At the risk of sounding exactly like every other person on the internet, I cannot contain my enthusiasm about autumn. Here in New England it is well on its way, and I could not be more thrilled. It’s hardly an exaggeration to say that I live for this time of year. In fact, if I could control the climate, it would be 10 months of October-like weather with one month just hot enough to hit the beach and one month of deep snow. Where in the world is that kind of weather? I’m moving there, stat. Even though a few days in the 80s snuck in this week, now it’s all highs in the 60s/70s and lows in the 40s/50s and I’m in love. Yesterday I took a breezy 12 mile bike ride on the Assabet River Rail Trail and spotted some of the first few flame colored leaves. I also stopped at an adorable roadside farm stand and bought tiny pumpkins and concord grapes. I could not resist.
And obviously, one of the most lovable things about fall is the food. While I’m not quite fully in the swing of pumpkin-everything insanity yet (give me a week), I have already begun my pumpkin ale stockpile, and I’m getting excited about all the other fall foods as well. Butternut squash, caramelized onions, mushrooms by the pound, dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, rosemary and sage and thyme, brussels sprouts, apples, pears, cranberries… I’m getting hungry. Just about a week ago, I was still celebrating the bounty of summer with silky eggplant baked orzo, roasted blueberries (atop pancakes), and fresh tomatoes. Now I’m making my first batch of soup (seriously this is the best tomato soup I’ve ever made and I don’t think I can ever use another recipe again), enjoying roasted brussels sprouts, and making turkey burgers and spinach-apple salad. AND I can drink hot coffee again!!
As a perfect example, I tested out King Arthur’s beer pizza dough. It makes two pizzas worth of dough, so for the first batch, I made one of my summer favorites, lemony zucchini and goat cheese pizza. Then I froze the other half, went on vacation for a week (to my two homes, NC and DC) and came back to cooler weather. But first, let’s talk dough.
In my search for the perfect homemade pizza, I tried the beer crust for this one, and was pretty pleased with the results. It had a good flavor, and was definitely easy to make. I used a fairly light beer (Sam Adams Summer Ale) and think it might be fun to try a beer with a deeper flavor and fuller body next time, to make it more noticeable. This recipe produced a nice thin, crispy crust. I definitely recommend par-baking it for a few minutes with a drizzle of olive oil, as the surface was slightly under-done on my first try. I would prefer a chewier crust than this, but it was delicious. I’d give it 4 stars.
The dough froze and thawed perfectly. About two weeks later, I used the other half, and by this point, the temperature had started to fall, so I opted for cooler weather toppings. I was even happier with the crust this time, since I par-baked it and it was slightly chewier. I wonder if the time in the freezer had anything to do with that…?
Mushroom & Caramelized Onion Pizza with Gruyere & Thyme
1 ball of your favorite pizza dough
1/2 lb. cremini (baby portabella) mushrooms, sliced
1 sweet onion, sliced in half rings
4 oz. shredded mozzarella
4 oz. shredded Gruyere
several sprigs fresh thyme
1 garlic clove, minced
salt & pepper
- Preheat oven, preferably with a pizza stone inside, to 450°. If you do have a pizza stone, let it heat for at least 30 minutes, ideally an hour. Allow your dough to rest on the counter and come to room temperature, 20-30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the caramelized onions. If you need a tutorial on this, there are plenty online. The trick is patience: you have to cook ‘em low and slow. Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add onions and 1/3 of the thyme leaves, and cook gently, stirring often, until onions are sweet and sticky, about 45 minutes. Set aside.
- In the same skillet, add a touch more olive oil, the garlic and another 1/3 of the thyme. Heat just until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute, then add mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are golden brown and almost crispy.
- Roll out your pizza dough on a stone or baking sheet dusted with cornmeal (for rustic texture, optional). Drizzle lightly with olive oil – I used a sage-infused oil, but regular is fine. Bake for a few minutes, just until the crust starts bubbling up and getting firm, but not changing color.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle half the cheese over the crust, followed by the mushrooms and onions, and the remaining cheese. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and crisp and the cheese is bubbly.
- While it cools, scatter the remaining thyme over the top. Please enjoy with red wine.