Wheat doesn’t like me, not one little bit. Too much wheat and my belly swells into a solid little bowling ball, which ruins the line of a good pencil dress. Graphic, I know, apologies.
So a few months ago I decided to cut back on my wheat consumption, I’m never going to give it up completely, as frankly a life without cake and biscuits just isn’t worth living, but I figure a little less wheat pasta and bread can only be a good thing.
Whilst biscuits and cakes just aren’t the same in a wheat-free format, there are certain wheaty foodstuffs that can actually be pretty marvellous when you switch out the flour for something a little different, mainly those that involve a bread dough.
I discovered that whilst wheat leaves me feeling fairly rotten, spelt (an ancient ancestor of wheat, apparently, it’s not gluten free, but it is a little lower in gluten) leaves me as sprightly as ever and the nutty flavour is just gorgeous. There are 2 stalls at Borough Market that make the most amazing spelt loaves, (resulting in fairly regular purchases) and I must learn to recreate them at some point, but in the meantime I got to work on another important food group, the humble pizza.
It turns out that spelt pizza dough is surprisingly easy to make. Spelt doesn’t require as much kneading as wheat does, so work was minimal, but it does still need a decent amount of time to double in size. It’s totally worth the wait and you can even make a big batch, freeze some and defrost it in the fridge during the day for a quick dinner that night.
I’m a big fan of the standard, tomato and mozzarella based pizza toppings, but this time I thought I’d go with something different. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while you’ll know from my Peach & Raspberry Ricotta Crumble Cake that I’m a little obsessed with ricotta, following a holiday in Sicily last year, so I decided to carry that obsession into this pizza. Aubergine seemed like the perfect accompaniment to creamy ricotta and for me, no pizza is complete without a healthy dose of fragrant basil.
It turned out that this combination worked marvellously. The pizza’s crust is nice and crunchy, the toppings are refreshing and light and best of all, once the dough is ready for action, it’s quick and simple to throw together.
Spelt Crust, Aubergine, Ricotta & Basil Pizza
Dough recipe from The Particular Kitchen
Topping adapted slightly from Pink Parsley
Dough makes 2 medium sized pizzas (you can freeze half)
Topping makes 1 medium sized pizza (double if you need to)
For the dough:
3 cups wholegrain spelt flour
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
2 tbsp rapeseed oil and a little extra for oiling the bowl
For the topping:
1 medium aubergine
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
Salt & Pepper
1/2 cup ricotta
1 small, crushed garlic clove
A pinch of red chilli flakes
A small handful of finely shredded basil leaves
1/4 cup grated parmesan
In a stand mixer, with the dough hook fitted, (or a large bowl if you’re making the dough by hand) mix together the flour, yeast and salt. Make sure you add the salt on the opposite side of the bowl to the yeast to ensure that the salt doesn’t kill the yeast.
Turn the mixer on at a low speed and gradually drizzle in the water and oil until a ball is formed, add more flour or water if needed. Remove the ball to a floured work surface, knead it very briefly to form a smooth ball. Oil the bowl, add the dough back in and roll it around to coat the ball. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it for 2 hours until it has doubled in size.
After 1 3/4 hours of the rising time, heat up the grill to a medium heat. Slice the aubergine into 5mm slices, brush both sides with rapeseed oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and lay them out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Pop the baking sheet under the grill for 10 minutes, turning the aubergine slices half way through. Once they’re done put them to one side. If you have a pizza stone put it in the oven and heat up the oven to 250C / 230C Fan / 475 F.
Next divide the dough into 2 balls, if you’re only making one pizza put one of the balls into a sandwich bag and place it in the freezer. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface until it’s as thin as you can manage, you may need to use your fingertips to stretch it a little. Place the base onto a baking sheet and put it in the oven for 5 minutes. If you have a pizza stone put the baking sheet directly onto the stone and it will help the bottom of the pizza crisp up nicely, especially if the baking sheet is thin.
Whilst the base is cooking, stir together the ricotta, garlic, chilli flakes, half the basil and some salt and pepper.
After the 5 minutes, take the base out of the oven, flip it over and spread the ricotta mixture over it, leaving an inch of crust all around the edge, then sprinkle on half the parmesan. Brush the exposed crust with a little rapeseed oil and pop the pizza back in the oven for 8-10 minutes.
Remove the pizza again, arrange the aubergine slices in a pretty flower shape, sprinkle with the remaining basil shreds and parmesan and pop it back in the oven for a final 5 minutes. Enjoy!