With . . . John’s Mushroom Pizza
by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas
Our friend John Thompson lives two doors down from us. An architect by profession, an ardent
gastronome by avocation, he frequently joins us for Wine With tests. A
couple of years ago, John’s zeal for baking bread led him down the path to
pizza, which he now makes for dinner at home every Friday night. When he recently suggested that we
bring a variety of different wines over to pair with one of his pizzas, we
jumped at the opportunity.
With its firm crust and flavorful topping, John’s mushroom pizza was, in
every respect, ideally suited to be a companion to wine. Here is his recipe:
(makes four 8” pizzas)
Special equipment: parchment paper, a baking stone, and a wood peel.*
The dough recipe is adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice.
For best results, mix the dough three days before baking the pizzas,
since the flavor is subtly enhanced by a long, cool fermentation.
Although John used royal trumpet mushrooms, virtually any sort of
mushroom can be substituted.
for the dough:
1 teaspoon rapid rise yeast
¼ cup warm water
pinch of sugar
4 cups bread
½ cup whole-wheat flour
1 ¾ teaspoon salt
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ cups cold water
for the toppings:
6 ounces mushrooms, thickly sliced (preferably royal trumpet), or 2
ounces dehydrated forest blend mushrooms, rehydrated (or a combination)
One 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 large cloves garlic,
sliced very thin
¾ cup ricotta cheese
12 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn roughly into chunks
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
One large handful fresh basil, roughly torn or chopped
To make the dough: Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup warm water; add sugar and
let rest for 4 or 5 minutes (the yeast should start to foam or bubble). In a 4-quart bowl, combine the two
flours and salt, and stir in the yeast mixture. Add the salt, stir in the olive oil, then mix in the cold
water, either by hand with a large wooden spoon or in an electric mixer, with the
paddle attachment set on low speed.
Continue mixing until dry ingredients are incorporated into a smooth
mass. Gather the mass into a ball,
then transfer the ball to a lightly dusted countertop or other smooth, hard
surface. Knead the dough by hand
for 5 -7 minutes. If you prefer to
do this step in the electric mixer, use a dough hook and mix for 5 to 7 minutes
on medium speed. When it is
finished mixing, the dough should be fairly sticky. Transfer it to a countertop
lightly dusted with flour.
Cut four squares of parchment paper approximately 6” x 6”each. Spray each square with vegetable
oil. Divide the dough into four
equal balls and place each one on one of the oiled parchment squares. Wrap them
as carefully as possible so that they are not exposed to air and store in
refrigerator for at least 24 hours, and ideally 3 days.
An hour before baking the pizzas, place the pizza stone in a cold
oven. Preheat the oven to 550°. Remove the dough balls from the refrigerator,
unwrap each one, and set them on a lightly floured countertop or other hard
Sautee the mushrooms in olive oil, over medium-high heat, until they are
To shape the dough, use a rolling pin or stretch out each ball of dough
by hand, to a circle about 8” round.
If you are using a peel, flour it and dust with semolina or corn meal to
prevent sticking. Place the first
round on the peel and spread it with a quarter of the tomatoes. Top with a quarter each of the
mushrooms, the garlic, ricotta, and mozzarella cheeses. Shake the peel to make sure the dough
isn’t sticking, then slide the pizza onto the hot pizza stone. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the
crust is lightly charred in places and the cheese begins to brown. Remove pizza
to a rack to cool for 3 or 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, repeat the process with the rest of the balls of dough.
Sprinkle each finished pizza with a quarter of the Parmesan cheese and scatter
each with basil.
* If you don’t have a wood peel, cover a cookie sheet with a piece of
parchment and spray with cooking oil.
When the pizza crust has been formed, transfer it to the parchment (the
cookie sheet is what allows you to transfer the pie to the hot pizza stone). When the pizza goes into the
oven, slide the cookie sheet out from under it, transferring both pizza and
parchment to the stone (the parchment won’t burn during baking).
We tried thirteen different red wines with John’s pizza. Except for one corked bottle, all
worked satisfactorily. The clear
winners, though, were those that were medium-weight, so neither too heavy and
alcoholic, nor too lithe and delicate.
Different grape varieties provided different flavor profiles, as did
different origins, but the common denominator in all the wines we are
recommending turns out to be weight.
They are substantial but in no sense domineering, content to complement
the food rather than control the dining experience.
Mendocino and Lake Counties (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
tried a couple of Cabernet-based wines with our pizza. While one seemed too heavy and
ponderous, this medium-weight wine made for a fine match. It exhibits genuine varietal
character, without excessive heat or headiness.
di Bossi, Chianti Classico (Italy) 2007
not surprisingly, this wine was a fine pizza partner. Sangiovese, the dominant grape in
Chianti, tends to have relatively high levels of acidity, enabling wines made
with it to pair well with tomatoes and tomato sauces. In addition, the dusty finish so
typical of good Chianti enhanced this wine’s interaction with the mushrooms
on John’s pizza.
Dashe, Dry Creek Valley (California) Zinfandel 2009
often like Zinfandel with pizza, so long as the wine is not too brawny or
muscular. This wine satisfied
because its spicy, briary personality is not obscured by excessive heat and
Goat-Roti, Coastal Region (South Africa) Syrah/ Viognier 2008
(Imported by Vineyard Brands)
peppery, with a slightly meaty note in its finish, this wine definitely echoes
its namesake from France’s northern Rhône Valley. Those intriguing secondary notes were what made it so
tasty with our pizza.
Sebastiani, Sonoma Valley (California) Barbera 2008
Weightier than most Piedmontese
Barberas, this wine nonetheless offers the attractive combination of a supple
texture and bright, forward (berry and plum) fruit flavors that can make
wines fashioned with the grape variety so much fun. It is very easy to enjoy, much like John’s pizza itself.