It’s 2018! Happy New year guys! Along with many of you, I’m sure, 2017 saw a lot of changes for me. Another move, a new job, great new friends, and a year full of fun memories. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with pizza and wine. Because it’s also Wine Wednesday! And I have a feeling this year is going to be beyond amazing.
Many of my fellow bloggers will be posting healthy meal plans, exercise pledges, and low-calorie salads. Which definitely have their place, of course. But I have a beef with using Jan 1 as a benchmark for becoming a completely new person. I find that balance in everything is a more “steady wins the race” approach. And while I’m clearly not a guru of health, I’m really happy and approach food and exercise from a positive place. I have life and professional goals as a part of my day-to-day life, so I never make resolutions for the new year. It’s an easy excuse to forget about once March rolls around.
I guess this brings us to the pizza. This pizza. Probably the unhealthiest of unhealthy symbols. But this one’s like a 60% on that unhealthy scale. It’s loaded with dark collard greens (hello Vitamin K!) that all at once get crisped and charred in the oven and also melt into the cheese. Add to that salty prosciutto, cream, and a drizzle of honey and red pepper flakes to finish it off. This is the best pizza I’ve had in a while. In fact, this is the pizza you should make for a special Saturday night dinner, because the dough for the crust is incredibly therapeutic and meditative to prepare. Then you can enjoy the fruits of your labor and the upcoming year with a comforting winter-esque pizza. Because it’s cold guys! Negative degrees in most of the country.
And speaking of that honey drizzle that tops this fabulous pizza, let’s continue our exploration of honey chemistry and benefits, shall we? Because this time of year is the biggest occasion for getting back in the kitchen, I thought it would be fun to talk about honey—its functionalities and benefits. And highlight what I look for in a honey. Honey is actually a very complex topic, so I’ll be going through the biggies over three posts. Sort of like an extended ‘In Appreciation Of’ category. Buckle up buttercup! Because honey is about to blow your mind.
Full disclosure: This post is sponsored by Aunt Sue’s Raw & Unfiltered Wildflower Honey, though all words and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting brands that help make Appeasing a Food Geek successful!
First, I shared this gingerbread cake and some of the ingredient chemistry around honey in cooking and baking. And then, a couple weeks later, I geeked out on honey microbiology and made some stroopwafels and a special latte. This time, as the final chapter of this series, we’re playing on the whole New-Year’s-resolution theme with some health chat. We’ll touch on one of the more elusive properties that many seek out in foods. Honey acts as an antioxidant. Now before you get all crazy into the ‘superfood’ talk, let’s really get into this whole oxidation thing.
An organism produces both free radicals and protective antioxidative agents. When there is an imbalance between these two things, the organism undergoes oxidative stress. And oxidative stress is that thing that is most commonly linked to a factor in nasty chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, immune-system decline, brain dysfunction, and general maladies associated with aging. Stacking the deck in terms of antioxidant production in the organism, is not altogether a bad idea. Hence why consuming foods rich in antioxidants has become a popular option in healthy eating.
Honey has significant antioxidant activity inherent to the sweetener, however it varies by botanical source. Broadly, honey contains glucose oxidase (remember the antimicrobial importance of this one?), catalase, ascorbic acid (aka vitamin C), flavonoids, phenolic acids, carotenoid derivatives, proteins and various amino acids, and several other organic acids. When measuring whether these compounds are effective antioxidants in a controlled setting (i.e. in vitro), it has been observed that the phenolic content in honey was significantly correlated to inhibition of oxidation in human serum. Further, honey has shown a similar antioxidative activity as concentrated Vitamin E, an established antioxidant. Basically, it’s rather likely that honey is an effective antioxidant for human health, but what about in vivo? In people?
There are a couple of studies that have confirmed some antioxidant activity from the consumption of honey. One concluded that honey caused an increase in antioxidant content in the serum as well as a demonstrated increase in reducing capacity as compared to a sugar control. The other main study measured a direct increase in key antioxidants in the subjects’ blood when supplementing their diets with honey. It gets even more interesting because that same study looked at black tea as well. And black tea did not show significant increases in blood antioxidants. AKA honey may be a more effective antioxidant than some types of tea! However, that same study looked at black tea and honey together as a treatment in the study with no significant antioxidant increases. This is unusual if we were trying to conclude that honey will benefit you as a player in the antioxidant world because the black tea seemed to inhibit honey’s effectiveness. Clearly, more research needs to be in this area.
Okay that was a looooot of science talk. I don’t blame you if you zoned out there. As a topic that’s difficult to study, I tried to remain as close to the scientific language as possible. (PS: I’ve cited the main papers I used to write this piece after the recipe if you’d like to read more!) But the main takeaway is that honey has shown promising antioxidant activity, though it’s inconclusive. In fact, the consumption of antioxidants in your diet is only as good as the whole package. So get on those fruits and veggies, and include honey as your sweetener of choice if you’re going there.
As a final note on honey, I highly recommend Aunt Sue’s Raw and Unfiltered Wildflower Honey for your holiday-baking-and-cooking extravaganza this season. Fun Fact: I used the honey from this company at my previous candy technologist role when on Long Island, and I was impressed by the quality and flavor.
So, while this is a sponsored post (full disclosure), I truly believe in this brand. I respect the fact that it is a co-op with over 290 beekeepers across the US, and that it supports the honeybee population. It is also 100% pure with no sugar or glucose syrups added.
This pizza uses a pizza stone which ensures even, through heating for a fully-cooked crust. I use a technique from Joe Beddia’s Pizza Camp. If you don’t have a pizza stone, get one. But, as a recent pizza stone convert, I understand. You can follow some of the guidelines I used here with the sourdough crust, though I would reduce the amount of overall toppings in the middle as much as possible.
The beauty of this pizza comes from the marrying of crisp collard greens, creamy cheeses, and thin prosciutto melting into the whole thing. It’s Wine Wednesday, so we’ve still got the wine to go! This uber-savory pizza goes excellent with a white wine that mellows it all out. I love picking a German Gewürztraminer because it brings out the honey notes in the pizza and lends a bit of acidity to the creamy/cheesiness. A slightly dry Riesling would be similar. A bright, citrusy beer would be great as well! If you’re into the deep craft beers, I wouldn’t go with too heavy of an IPA because it might be too bitter with the collards. But let me know what you end up pairing with this baby!
Now, let’s kick off the year full throttle. Pizza and wine-style. And be sure to check out January’s “This Month” page for a wrap-up of the top recipes and posts from 2017 on the site along with some of my favorites to make this time of year. Oh, and some snowy photos from the season so far
Prosciutto, Collard Greens, and Cream Pizza with Honey
Barely adapted from Pizza Camp
Makes one pizza with an extra dough ball from the dough recipe
**Plan ahead for this one! The dough takes 24 hours.
For the dough
1 ½ cups cool water
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 ½ cups (500g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon + ½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the pizza
Semolina and flour
1/3 cup fontina cheese
3 ounces fresh mozzarella, pinched into small chunks
2 cups low-moisture mozzarella
4-5 big handfuls coarsely-chopped collard greens
4 tablespoons heavy cream
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Extra-virgin olive oil
5 thin slices prosciutto
Aunt Sue’s Raw and Unfiltered Wildflower Honey
Red pepper flakes
- Start by making the dough. In your stand-mixer bowl, whisk the water, sugar, and yeast together by hand. Next, mix in the olive oil. Add the flour to the bowl and hook it onto your stand mixer with the hook attachment. Mix on low for 5 minutes until the mixture comes together. There shouldn’t be dry parts. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. Let it rest for 30 minutes to allow the gluten structure to form.
- Knead the salt into the dough until the dough is smooth and the salt is fully incorporated. The easiest way to do this is with wet hands or a dough scraper. Gently fold the dough over onto itself to incorporate. Once incorporated, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Once it has chilled for 24 hours, take the dough out of the fridge and scrape it out onto a well-floured countertop. Now we shape the dough into a big ball. With well-floured hands, grab either end of the dough mass and pull them up to meet in the middle. Rotate the dough mass one quarter turn and repeat. You’re basically incorporating the dough into itself to form one smooth, rough, floured ball. Flip the whole thing over, then, using a knife or bench scraper, cut the dough in half. Either eyeball it or weigh the two pieces to get them even.
- With well-floured hands, take one half of the dough and fold it over on itself, essentially repeating the same shaping technique with each, until you have a round, extremely smooth-surfaced ball, adding flour as needed. After you have a smooth ball, set it on a floured surface and lit sit, covered with a kitchen towel, until it doubles in size. It will take 3-4 hours depending on how warm your kitchen is. You’ll know it’s ready when you gently press the smooth surface and it rises back slowly. If you’re not making pizza right away, put the dough ball into the fridge for up to 24 hours*.
- Let’s put this pizza together now! Place your pizza stone on the lowest shelf in your oven, then turn your oven to its highest temperature. Either 500 or 550⁰F depending on your oven. Heat your stone for at least one hour before baking. Get your ‘pizza peel’ ready. I use a flat aluminum pan that has no raised edges, but you might be über fancy and have an actual pizza peel. Put a few cups of flour into a large bowl or keep your container of flour nearby. Then lightly dust your peel with semolina.
- Lightly flour your counter and your hands. Always keep the surface and your hands floured to make this much easier. Lift a dough ball from its surface or container and flip it into the bowl with flour or your container of flour you’ve been keeping nearby so that the top side of the ball gets dusted first. Flip it once more, making sure the dough is completely coated. Press the dough down into the flour, then pick it up and place It on the floured countertop.
- Pressing your fingers firmly into the dough, start by flattening the center and work our way out toward the edge to make it wider, until it’s about 7-9 inches wide. Be careful not to disturb the outermost lip which will eventually become your crust. Once you have a disc, you will have to start carefully stretching it to about 14-16 inches without tearing the dough. The easiest way is to pick it up gently stretch it over your fists, letting gravity do most of the work. Once you’ve stretched it to the right size, place it on your dusted pizza peel.
- Sprinkle the dough with the fontina and both mozzarellas being careful not to overload the center and keeping a thin crust around the exterior. Next, layer on the collards evenly, piling it up. Drizzle with the cream and season with a bit of salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Work quickly to prevent your dough from sticking to the peel!
- Now is the hardest part. You have to slide the pizza from the peel to your preheated stone. With a firm and steady hand, take the peel and insert it into the oven at a slight downward angle, touching the tip of the peel to the back edge of the stone. This is the scariest part. Once you have the front end of the dough safely on the stone, gently pull the peel out and close the oven.
- Bake the pizza for 4 minutes. Then, change the oven setting from bake to broil (on high). This will cook from the top down while the residual heat from the stone finishes baking the crust. Depending on the strength of your broiler and your liking for dark spots on the crust, cook for another 7-10 minutes in the broiler. Keep checking frequently to keep from burning, though the edges of the chard will get some of that char which I love! You also want the cheese to color and the crust to turn deep brown.
- When the pizza is finished baking, slide your peel underneath it in a quick motion so that the pizza is sitting directly on top of the peel. Take it out of the oven and place it on a cutting board. Finish the top with the grated parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. Then arrange the prosciutto over the whole pie and finish with a drizzle of honey and a few pinches of red pepper flakes. Perfect pizza!
*If you are taking your dough out of the fridge prior to putting the pizza together, give it 15 or so minutes to warm up before forming the pizza.
Gheldof, N, Wang, XH, Engeseth, NJ. Buckwheat honey increases serum antioxidant capacity in humans. Journal of Ag and Food Chem. 2003; 51; 5: 1500-1505. doi: 10.1021/jf025897t
Nagai, T, Inoue, R, Kanamori, N, Suzuki, N, Nagashimi, T. Characterization of honey from different floral sources. Its functional properties and effects of honey species on storage of meat. Journal of Food Chem. 2006; 97; 2: 256-262. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2005.03.045
Schramm, DD, Karim, M, Schrader, HR, Holt, RR, Cardetti, M, Keen, CL. Honey with high levels of antioxidants can provide protection to healthy human subjects. Journal of Ag and Food Chem. 2003; 51; 6: 1732-1735. doi: 10.1021/jf025928k
Stefan, B, Tomislav, J, Robert, S, Peter, G. Honey for Nutrition and Health: A Review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2008; 27; 6: 677-689. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2008.10719745