In the early fall when tomatoes are piling up on the counter and the temperature dips lower a few times a day, I naturally turn to making pizza. If I put together the sourdough crust first thing in the morning I can have three pizzas ready by 6:30 or 7:00 PM in the evening. I keep a jar of sourdough starter in my refrigerator in a big glass former pickle jar. I use to to make biscuits and waffles and occasional batches of wolverine rolls, but my favorite thing to do with it is make pizza dough. If you use your sourdough starter at least once a week it stays in good shape to help your dough rise.

Original  unfinished watercolor painting of pizza with fresh figs.

Fig Pizza. 12″ x 12″ gouache on paper (unfinished painting). Sharyn Dimmick.

Because I bought a lot of figs on Saturday I pretty much knew I was going to make a fig pizza, or a pizza featuring figs and other seasonal ingredients. I had some corn, some fresh arugula, lots of red Jimmy Nardello peppers from last week’s farm box. This seemed like a good combination to me: a little sweetness from the corn, a little bitter and peppery green taste from the arugula, a little savoriness from the pepper, more sweetness from figs that would roast in the oven as the pizza cooked, the contrasting flavor and texture of mozzarella and Pecorino cheese.

Because my go-to pizza recipe makes three pizzas, I asked my family what they would like on their pizza. Bryan voted for a pesto pizza with fresh spinach. Mom likes more traditional pizzas: for her I used a spoonful or two of Prego, topped with a little mozzarella, a little Pecorino, some feta. She liked it but said that it tasted blah after the rich taste of the pesto pizza.

The fig pizza? I loved it. I loved having all those flavors going on in one slice of pizza. Was it an entree? Was it a dessert? Was it breakfast? It can be all of that. I have eaten it for dinner, for lunch, for a late-night after-rehearsal gotta-have-it meal. I ate the last of it for breakfast this morning. If there had been more I would have eaten another piece or two.

If you want to make this seasonal pizza, you will need sourdough starter. You can stir up sourdough starter in a few days, so if you do it today you might be able to make pizza by the weekend. The recipe that I got from the Cheese Board Collective Works calls for  3 and 1/4 cups bread flour, 1/2 cup of starter, 1 and 1/2 cups water and 1 and 1/2 tsp salt. I prefer to use 1 cup of whole wheat flour in the flour mixture (I sometimes feed my starter some whole wheat flour as well) and a scant tsp of kosher salt. Because I don’t usually have bread flour on hand I have to add extra unbleached flour, sometimes several times, but eventually the dough comes together.

You can also make this with any other pizza crust that you like. For more details about working with sourdough pizza dough, see my previous post, “How to make thin-crust sourdough pizza.” Once you have your pizza dough risen, place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Then you need to divide the dough into three pieces, cover it and let it rest for twenty minutes. I form mine into a baguette-shaped log and cut it into even thirds, then shape each third into a small round.

While the rounds rest covered on the cutting board I grate or chop cheese. Frozen mozzarella slices more easily that it grates and the cheese gets crumbly from its time in the freezer. I grate hard cheeses, including Parmesan and Pecorino with a microplane. I mix the pound of mozzarella with a quarter to half-cup of grated cheese.

Taking one round at a time I make typing motions with my fingers, dimpling the dough. I rub my pizza pans with a little olive oil and transfer one round to each pan. Then I reach my wrists under the dough, pulling and stretching until I get a ten-inch circle.

Then it is time to assemble the pizza. I used green figs with pink centers, preparing them by cutting them into quarters and removing the stems. I started by putting a layer of the mixed cheese on top of the pizza crust. Then I cut the corn directly from the cob onto the cheese layer, sprinkled the arugula over it. I topped it with another layer of cheese, dotted with quartered figs.

I bake the pizza for about ten minutes on the top rack of the oven, then for ten minutes on the middle rack. Then I use a peel to transfer it to the hot pizza stone for its final ten minutes. I made the other kinds of pizza at the same time, rotating them through the oven racks as needed.

If you pizza as much as I do, make a recipe of sourdough pizza dough and have yourself a pizza party. If you can’t abide figs in pizza, top it with something else. I can’t get enough fresh figs in their short season.

Painting Note: The light faded from the sky before I had time to finish this painting. I decided I could show you a work in progress rather than a finished painting. When I finish it I’ll update the post. — Sharyn

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