Maitake mushrooms are one of the many but nuanced signals that summer is ending and fall beginning. They are called “Hen of the woods”, (not to be confused with “Chicken of the woods) because of the featherlike attributes of the numerous caps. The Japanese translation for maitake is “Dancing Mushroom” and it grows in clumps right near big oak trunks meet the earth. I got mine through a trade with a great vendor at the Athens Farmers Market.
This is a nice clump. When Maitake are young you can cut well into the trunk but when they are older, the trunk gets tough. Today, I’ve decided to use some four-day old, cold fermented baguette dough that is a blend of all-purpose or lower protein flour and another flour that is up to 14 percent protein. This will be a good balance of texture and crunch when I bake it at a high temperature.
Our baguette dough is naturally leavened with almost 50 percent starter which gives it an modest sourdough flavor profile and a great deep, golden crust along with waxy, irregular aveoli, or cells.
The maitake mushroom contains L-glutamate which is natures flavor enhancer that produces umami or “The fifth taste” which is that back of the palate pleaser that both tomatoes and Parmigiano Reggiano exhibit so the toppings for this foray into savory land have to be great partners for this particular mushroom. I’ve chosen my all star cheese- Gruyere, along with sprouted Puy (or French) lentils, local Harmony Hollow bacon, Jerusalem artichokes that I’ve been growing in my garden and some fresh spinach for color and crunch after the oven. All of my toppings for this pizza are going to be cut thin and raw because I want them to just cook through with the high heat of 600 degrees.
Four days before hand, I filled a container with water and the puy lentils and swished them around then left them to soak for three hours. I then rinsed them in a colander and placed them back in the container. Each eight to ten hours, I returned the moist lentils and tossed them, rinsed them again and drained, leaving them in the moist environment to sprout. After just two days, they sprouted. Yum
Then I dug up the beautiful Jerusalem artichokes. These are also called “Sun chokes” and are an amazingly aggressive rhizome which shoots everywhere under the ground. (Some old time farmers warned me about growing these massive plants and now I see why…think bamboo.) After digging them up and washing, I sliced them very thin to just cook through on the pizza.
I cut the maitake’s small leaf-like mushroom feathers that were sure to cook through on the pizza and made a football shape that I topped with the Gruyere.
Then I topped with the sprouted lentils and the mushroom feathers followed by thin strips of the bacon and the sun choke. Now, because I am a knotting freak, I just had to pull and tie this dough in a knot at the end. This is in the form of a Turkish Pide, (Pee-DAY) that I am so fond of.
After the knots were done, I took both ends and stretched the dough out. This creates a larger platform
I baked this bad boy at 600 for 11 minutes until the cornicione puffed up like the Hindenburg and this baby was ready to enjoy. It was delicious.