Cep and Walnut Pizza Recipe

Cep and Walnut Pizza

It’s been a bit of a mushroom fest around here lately: Maxence and I went foraging in the forest of Rambouillet earlier this month, and we came back with six and a half kilos of mushrooms between us (that’s fourteen pounds).

Naturally, we didn’t venture out willy nilly into the forest (I’ve read enough children’s tales and seen enough video projects not to do that). We went with a pro, a friend who’s a seasoned mushroom picker, who knows her Cantharellus cibarius from her Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca, and who was able to guide us to the most prolific spots and help us look for and identify the various specimens.

It was the kind of golden fall day that begs for a bundled-up picnic by a pond with ducks quacking about and, as luck would have it, that’s exactly what we got — a welcome break halfway through an intense day of scanning the forest floors for the cap of a mushroom, or the tell-tale lifted leaves under which a cep might lurk.

Maxence turned out to be really good at this game (read: better than me) and our baskets were soon heavy with lepiotas, an exceptional manna of millers, a few wood hedgehogs, the odd wood blewit, and miscellaneous boletus, including an unhoped for amount of Boletus edulis, the prized cep (a.k.a. porcino) whose meaty flesh knows no equal in the mushroom realm.

Once home, exhausted like we hadn’t been in a long time, we got to work sorting, cleaning, and prepping our bounty so the bulk of it could be cooked while fresh, which took the better part of two hours. Our reward: a young cep carpaccio and cep spaghetti for dinner, and a freezer stocked with tubs of ready-to-gobble mushrooms and mushroom broth for future meals.

And a week later, on a Friday night, I used the remainder of our ceps to make cep and walnut pizzas, the memory of which still move me as I type this.

I prepared a sourdough-leavened dough with my starter, and made the whole thing vegan by using some of the cashew “cheese” I’d made that week, in place of mozzarella. A drizzle of the fabulous olive oil they use at Delancey (thanks, M&B!) and a sprinkle of pepper and torn basil later, we feasted on delicious fall pizzas that did plenty justice to the fruits, um, spores of our foraging.

Cep and Walnut Pizza

For the sourdough pizza dough:
– 200 grams (7 ounces) bread or all-purpose flour
– 3 grams (0.1 ounce) salt
– 75 grams (2.6 ounces) ripe 100%-hydration starter (see my post on natural starter bread)
– 100 grams (3.5 ounces) water
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
cornmeal for dusting
(Alternatively, you can use your favorite recipe or Peter Reinhart’s; shoot for 380 grams or 13.5 ounces dough.)

For the ceps:
– 600 grams (1 1/3 pounds) fresh ceps a.k.a. porcini (if unavailable or unaffordable, substitute the mushrooms of your choice, plus a handful of rehydrated dried ceps) to yield about 450 grams or 2 1/2 cups cooked ceps
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil

For the topping:
– about 2/3 cup cashew cheese
– the meat from 8 walnuts, crumbled
– a small handful basil leaves
– freshly ground pepper
olive oil

Makes two 26-cm (10-inch) pizzas.

Prepare the dough at least 2 1/2 hours in advance, or the day before.

In a mixing bowl, place the flour, salt, starter, water and olive oil. Stir until the dough comes together (a dough whisk is handy). It should be a little tacky, but workable; add a little water or flour to adjust the consistency. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead until smooth, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let it ferment at room temperature for 2 to 6 hours. If you’re making the dough the day before, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge. Let the dough come to room temperature for about 2 hours before using.

While the dough is fermenting, prepare the ceps. Trim the mushrooms, rinse briefly or brush to remove the dirt, then cut into slices. Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the garlic and cook for a minute or two, until fragrant.

Add the mushrooms, season with salt, and cook over medium-high heat, uncovered, stirring from time to time, until all the mushroom water has evaporated and the ceps are turning golden in places. (Frozen cooked ceps can also be used; thaw overnight, and reheat in a skillet before using, making sure all the water evaporates.)

About 30 minutes before baking the pizzas, preheat the oven as hot as it will go (mine maxes out at 300°C or 570°F) with a baking stone inserted in the lower half of the oven. (You can use a simple baking sheet if you don’t have a baking stone, but don’t preheat it.)

Divide the dough in two. Take one piece, knead it gently into a ball, and stretch it into a circle, about 26 cm (10″) in diameter (this video shows you how). If you find the dough resists and shrinks back, just let it relax for a few minutes before trying to shape it again. The circle of dough will be thin; be sure to leave a slightly thicker rim all around.

Dust a pizza peel with a little cornmeal and place the circle of dough on top. Drop small dollops of cashew cheese all over the pizza, and sprinkle with half of the walnuts. Top with half of the ceps and slide the pizza onto the baking stone. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, until the rim of the pizza is lightly puffed and golden.

Remove the pizza from the oven, drizzle with a good olive oil, sprinkle with pepper and torn basil, and serve.

While the first pizza is baking, repeat with the remaining ingredients to make a second pizza.

Cooking/baking time: 20 min

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