Cookbook #4: Cheese Board: Collective Works

Adapted from Cookbook #4:  Cheese Board:  Collective Works (2003)

Recipe: Four-Cheese, Three-Onion, Four-Herb Pizza

Four cheeses?   I needed four cheeses to make one pizza?  When you're the Cheese Board, the answer is yes.

Four cheeses: four gospels, four noble truths, four horsemen of the apocalypse,  four chambers to mammalian heart, the fantastic four ... And so, to follow in this illustrious suit of four, I give you four reasons why this was a good recipe for me to make:

1.  I don't make pizza. My husband does.  For his thirtieth birthday in 2003, he and I were envisioning our ideal kitchen, so I gathered together an immoral amount with the kitchen-themed presents, including a pizza stone.  Since then, he has been delegated head pizza chef, so this is another one of those recipes I would never make but would foist upon him.  When I pull this cookbook off the shelf, I go straight to the scones pages (which are relatively easy to find as they are currently the buttermilk-splattered and baking-powder-dusted).

2.  And I make those scones because, O sweet Jesus, have you ever sat on the meridian on Shattuck in front of the Cheese Board with a cup of tea or coffee and one of their cornmeal and cherry scones?  O, these are the divine.  This morning, I took a much needed day off from work and I vowed not to check my email (a vow I broke).  But to begin the day, we stopped off at the Cheese Board for scones (said husband got a cheese scone, I got the aforementioned cornmeal and cherry scones).  Then we went to Point Reyes to watch the end of the storm pass over us.  It was pretty spectacular.  Almost as spectacular as the scones.  Okay, it was more spectacular than the scones, but not by much.

3.  And in a movement from the sublime to the ridiculous, I would like to point out that while I am currently not the pizza maker of our little household, I was once a pizza maker extraordinaire. In college, for at least two years, I worked at Elm's Pizza in a small town of Ohio.  I took orders, rolled dough, threw toppings on pizzas, stood in front of a 500-degree oven, and listened to a lot of country music.  I loved the Friday nights when the intoxicated revelers would stumble back to their dorm rooms and call down the hill to our little pizza joint to ask for a delivery. I came home smelling of oregano and onions. That yeasty smell of pizza dough still reminds me of being 20.

4.  Finally, for the un-initiated, the Cheese Board is everything you imagine Berkeley to be:  idealistic, collective, earnest, crowded, and sometimes a little grouchy.  And they do provide some fine cheeses and pizza.  Opened in 1967, the owners wanted to embrace all of the communal spirit of the late 60s and they eventually sold their cheese shop to their employees.  Today you can stand in line to speak to someone who really knows his cheese.  They offer tastes of everything in the shop and help you plan your cheese plate for the night.  In the mid-eighties, they opened a pizza shop that sells one kind of pizza a day, so you better like it.  And plenty of people do:  they line up around the block, or at least down the street, to have a slice or a whole pie.  Tonight, I am proud to announce that people may begin lining up down my street, for I can replicate their tasty goodness in my own home.  Unfortunately, we got a bummer email before we tore into this yummy dish.  But the garlic oil on the edges and the fresh herbs on top redirected us to what was most important in the moment:  crispy crust, tangy onions, and four cheeses.  All the rest will work itself out.

3 ten-inch pizzas (I halved the recipe because three pizzas seemed a bit much for two people,  but the recipe that follows is for the three pizzas)

1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 recipe Pizza Dough (recipe follows)
Fine cornmeal or flour for dusting
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Italian Fontina or Italian Fontal cheese
1/4 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
2 green onions, coarsely chopped (including green parts)
2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano


1.  Arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  If using a baking stone, preheat the baking stone on the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes.

2.  In a small bowl, combine the garlic and olive oil.  Set aside.

3.  To shape the pizzas, transfer the dough to a lightly flowered surface and divide it into 3 pieces.  Gently form each piece into a loose round and cover with a floured kitchen towel.  Let rest for 20 minutes.  Scatter cornmeal over 3 inverted baking sheets.  Shape each round into a 10-inch disk. [or in my case, the shape of a left-leaning Louisiana, but only  if you have a creative eye]

4.  Toss the Mozzarella and Fontina together in a medium bowl.  Divide the cheese mixture into 2 piles, one about two-thirds the total amount and the other one-third.

5.  Line up the 3 pizzas for assembly.  Distribute the larger amount of the cheese mixture over the pizzas, leaving a 1/2-inch rim.  Scatter the onions on top of the cheese.  Dot the top of the pizzas with small clumps of the Gorgonzola.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

6.  In a small bowl, mix the Parmigianino and herbs together.  Set aside.

7.  Place a baking sheet with a pizza on the lower oven rack and bake for 8 minutes.  Rotate the pizza to the upper rack, place the second pizza in the oven on the lower rack, and continue baking for 8 minutes.  Then, finish baking the first pizza by sliding it off the pan directly onto the baking stone.  Rotate the second pizza to the upper rack and put the third pizza in the oven on the lower rack.  Bake the pizza on the stone for 4 minutes to crisp the bottom until well browned.  Finish baking the second and third pizzas in the same manner.  [Or do what we did.  Cook the first pizza on the baking stone.  Eat.  Then ponder making the second pizza but think, "ah, we're full already."]

To make the pizza dough (apparently at the Cheese Board they use a sour dough pizza dough, which is also included in the book, but I don't have a starter, so here's their recipe for the regular yeast-driven dough, which is pretty darn fantastic):

3 ten-inch pizza crusts

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 1/2 to 4 cups bread flour

1.  In a large bowl, whisk the yeast into the warm water until dissolved.  Let stand for 5 minutes.

2.  Add the olive oil, salt, and 2 cups of the flour to the bowl.  Using a wooden spoon, mix for at least 5 minutes to form a wet dough.  Pour 1 1/2 cups of the flour onto a work surface, place the dough on top of it, and kneed for about 8 minutes to form a soft dough with a nice sheen; it should be a little sticky, but not too wet.  If the dough sticks to the work surface, rub a little olive oil on it.  If the dough is impossibly sticky add the remaining 1/2 cup flour by the tablespoon as needed.

3.  Form the dough into a ball and place it in a large oiled bowl.  Turn the dough over to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.  Or, put the dough in the refrigerator and let it rise overnight; the next day, let it stand at room temperature for 2 hours before proceeding with the recipe.


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