This week I went to the Friday market with no particular plan on what to get. I passed by a stall, saw something yellow out of the corner of my eye and doubled back. Checked with the vendor if it was yellow beet, and she said that no, she’d never heard of yellow beet, they were striped beets because when you cut them open they have circular stripes.
I was thinking: Really?! What the heck!? You’re a vegetable vendor – how can you not know about yellow beets? So I informed her that yellow beets did indeed exist and that they do have “rings” when you cut them open. They didn’t sell the yellow beets separately, though, but in a bunch with regular red beets and a kind of beet that turned out to be white inside with pink rings. I’ve meanwhile learned that the white & pink beets are called chioggia beets.
I bought a bunch and from somewhere came the inspiration to make beet pizza. So off to the Italian vendor to get Scamorza cheese. By the way, the vendor makes the cheese himself and advised me not to store cheese in the fridge but always leave it out. He had told me that before and I did not heed his advice as it seems weird, even though he as the cheese maker should know better than me the cheese eater. This second time I couldn’t bring myself to do it either, especially with the current hot temperatures.
Back to the pizza. I wanted it to have a summery feel – I almost said healthy but I’m not going to kid either you nor myself that this version is healthy 🙂 – and wanted a white sauce, so went for béchamel sauce. I adapted the recipe I used for my pumpkin lasagne last year in that I added basil to the cooking milk instead of thyme. Very good idea, it turned out.
As you can see in the pictures I haven’t improved my skills in getting the pizza pie perfectly round but I assure you it didn’t matter to me at all because the taste… oh my… I loved it! The combination of the beats, béchamel sauce and Scamorza cheese is perfect. I think this is going to be a summer staple if our market vendor carries those bunches of mixed beets regularly.
For the pizza recipe, I used the one I posted two years ago – Pizza Bufalina – but halved the ingredients. That still gave me two generously sized pizzas. Also I decided to forego the comprehensive instructions of my other recipe and just chucked the yeast into the water, didn’t sieve the flour, and mixed everything together as I saw fit.
Don’t be deterred by the length of the recipe – the individual steps don’t take long at all!
1 white & pink beet
2 yellow beets
1 large garlic clove, very thinly sliced
ca. 250 g Scamorza cheese
Peel beets and slice thinly, using a mandolin. Cover and set aside.
Grate cheese, cover and set aside.
225 g type “00” flour
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
160 ml warm water
15 g fresh yeast
Mix the yeast into the warm water and add a pinch of sugar. Place flour into a bowl, add the salt, and create a well in the centre.
Add half of the yeast water to the well in the flour, then add the olive oil. Start kneading and add the rest of the water as you go. Your dough will be very sticky – that’s exactly how it should be.
Knead the dough for 10 minutes on a very well floured surface using the following technique: use one hand to push the dough forward on the surface, then pull it back. It’ll look like a real mess but it’ll come together beautifully after doing this long enough. You can also add a little flour if it sticks to the surface too much.
Once the dough has come together, form a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl to prove. Leave covered with cling film for 1 – 2 hour, it should have doubled in size by then.
While the dough proves, prepare the béchamel sauce.
300 ml milk
2 sprigs basil
3 rasps fresh nutmeg
10 whole peppercorns
piece of ½ slice of onion
40 g butter
20 g flour
1½ tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
Place milk, basil, nutmeg, peppercorns and onion slice into a small saucepan, then place over a low heat and let it come very slowly to simmering point – takes approx. 5 minutes. Once it simmers, remove from heat and strain the milk into a jug, discarding the flavourings.
In a saucepan, melt the butter without letting it brown. As soon as it melts, add the flour and stir vigorously over a medium heat [I used a slightly rounded silicone spatula] to make a smooth, glossy paste. Start incorporating the milk bit by bit, then switch to a balloon whisk and keep whisking briskly. Turn heat down to lowest setting and let the sauce cook for 5 minutes, whisking every now and then. Season with salt and black pepper.
Assembly & Baking
very small basil leaves
Punch down the dough and knead back into a ball. Roll out with a rolling pin into an irregular shape (or perfectly round, if you can), then place onto a non-stick baking mat.
Stir the béchamel sauce. [If it’s too cold and thick by assembly time, gently reheat it and stir well so any skin that may have formed on top disappears.] Distribute half of it on each pizza pie, leaving about 1 cm around the edges. Brush the edges with a little olive oil.
Divide the cheese into 2 portions, then use two thirds of each portion to distribute over the béchamel sauce. Arrange the sliced beets on top and brush them with a little olive oil. Distribute the sliced garlic among the pizzas. Top both pizzas with the remaining cheese.
Bake at 250°C / 475°F (non-fan) on middle shelf for 7 – 12 minutes, checking inbetween.