Queen Elizabeth I was a down right sweets junkie. Her teeth became a gnarly shade of black, but because she was the queen, she started a trend. It was then that stained and blackened teeth were a status symbol of the time when sugar was first introduced and very expensive. I’ll bet if she had a good pizzeria nearby, they’d have come up with a great dessert pizza.
Nowadays, sweets are everywhere –– even in pizzerias. Most pizza places do their diligence by opening a can of pie filling, pouring it on a pie, cooking it and sprinkling sweetened graham cracker crumbs on it. As boring as this may sound, it’s pretty darn good.
My objective as a business owner is to turn a profit with ingenuity, finesse and cunning by providing my customers with an outstanding product. This fact, coupled with the fact that our pizza dough platform can be topped with anything, makes for exciting times. Dessert pizzas can be fun, enlightening and a real turn-on for customers looking for “something extra.”
First, let’s consider your crust. Pizza dough typically is a little salty to bring out the flavor of the wheat, but not so much that you can’t jazz it up with powdered sugar, or brushed with maple syrup, jams, spreadable chocolate, popular spreads like Nutella or honey. Just remember that using any convection or blowing ovens will turn sugary dough very dark within minutes.
There are lots of toppings you can use, most of which require little prep or storage. Consider:
- Fruit, either from the can, frozen, dried or fresh berries. Fruit is a good seller on your pizza crust. If you introduce a fresh fruit pizza to your menu, avoid a pile of rotting fruit every week by marketing this pizza heavily and force your staff to upsell it with every order. I’ve found that giving a piece of dessert pizza at the counter on busy nights propels sales the best. Dried fruit can be re-hydrated perfectly for a real blast of flavor.
- Cream sauces. A pizza with a sweet cream is heaven. Just like a béchamel, you can vary the flavor profile of cream easily by adding ricotta and fig jam or powdered cinnamon, vanilla or chocolate flavoring. I use a lot of crème fraiche, (or Creeeem Freeeeesh for all you South Park fans), with ricotta topped with fresh or frozen fruit for a loose tart-like consistency. Cream can also be drizzled atop a dessert pie when it pops out of the oven. Ever try mascarpone cheese? It’s a great dessert cheese also.
- Chocolate melts great on pizza but can be costly. I’ve found that chunks of chocolate go a long way in a creamy sauce mixed with -walnuts. Nutella is a good go-to chocolate spread but it is also expensive if you haven’t trained your staff to properly scoop and spread it.
- Caramel, maple syrup, simple syrups and molasses. These are good for drizzling after the oven or brushed on the crust or under a sweet cheese like mascarpone, but prone to a dark caramelization. If you live in the Midwest, molasses and sorghum syrup is surprisingly good and has a good food cost as a dessert pizza sauce.
CHOCOLATE PIZZA CRUST
This is simpler, (and less wacky) than it sounds! To make a chocolate dough using your existing pizza dough recipe, just add half of the salt you use and 6 to 8 cups of cocoa powder with 4 cups of extra sugar to a 25-pound bag of flour. You will have to add two cups more water to the mix to keep your hydration level up.
Mix as usual and taste the dough before balling. If it needs more hydration, cocoa or sugar, add it.
This is a wild presentation and the chocolate-crust appearance is akin to dessert “shock and awe” especially if you add a cream sauce to it with bananas and nuts. Try this with calzones also.
CHOCOLATE PIZZA WITH ALMOND PUDDING AND BANANA
Using the above recipe for the dough, make a 19-ounce round. For the sauce:
4 cups whole milk ricotta
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup almond paste, broken up into small globs
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 to 3 bananas
Add the cheese and almond paste together and blend with an immersion blender or by hand. After blended add the walnut pieces.
Form the pizza round and apply the almond pudding to a thickness of one centimeter. Don’t pile it on too thick or it will get very sloppy. Cut the bananas either lengthwise or in coins and top the pudding with it.
Cook in your pizza oven the same length of time as a pizza. Cut and top with powdered sugar or chocolate sauce.
This is my customers’ fave on weekends. It makes use of those proofing pizza skins you usually throw out at the end of each night and uses almond paste like the recipe above.
Just run three to four large plain pizza skins through your oven to a golden brown, chop them up into crouton-sized chunks and throw into a bowl. Add chunks of almond paste and enough milk and ricotta cheese to make the breading mushy and sweet. You may add honey or Amaretto also to adjust sweetness. Refrigerate overnight to amalgamate flavors.
The next day add fresh blueberries, blackberries or dark chocolate chunks to this mix. Spread on a pizza dough and cook in your pizza oven. When cooked, sprinkle with powdered sugar or sweetened cocoa and slice!
John Gutekanst owns Avalanche Pizza in Athens, Ohio. He is speaker at International Pizza Expo and a member of the World Pizza Champions.