Batter Pizza with Squash Blossoms

Without any sauce or cheese, this is closer to what gets called a focaccia  around here. However, this soft yeasted batter bread seems to be mostly called a pizza in Italy, especially when paired with squash blossoms. Focaccia, I think, is generally thicker. Whatever you want to call it, I was pleased with the results. I used neither anchovies nor cheese, and thought it a bit plain – definitely a thing to eat with other things – but as a fast, simple pizza base I think it has real possibilities and I will by trying it again that way.

Really, I should have been doing this a month ago, when the squash were first producing wildly excessive quantities of male blossoms. Fortunately, despite the changes in the weather since then, the plants still seem stressed enough to be producing a preponderance of male blossoms. I was able to select all my flowers just from the Tatume squash, which is known for production of male blossoms at the best of times. Hot weather and (until recently) drought has meant that a lot of the blossoms produced this year have been the easier-on-the-plant male ones. And it’s very frustrating watching them open, and bloom, and close, and fall… and there’s nothing to show for it. Well, there wasn’t. Now there is.

You need freshly opened, un-wilted blossoms, and that means picking them fairly early in the morning; this is better made for lunch rather than dinner. Maybe even breakfast. I suspect it means growing the squash yourself, too. It’s probably not worth trying to buy squash blossoms. They wilt so quickly and they don’t provide much more than a mild crunch. But when you are up to your eyebrows in them, this is a nice thing to do with them.

6 to 8 slices
1 hour 40 minutes – 20 minutes prep time

1 3/4 cups whole spelt flour
1 teaspoon rapid dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 cups barely warm water
24 male squash or zucchini blossoms
2 to 3 anchovies, finely chopped, OPTIONAL
up to 125 grams (4 ounces) buffalo mozzarella
a little more olive oil

Measure the flour into a mixing bowl and stir in the yeast and salt. Add the oil, and some of the water, and start whisking to form a batter, adding more water as the flour is moistened. Once you have a smooth pancake batter-like consistency, cover it and set it aside for an hour at a warm room temperature.

Shortly before it is time to start cooking, preheat the oven to 400°F. Pull the petals from the stems of the blossoms – they should come off in one smooth pull. Discard all the parts but the petals, which should be quickly rinsed in cold water and drained very well. Chop them coarsely. If you are using anchovies or cheese – I do not recommend that you use both – prepare the one you are using; anchovies finely chopped or mozzarella cut in small chips.

Mix about 2/3 of the prepared squash blossoms into the batter and spread it out on an oiled pan  or sheet of parchment over a perforated pizza pan. If using anchovies or cheese, now is the time to sprinkle them evenly over the surface of the pizza. Sprinkle the remaining chopped blossoms over the pizza and press them gently level with the surface.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes in total, until set and lightly browned. After 15 minutes of cooking, pull it out to check and brush it lightly all over with a bit more olive oil, especially if not using the anchovies or cheese, before returning it to the oven for the last few minutes of cooking. Let rest for just a few minutes before cutting and serving.

Last year at this time I made Broccoli Tabbouleh.

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