While I can’t remember the first time I ate a pizza with dollops of any cheese, I do remember the first one that wowed me. It was Tony Gemignani’s New Yorker at Pizza Rock in Sacramento I traveled to my first year at Pizza Today. The dollops of ricotta made that pie go from interesting to amazing for me.
Ricotta is classic dollop. Pre- or post-bake, the soft, creamy and somewhat sweet ricotta is versatile and punctuates the flavor of salty meat pizza or an earthy mushroom pie.
Since that ricotta dollop moment, I’ve encountered a variety of cheeses dolloped on countless specialty pies. The one commonality is that there are no rules. Pre- or post-bake is partial to the pizzeria and pizza maker. Dollops can be as small as a dime or as large as a half-dollar. They can go with rustic application by hand or by spoon. If you want uniformity, try piping the dollop. It leaves less mess on the makeline. You can even use different shaped tips for the various dollops you use. Some cheeses will require thinning with cream to create optimal consistency for piping.
Let’s look at other cheeses that can put the exclamation mark on your specialty pizzas.
- Goat Cheese. Chévre has a distinctively tart flavor. Typically, its texture is soft and creamy and can be applied pre- and post-bake. Delicious combinations include prosciutto and arugula or caramelized onion and mushroom.
- Mascarpone. Technically considered a curdled cream, the soft, delicate mascarpone is buttery rich. It has a light and sweet flavor and its smooth texture makes mascarpone a perfect post-bake dollop. Try a mascarpone finish on a pizza with roasted tomatoes, olives and pancetta or a dessert pie with figs and honey.
- Cream Cheese. While a bit unorthodox for traditionalists, the tangy, soft and sweet cheese is gaining popularity and shares similarities with mascarpone. Cream cheese atop a jalapeño and bacon or pepperoni pizza is a winner. Artichokes and spinach also complement cream cheese well.
Whip It Good
Whipping cheese can allow you to dollop a cheese that doesn’t have the exact consistency for the application. There are several ways to whip various cheeses into shape.
- Feta. This is a technique similar to a Greek Tyrosalata recipe where Greek yogurt, garlic, olive oil and herbs are pulsed in a food processor to a smooth consistency. Try a chicken and pesto pizza finished with a whipped feta.
- Bleu Cheese. Whipping up bleu cheese is as easy as blending in cream cheese or heavy whipping cream. Blow customers’ minds with this addition to a buffalo chicken pizza.
- Parmesan. Change the profile of Parmesan by blending it with heavy whipping cream. Thicken it up with another cheese like fontina. Finish a four-cheese pizza with a whipped Parmesan for extra zip.
- Other stronger cheeses. Experiment with your favorite cheeses to create a whipped cheese that is uniquely yours.
Flavors can be infused during whipping to give the cheese a one-of-a-kind flavor. Some enhancements include adding honey and lemon; garlic, Parmesan and parsley; lemon and herbs (thyme, rosemary, fennel or dill); or pumpkin and maple syrup.
Test other dollop variations that are still in the dairy family, like crème fraiche, Fromage blanc, crema, sour cream or yogurt. Since the liquid content is so high in these options, they perform better as post-bake pizza toppings.
“Yogurt cheese” is made from Greek yogurt and salt strained through a cheese cloth, that is refrigerated to allow to drain. Yogurt cheese can be a great addition to a Mediterranean pizza or Greek-style pizza.
Dollops don’t always come in the form of dairy products. Red sauce, guacamole, pesto, fruit jam, apple butter, aioli, garlic, lardo and hazelnut spread can all be dolloped on a fresh pizza.
If you have a plant-based following, there are even vegan dollop options, including whipped coconut milk, cashew cream or aquafaba.
Just in time for autumn, add your flair to this fall pizza:
Denise Greer is Executive Editor at Pizza Today.