Recipe: Brie, Beer & Basil Summer Pizza
This standout pizza is summer at its very best! Just grab some fresh basil, a craft beer, some regular flour, instant yeast, a can of tomatoes and whatever fresh veggies are ripe in your garden or local Farmers Market and you’ll be ready to create a delicious artisanal pizza.
Perfectly thin and crispy with blistered edges, this tasty pizza will instantly transport you to the Testaccio neighbourhood of Rome, Italy. Or to Uxbridge, Ontario which is where I arrived after being invited to experience the York-Durham Heritage Railway‘s new Boxcars & Beer Train. Also known as the Cheese Train, this short but tasty excursion is a journey every food-lover should take if they happen to be anywhere near Toronto.
The Cheese Train is a 90-minute culinary journey of Ontario hosted by fromager Cecilia Smith and brewery owner/certified beer judge Joanne Richter, who lead guests through five pairings of artisanal Ontario cheeses and craft beer from local brewery The Second Wedge Brewing Company.
There is another great reason to hop on the York-Durham Heritage Railway’s Cheese Train. It may be this summer’s only opportunity to sample the limited edition of the oh-so-delicious Providence cheese from Montforte Dairy, a Cheddar with big tang that had all of us swooning. This cheese is so popular it’s apparently sold-out everywhere else. Other delicious cheeses you may sample on the Boxcars & Beer train include an Oxford Harvest washed rind from Gunn’s Hill, Woodstock and an Albert’s Leap Brie from Vaughn.
There are still a few departures available on the Cheese Train in 2017 (July 30 and August 27, 2017 ) and at just $75 per person (plus HST), it offers incredible value for anyone who loves artisanal cheese and craft beer. You can book online at Boxcars & Beer.
In addition to the fabulous views of the Oak Ridges Moraine along the route, one of the highlights of the York-Durham Heritage Railway is that mid-excursion you deboard in historic Uxbridge. This means you have the opportunity to explore the Second Wedge Brewing Co., The Passionate Cook’s Essentials shop, the Uxbridge Farmers’ Market or other interesting locales within Uxbridge.
During our visit, we enjoyed a cooking class hosted by Lisa Hutchinson, the Chef/Owner of the Passionate Cook’s Essentials and Bistro in the heart of historic Uxbridge. She whipped up a Brie pizza in the open kitchen and generously shared her recipe for Lisa’s Dynamite Pizza as well as a few insider tips.
Her first tip was to use San Marzano canned tomatoes for making the sauce. I found my can of San Marzano tomatoes at Maselli’s, a family-run Italian food store on the Danforth. This variety of plum tomato, the tomato of choice for pizza makers, hails from the Sarno River valley near Mount Vesuvius and is sweeter, meatier and has less seeds than other varieties of tomatoes. They are absolutely worth the extra money.
Lisa’s second tip was to use a pizza stone for baking your pizza. I invested in a 14-inch Emile Henry pizza stone from France. While slightly more expensive than other brands, it offers the advantages of being lighter, dishwasher-safe and scratch resistant.
I was thrilled with how my thin-crust pizza turned out: perfectly crispy on the bottom yet light and airy on top. For the crust, I’d originally planned to use Monday Night Piper, a Scottish-style ale from the Second Wedge Brewing Co. but alas my bottle of that delicious craft beer disappeared within a few days of arriving home from Uxbridge — enjoyed on our back patio one sunny afternoon.
So, I substituted a Major Small session ale brewed by Muddy York Brewing Company. With 30 IBUs, this craft beer is brewed using earthy hops and biscuity malts which added a depth of flavour to the crust. I think it also added a bit of lift as the crust rose beautifully.
Here’s the recipe for Lisa’s Dynamite Pizza for you to try at home! It’s sure to be your summer go-to pizza recipe.
- 1 - 28 ounces (825 ml) tin of San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) salt
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) dried oregano
For the Dough
- 2 ½ cups (625 ml) white flour
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
- 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) sugar
- 1 cup (250 ml) very hot craft beer (not too hot or you will kill the yeast
- 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
- Nduja ( this is a spreadable pork salami but I substituted slices of dry, spicy salami)
- Fresh basil
For the traditional Marguerita pizza, use tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and finish with a sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano
- In a bowl add tomatoes and using a spoon or your hands, squish the tomatoes so they are almost crushed but still have meaty pieces intact.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and set aside for the flavours to develop while you are making the dough. Note: The sauce is enough for 4 pizzas
- Place a pizza stone 8 inches (20 cm) from the broiler and heat for 30 minutes at 500°F (260°C).
- Then turn to broil and heat for 10 minutes.
- Place yeast, sugar and beer in a bowl and mix together, let sit until it starts to foam about 5 mins.
- Mix flour and salt together, then stir in beer mixture and olive oil.
- Mix together until the dough forms a nice ball. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead a few times until you have a smooth ball that isn’t sticky
- After making the dough, divide the dough in half, coat with olive oil and and then let rise covered with a clean cloth for about an hour
- Place dough on floured surface and roll out to your desired thinness.
- Transfer to a pizza peel and add sauce and toppings.
- Using a quick, jerking motion, transfer the pizza onto the pizza stone.
- Broil 3 to 4 minutes until crust and toppings are golden and slightly charred.
The Passionate Cook Essentials and Bistro: This fascinating kitchen supply shop, cooking school and bistro is a must-visit for every food lover. One of the classes I’d love to sign up for is the Spanish Tapas and Paella Class, a veritable feast. Visit the Passionate Cook website for a list of classes, hours of operation, recipes and cooking tips. It is located at 68 Brock St W Uxbridge Ontario 905-862-3359
York-Durham Heritage Railway: The York-Durham Heritage Railway is a 1950s heritage excursion train operating along a 20-kilometre route between the towns of Stouffville and Uxbridge, home to the SEcond Wedge Brewing Co. and The Passionate Cooks Essentials. In addition to the Boxcars & Beer Cheese Train, autumn tours available include Sunday and Saturday Fall Colours tours (with long and short duration options) as well as a special Halloween train.
Urban Pantry Restaurant A trendy eatery, featuring organic and locally-sourced cuisine, in the heart of town. Be sure to try their wilted Uxbridge greens with Boursin on a crostini with cranberries and almonds.
The Second Wedge Brewing Co. This craft brewery, complete with landscaped beer garden, is located at 14 Victoria Street a short walk from the Uxbridge train station. 905-852-3232
Ontario Tourism: Discover more culinary adventures, maps, accommodation advice and more on the official Ontario Tourism marketing website.
Discover Uxbridge: You’re going to be tempted to move to Uxbridge, known as the Trail Capital of Canada, once you’ve sampled its culinary offerings.
Other posts you might enjoy featuring Ontario culinary experiences and beer include: