If Papesse I was looking promising, Papesse II is starting to shine. My neighbour is getting a new kitchen installed, so she sorted out the cobwebbed cupboards and donated me a bundle of random stuff. One rather pricy item (from Fortnum & Mason I’ll have you know) was a bottle of truffle oil. I must admit it is something I’ve never thought of buying, though I’ve dipped hunks of bread in the bowls proffered by vendors at Borough market. Most truffle oils have never even come near a truffle, rather a few drops of the snappily named thioether (2,4-dithiapentane) are added to an olive oil base. The synthetic chemical substitute is far too pungent and severely lacking in the complex earthy flavour of a freshly unearthed truffle, a bit like comparing the aroma of ethyl ethanoate in pear drops to a ripe conference pear. The bottle states that the olive oil is actually infused with truffles – though the final ingredient is aroma. Hmmmm. Still, waste not wants not, but what to do with the oily elixir?
It was time for a Papesse refresh and I fancied a pizza bianchi. Garlic + mushrooms + truffle oil. Oh yes, indeed. It was absolutely superb. Though be warned that in this case, less is definitely more. Go easy on the drizzling!
RECIPE: PIZZA BIANCHI AI FUNGHI
Depends how hungry you are!
(We use a tin of peel tomatoes and ball of mozzarella for two 14” thin pizzas)
A chunk of Papesse
For the tomato sauce
A slug of olive oil
1 tin peeled plum tomatoes
A crushed clove of garlic
A sprinkling of salt and a grinding of pepper
For the topping
3-4 crushed garlic cloves
A generous handful of thinly sliced mushrooms, chestnut a.k.a. cremini work well. Scatter on a couple of rehydrated porcini if you really want to push the boat out
A ball of mozzarella
Truffle oil (best with one that has seen a truffle)
METHOD: Preheat your oven to its highest setting.
Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the crushed garlic for a couple of seconds before adding the tinned tomatoes. I always use peeled plum tomatoes and not chopped tomatoes as find there is more flesh making for a less watery consistency. It’s easy to mush them up with the back of a wooden spoon when cooking. Cook the tomatoes down over a medium heat (about ten minutes) until the water has evaporated and you are left with a thick sauce. I think tinned varieties have improved in quality as I always used to add a pinch of sugar to balance out the metallic taste, but no longer find this necessary so just season with salt and pepper. If you find your tinned tomatoes lacking in flavour, you can add a squeeze of tomato puree.
Dust the worktop with a little flour and flatten the ball of dough, knocking the air out of it with your fingertips. Stretch the pizza dough until it is as thin as possible mounding the dough up slightly around the edges. You can use a rolling pin to start it off, but stretching by hand really helps the texture.
Smear on the tomato sauce right up to the edges and scatter over the garlic and the thinly sliced mozzarella. Working quickly so the sauce does not soak into the dough, arrange the mushrooms on the pizza base, spreading them out evenly so every mouthful will have a delicious burst of earthy flavour.
When topped t perfection, transfer to a pre-heated baking sheet (I assemble the pizza on a sheet of greaseproof paper as don’t have a paddle and more importantly, am clumsy) and cook for about 6-8 minutes until crisp and golden. You’ve got to watch them, as the timing depends on your oven and the thinness or your base. Remove, drizzle with a splash of truffle oil – REMEMBER LESS IS MORE WITH TRUFFLE OIL – cut into wedges and enjoy with a robust Chianti.