I realize that a traditional pie is the first dish that pops to mind when you’re gazing on a shiny pile of fall apples at the market. Who can resist fat slices of freshly-picked fruit, dusted with cinnamon and tucked into a buttery crust?
But I get bored with the same old dishes and was intrigued by a reference to apple pizza I encountered while casting about for a new recipe. It was made with puff pastry, though, which really doesn’t qualify as pizza in my book. So I began experimenting with fresh pizza dough.
What emerged was this definitely non-traditional dessert pizza, redolent of cinnamon and caramel. The thinly sliced apples retain some of their crisp character, Red Flame grapes give a satisfying pop when you bite into them, and toasted walnuts add a layer of crunch.
You might call it an open-faced tart, but the base is a yeasted dough rather than the usual butter-rich pastry. The contrast between savory and sweet is part of its charm.
The dough is coated with cinnamon and sugar before being rolled out and then partially baked before being topped with apples and grapes. This step is essential to avoid the soggy crust syndrome all too common in conventional fruit pies and tarts.
Luscious dulce de leche or jarred caramel sauce and nuts are added after the pizza comes out of the oven.
Cut it into wedges and eat it out of hand like a cookie. Or, if you’re feeling really decadent, top it with a scoop of rich vanilla bean ice cream.
Note: Dulce de leche–the rich, milk-based caramel of Latin America–is available in many markets now but I make my own in a small slow cooker. The technique is amazingly simple.
Place an unopened can of sweetened, condensed milk–I use Eagle Brand–in the crock and add water, leaving the top inch of the can exposed. Put the lid on the cooker, set the temperature to low, and let it simmer slowly for about eight hours.
Because the environment is closed and the temperature is constant, this method is safer than other techniques making dulce de leche in an unopened can. A word of warning, though: Let the can cool on the counter before opening. Otherwise, a geyser of hot caramel will start flooding out before you get the lid off.
If you don’t have a slow cooker, the WikiHow site offers a survey of different approaches to making your own dulce de leche.
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
8 ounces pizza dough, homemade or commercial
1 large tart green apple, unpeeled
½ cup Red Flame grapes
Dulce de leche or caramel sauce (see Note above)
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a baking stone placed on the bottom rack.
Mix sugar and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Form pizza dough into a smooth ball and roll in the sugar mixture to coat, reserving the surplus sugar for later use. Place dough ball on a lightly floured surface, flatten gently and let rest for 5-10 minutes to relax before rolling out into a thin 10-inch circle. Don’t worry if some of the sugar is left on the board.
Transfer pizza round to a large piece of parchment paper placed on a pizza peel or the back of a cookie sheet. Slip dough and paper onto the pre-heated stone and bake for 4 minutes until crust is set and just starting to brown. Remove crust from oven and flip over, removing the parchment paper. The bottom is now the top.
Arrange apple slices on the partially-baked crust in concentric circles and scatter grape halves over all. Beat egg in small bowl with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the fruit lightly with this mixture. Sprinkle fruit with the reserved sugar. Return crust to oven and bake for about 10 minutes, until browned and crisp.
While pizza is baking, warm dulce de leche or caramel sauce briefly in microwave or a small saucepan on top of the stove until it streams smoothly from the tines of a fork.
Remove pizza from oven and drizzle with as much warmed sauce as desired and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature. This pizza is best within a couple hours of baking.