Saturday, October 20, 2012

Provencal Pizza

This pizza highlights Emmental, one of the other unique and hard-to-find cheeses I have been eager to try.  Emmental or Emmentaler is a cheese from Switzerland. It is sometimes known as Swiss cheese in the United States,Canada, Australia and New Zealand, although Swiss cheese does not always imply Emmentaler.
 The cheese originally comes from the Emme valley in the canton of Bern. Unlike some other cheese varieties, the denomination "Emmentaler" was not protected ("Emmentaler Switzerland" is, though). Hence, Emmentaler of other origin, especially from France and Bavaria, is widely available and even Finland is an exporter of Emmentaler cheese.
Emmentaler is a yellow, medium-hard cheese. It has a savory, but not very sharp, taste.  In the late stage of cheese production a bacteria, P. freudenreichii,  releases carbon dioxide gas, which slowly forms the bubbles that make holes. Failure to remove CO2 bubbles during production, due to inconsistent pressing, results in the large holes ("eyes") characteristic of this cheese. Historically, the holes were a sign of imperfection, and until modern times, cheese makers would try to avoid them.  We purchased some Emmental at Murray's cheese shop when we were in Atlanta visiting our daughter.  I did a google search for pizza recipes that used emmental, and found this one that was a definite winner.  I used my basic bread dough which I rolled out onto a pizza stone that had been sprayed with olive oil spray and dusted with corn meal.  I then baked it in a 425 degree oven for 5 minutes.  While the dough was rising, I took a sweet onion that I had sliced very thin and caramelized by sauteing it in olive oil over a medium heat.  When I pulled the crust out of the oven, I brushed it with some olive oil and topped it with the caramelized onion. 
I then sprinkled on some fennel seed; the recipe called for thinly sliced fresh fennel, but I wasn't able to find it.  I realize that fennel seed is nothing like fresh fennel, but I thought the distinctive fennel flavor would be an interesting addition to this pizza.  I then arranged halved grape tomatoes and halved kalamata olives over the pizza.  Over this I shredded the Emmental, which did prove to be similar to a Swiss cheese (only without the holes!).  I then baked the pizza for an additional 13 minutes.  The cheese was rich and creamy and melted very well on the pizza.  The flavor was a perfect match for the fennel seed which I had added earlier.  We watched some episodes of "The Office", season 8.  Still funny, but not nearly so much as when Steve Carell was part of the show.  Jim still plays practical jokes on Dwight though, which always gives me a good laugh!

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