To clear things up right off, there is no ham on this pizza. All of my pizzas are vegetarian. The smoked summer ham actually refers to my rauchbier, which has an undeniable meatiness bound to the smoky malt. Colleen and I are fans of Futurama, so as I was describing the beer to her, I joked that the beer was “fresh as a summer ham.”
While thinking of toppings with complimentary flavors, my failed attempt at a smoky seitan pizza stuck in my mind as something to avoid repeating. Then I remembered seeing a recipe on SeriousEats for stuffed poblano peppers in a cashew-chipotle sauce that I had been curious to try my hand at. It struck me that it would be very easy to adapt this recipe to a pizza, using the cashew-chipotle sauce to replace the traditional tomato sauce and simply turning the stuffed peppers into toppings.
I decided to do away with the rice since it’s just filler, and also forego the raisins and capers since those are not flavors I’m looking for. I also decided to leave out the cilantro this go around just to reduce the amount of work I faced. Based on my roommates’ tastes, I’ve also decided to use just two chipotle peppers (along with some adobo) in the sauce to keep it from being too spicy. I am also excited to try Oaxacan cheese on pizza in place of my usual mozzarella. I know Oaxacan cheese as the knock-out all-star cheese found in tortas I ate while living in Bushwick, and I was fortunately able to find it in one of the groceries here in Crown Heights.
I made my dough according to the recipe I recently demonstrated, but with slightly higher hydration (64% hydration, 2% salt/sugar/oil, 0.5% yeast) and let it rise for two days in the fridge. I stretched the dough into a flat disk as best as I could, leaving no cornicione since I wanted a crispy, more cracker-like crust. I baked the pies on a single layer of quarry tiles that measured around 540 degrees F on my fancy new infrared thermometer. This all resulted in a slightly chewier and less crisp crust than I was aiming for, but I considering the hydration of the dough and the fact that I didn’t use a rolling pin or dough docker (not unusual for cracker crusts) I think it ended up pretty good.
The pairing with the beer worked brilliantly. The chipotles and adobo sauce added a savory mix of smoke and heat, with the cashews contributing a slight nutty sweetness. The mix of flavors and textures of the crispy pizza crust, crunchy cashews, and chewy cheese makes this a great pizza on its own, but pairing with the meaty, smoked malt of the beer really enhanced the experience.
Appearance: Pours with a decent foamy head. Head retention isn’t bad, and there is minimal lacing. The beer is hazy and dull copper in color. Jason and I have been drinking these quickly, so they haven’t had much time in the fridge, but it’s possible that the haziness would dissipate with proper chilling.
Aroma: Strong cherrywood smoke, definitely reminiscent of smoked pork, backed up by a hint biscuity malt. There also seems to be a slight sweet berry ester.
Flavor: Similar to the aroma, leading with sweet, meaty smoke. The beer is relatively one-dimensional, but very pleasant. No hint of fermentation-derived flavors, just very clean malt. Little bitterness or hop character, but not unbalanced.
Mouthfeel: I’ve mentioned the sweet flavor and aroma, but it’s in no way cloying. Carbonation lifts the sweet smoke. The beer leaves the palate dry, but doesn’t feel thin. The beer may be a little overcarbed, as I noticed I enjoyed it a little more after some swirling.
Overall: I really like this beer. It’s a very easy drinker with a unique and satisfying flavor. Sitting in my office at school, I have occasionally felt a hankering for this one. There appear to be no fermentation faults, and while it’s pretty one-dimensional, I feel happy with this beer as it is.