The Lahey Project (kinda...): Cauliflower Pizza

Being in the throes of sourdough, I have lately abandoned my Lahey Project fervor. I have not forgotten dear Jim, since yesterday I produced my best loaf of sourdough to date using his ratio (in metric) of flour to water, and counting a heaping 1/4 c. of my starter in the liquid part of the equation. When I saw this Habenero Apple Jelly recipe today, I knew I had to rush off to my favorite apple vendor at the farmer's market in West Allis to get some cider - and while I was there I couldn't pass up a yellow cauliflower. One thing always leads to another, doesn't it?

Even though I have ample things to eat, I know that the winter season will soon be upon us and then that yellow cauliflower will then be the only thing I can think of: so often is that the case when I don't give in to instant gratification. And, while I'm at it, if I'm going to be instantly gratified, it behooves my healthfulness to include a cauliflower. High in vitamin C and fiber, and full of cancer fighting phytochemicals, the yellow version shouldn't actually taste much different than a milky white varietal. I swear that the yellow version is gentler and much more sophisticated. But then again, it's probably just the divine combination of ingredients that comprise a Lahey pizza...

Long before the purchase of said cauliflower, I had started a whole wheat dough this morning using my sourdough starter. I applied the same idea of counting a heaping 1/4 c. of starter as a liquid, and tried a mostly wheat "no knead" dough from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I own this book, and was initially very excited with it (before Laheyitis set in...). The premise of both Artisan Bread in Five books is that you are able to mix up a large batch of no knead dough, and then bake with it for a week or longer. The bread is good, and the time saving is valid for those who may be busy. But after trying my first bite of Lahey bread made with a minuscule amount of yeast, I couldn't go back to stored dough; my new breads developed much more flavor over that longer period of fermentation time.

I also have the luxury of pretty much babysitting any dough project since I work in the home... and there is a very satisfying reward for me personally to be able to bake on demand and set my alarm clock for the middle of the night or supremely early in the morning to attend to such needs of experimentation. It's kind of funny that here I am, trying to take a simple method and make it more laborious, but that is what I do I guess. There are a lot of great recipes in the Artisan Bread books, and now that I know I can make more work for myself, I may set out trying to replicate more of them using a longer, single baking approach.

I scaled back the HBin5 master bread dough recipe to 1/4 of it's intended amount (fairly easy, since the book lists metric weights for the master recipe) using my starter, and compensated for having ALL of my windows open for most of this unseasonably warm November day by leaving the dough in my oven with the light on to raise for about 8 hours. It was ready by dinner time, and by then I had this gorgeous cauliflower. Though I may be stretching to count it in my Lahey Project, I used the recipe for the topping from My Bread.

The dough was super sticky, so I rolled it super thin on a piece of parchment, and baked it on a stone at 500 degrees. When the dough "set", I slid the parchment out from underneath.

Brilliance. The mandolined cauliflower tossed with green olives (I "borrowed" queen sized manzanillas from my in-laws), chile flake, fresh garlic, Parmesan cheese and a trace of olive oil. The dough was nice and crisp - but to be honest, I was so enamored of the topping it was clearly in the backseat. I saved the rest of my dough in the fridge to play with tomorrow - and am figuring that I'll likely make the second half of the cauliflower into another pizza tomorrow night, dutifully complete with Lahey crust.

(Oh, and I forgot to mention that this cauliflower pizza is topped with breadcrumbs. Beautiful, uniformly dusty breadcrumbs now thanks to the VitaMix! But breadcrumbs of any size or shape and added to the top of any pizza just prior to baking are probably only going to enhance your outcome, and that is just one thing I have learned from Jim Lahey.)

The only enhancement that can make a Lahey Pizza better in my eyes is some heat. Even with the ample chile flake my heavy hands added, pizza in my book needs to be consumed with peppers alongside. My candied jalapenos were perfect, and I ate a slice with each bite until my eyes were hot and nearly watering. Not so much watering as "sweating". I've said it before and I'll say it again, you know it's good when your eyes sweat.

The End.