, combine flour and yeast.

Add oil, brown sugar, and warm beer, mixing just until dough comes together.

Switch to the dough hook, add 1 tsp salt, and knead on medium-to-med-high speed (6 on a KitchenAid) for six minutes or till stretchy, smooth, and pliable. The dough should wipe the bowl clean.

Transfer dough to large bowl coated with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 90 minutes or till doubled in size.

While dough is rising, add cream cheese, 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, black pepper, and remaining salt to the same bowl you used to mix the dough. Beat on medium speed with paddle attachment till well-mixed. With mixer on low speed, slowly stream in the remaining beer (give-or-take a couple sips) and beat until smooth, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary to make sure it's all incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Lift up the edges of the dough all the way around and tuck back under, gently releasing some of the gas that has built up. Cover and allow to rest for another 90 minutes.

Before rolling out the dough, remove the beer cheese from the fridge, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and dust a pizza pan or baking sheet with coarse cornmeal.

Using a rolling pin, roll to desired shape and thickness (I like to do this on a Silpat or parchment paper). Transfer to prepared baking sheet or pizza pan.

Spread beer cheese evenly over the pizza dough and top with remaining cheddar cheese (you may not need all the beer cheese--any leftover beer cheese will make an excellent dip for onion rings or pretzels, or a ridiculously awesome sauce for steak, and will keep for about 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge).

Bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes or until crust and cheese are golden and bubbly.

Let cool slightly before slicing.

Best served with...what else? the beer you used to make it!

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

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