Or how I discovered that good pizzas can be made without harming a single tomato. To me pizza equates to tomato and cheese on a thin and crusty base. I’ve had many different sorts of pizza bases over the years, from deep dish to slightly gritty, not-quite-perfected gluten free, but the one constant has been the toppings. Tomato. Cheese. And generally plenty of bacon, spicy beef, pepperoni and jalapeños too. In Alsace, they do things a little differently.
Despite having a good idea of how this recipe should turn out, and a plan in my head of all the steps, I still did a double take halfway through making the topping, when I realised there was no cheese to be heaped on just before the pizzas went in the oven, no dusting of parmesan just before serving. In fact, this pizza only had cheese on it because some of the sour cream was swapped for cream cheese. And yet the rich, smooth base topped with the softly caramelised onions and smoked bacon is such a perfect combination, so complete, that the idea of sullying it with tomato, or even more cheese on top is just wrong. Like Hawaiian pizzas, this one is a winning, if initially slightly odd, combination.
165ml lukewarm water
1 tablespoon light olive oil
3/4 teaspoon (3g) sugar
1 heaped teaspoon (3.5 g) dried active yeast
225g gluten-free flour blend
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon fine salt
150g bacon, chopped into small squares
1 large white onion, chopped into thin slices
4 tablespoons cream cheese
4 tablespoons crème fraîche
1. To make the dough whisk the olive oil, sugar and yeast into the warm water and leave to activate for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile stir the gluten-free flour blend, xanthan gum and fine salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour the yeast mixture into it. Stir the flour into the liquid gradually with a fork, then bring it all together with your hands, tip it out onto a flour-dusted board and knead it a bit until it forms a nice smooth ball. Very lightly coat the dough in oil, then put it back in the bowl, cover with a towel and leave to rise somewhere warm for an hour or so, or until it’s roughly doubled in size.
2. Once the dough has doubled in size, split the dough into 4 separate balls. Roll these out on a very lightly oiled baking sheet into rough rounds about 6 inches in diameter, and leave to rest for 10 minutes while you make the toppings. Preheat the oven to 220 C.
3. Heat a medium frying pan. Add the bacon and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the bacon is cooked through. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onions to the pan and cook over a medium heat for 7-8 minutes, or until soft and golden. Meanwhile in a small bowl mix the cream cheese, creme fraîche and plenty of salt and black pepper until smooth.
4. Using the back of a dessert spoon smoothe a couple of tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture over each pizza base, smoothing it almost to the very edges of the dough. It should be nice and thick on the pizza base, though if you do have any of the mixture left over it is brilliant spread on bread topped with smoked salmon. On top of the cream cheese base sprinkle the softly caramelised onions, and the bacon pieces, then bake the pizzas in the oven for 12 minutes, or until the edges are just turning lightly brown.
5. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before cutting into quarters and serving with watercress, rocket or a fresh green salad.
Serves 4. These pizzas are quite good the next day as well, served straight from the fridge, though they go a little bendy after that.