Shepherd’ Way Farms’ cheeses are so sublime it almost feels wrong to cook with them. Almost. I dreamed up this pizza as a vehicle for their friesago as well as their delicious merguez lamb sausage. It shows off their nuanced flavors without masking them. And it’s the best pizza we’ve ever had.
Shepherd’s Way Farms’ friesago is, like all of their cheeses, an expression of the land. It’s a semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese that is aged for at least four months in its black wax skin. It’s flavor profile is not unlike manchego, though it’s much creamier, and it’s nutty, rich, and mellow. Their merguez lamb sausage is made with lamb, pork fat, harissa, fennel, cayenne, garlic, and salt and pepper in a natural sheep casing, and has a warm kick without the fire of a traditional merguez.
My family ate these pizzas tonight and dinner was silent but for a steady stream of grunted expressions of awe. “The cheese is so good.” “The sausage is amazing.” “Mom, can you make this again soon?” my Sweet Boy just asked. And little Annie, our ginger terrier, was so excited, presumably about the lamb sausage, that she jumped up and licked my face. It is good.
Read more about Shepherd’s Way Farms here.
Thin Crust Pizza with Shepherd’s Way Farms’ Friesago, Shepherd’s Way Farms’ Merguez Lamb Sausage, & Fresh Chanterelles and Thyme
Yield: 2 pizzas to serve two to four people
This recipe calls for dough to make a very thin crust which is baked on a pizza stone. If you don’t want to fuss with that, or you don’t have a pizza stone, you may use any dough you like. I’ve even picked up a dough ball from my favorite pizza shop and rolled it out. Bake conventional crust on a pizza pan or baking sheet dusted with a little cornmeal in a 425 degree oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is cooked through and the cheese is bubbling.
If you are going to make the very thin crust, start with a clean oven. It doesn’t have to be sparkling clean, but you should wipe out anything that might smoke or burn. This pizza bakes at 500 degrees.
Start this recipe three hours before you’d like to eat. The dough takes a few minutes to put together and then rises for two hours. Place a pizza stone in your oven and heat it to 500 degrees one hour before you plan to bake the pizzas. You may also sauté the mushrooms and sausage ahead of time. Then it takes only minutes to assemble the pizzas, and they bake quite quickly.
½ pound Shepherd’s Way Farms friesago, finely grated
4 links Shepherd’s Way Farms merguez lamb sausage, broken into bite-sized pieces and cooked
½ pound fresh chanterelle mushrooms, wiped clean, sliced, and sautéed in olive oil
a few sprigs fresh thyme picked of their leaves
2 balls very thin pizza dough (recipe below) or other pizza dough
flour for rolling
cornmeal for sprinkling on your pizza peel
a little good olive oil for drizzling on the crust
salt and pepper
- Prepare your dough rounds.
- One hour prior to cooking, place a pizza stone in your oven and heat it to 500 degrees.
- Heat a sauté pan over medium heat, drizzle in a little good olive oil, and sauté the mushrooms until they are browning in spots and dry.
- Remove the mushrooms and add the sausage to the pan. Lower the heat and cook it until it is no longer pink.
- Drizzle the dough with a little good olive oil and sprinkle it with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Scatter the mushrooms, the thyme, and the sausage over the dough. Top with the grated cheese.
- Transfer the pizza directly to the baking stone by giving it a little shimmy and bake until it is browned, about six to seven minutes.
Pizza Dough Tips
The water must be 105 degrees. If it is too warm you will kill the yeast. If it is too cool, the yeast will not activate. Dip your finger into the water. It should feel just above body temperature and barely warm.
If you don’t have a an electric mixer with a dough hook, just mix the dough until it comes together and then knead it by hand for about ten minutes.
If you do have a mixer with a dough hook use speed two for this recipe.
This is a very wet dough. You haven’t measured incorrectly. Your hands will get sticky with dough when you divide the dough balls. Just get as much dough as possible off your hands before you wash them.
Find a toasty warm spot in your house for the dough to rise. I balance baking sheets on bins of mittens and scarves on the top shelf of my coat closet, which is next to a heating vent.
To freeze leftover dough, oil a sheet of cellophane with a dab of olive oil and place the dough in the center. Wrap it tightly. Then wrap your little parcel tightly in aluminum foil, label and date it, and place it in a freezer bag.
Thin Crust Pizza Dough
Adapted from The Figs Table
Yield: enough dough for four pizzas to serve four to eight persons
¼ c. whole wheat pastry flour
3 ½ c. all purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur.)
1 packet active dry yeast
1 t. sea salt
2 t. sugar
2 t. good olive oil
1 2/3 c. lukewarm water
- Place the flours, yeast, salt, and sugar in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.
- While the mixer is running, gradually add the olive oil and the water.
- Allow the mixer to knead the dough until it is firm and smooth, about ten minutes.
- Divide the dough into four balls, about 7 ½ ounces each.
- Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place two balls on each sheet and cover them with a damp towel. Let them rise in a warm place until they have doubled in size, about two hours. (You may freeze the remaining dough balls before this step if you are only going to make two pizzas.)
- To roll out the dough, dab your fingers in flour and then place 1 dough ball on a generously floured work surface and press down in the center with the tips of your fingers, spreading the dough with your hand.
- When the dough has doubled in width, use a floured rolling pin and roll it out until it is very thin, like flatbread. The outer border should be a little thicker than the inner circle.
- Pick the dough up with a spatula or the back of a knife, allowing it to fold up almost like an umbrella, and transfer it to a paddle. Do not worry that the pizza is not round. You are looking for an 8- to 10-inch shape, a cross between an oval and a rectangle.
- If you get a hole, simply pinch the edges back together
- Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
- Place the pizza dough on a cornmeal dusted pizza peel and proceed with the pizza recipe.