One of the aspects of this pizza hobby of mine that I never anticipated was the exploration of a vast variety of unusual cheeses. Some time back my darling husband did some research on the Internet and discovered that there is a cheese shop at selected Kroger stores called Murray's Cheese Shop. They have many of the more exotic cheeses that are difficult to find; and they will even ship if there is not one close to you! We happened to be in Atlanta last week end visiting with our daughter and discovered a Kroger store near her neighborhood that has a Murray's Cheese Shop. I purchased some emmental and some taleggio and decided to revisit the pear, pecorino, and taleggio pizza I made several weeks ago and see what it would be like with real taleggio rather than substituting fontina.
Taleggio got it's name because it was traditionally ripened in the caves of Val Taleggio, and the kind woman behind the counter at Murray's explained that taleggio is a rind-washed cheese which means that during production the cheeses are repeatedly wiped or brushed with, or dunked in a liquid such as saltwater brine or an alcohol (including beer or brandy). This process helps to limit which bacteria will grow on the cheese and to produce a firm, flavourful rind around the cheese. The process requires regular "washings", particularly in the early stages of production, making it quite labor intensive compared to other methods of cheese production. That may be why it is so expensive! There was a sign above the taleggio which said "Stinky Cheeses". That was a bit disconcerting, but the aroma of the cheese didn't prove to be objectionable. As I prepared the pizza this time, I rolled out the basic pizza dough onto parchment paper. I then brushed on some olive oil. Small cubes of taleggio were arranged over the crust and thin slices of Bartlett pear were added.
The "must have" ingredient for this pizza is the fresh sage that was added next. . .the fragrant flavor of the sage blends beautifully with the sweetness of the pears. I don't care much for pecorino, so I topped off this pizza with some shredded parmesan before I baked it on a hot pizza stone that had been preheating in the oven at 425 for 30 minutes. The taleggio has a fruity tang and melted very well. . .in fact, beware and be sure to put the cheese in the center of the pizza or it will melt off the edge and you'll have a mess in your oven! I'm afraid this didn't prove to be the prettiest pizza on the block, but it was delicious!