High Country Baking column: Strawberry-blueberry sweet pizza perfect for an Independence Day dessert

Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.

A pizza for dessert? Sounds crazy until you discover that the crust is a tasty cookie flavored with pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon and the sauce is a layer of sweet, smooth mascarpone cheese topped with fresh berries instead of pepperoni.

This one is red, white and blue — perfect for a Fourth of July celebration. But don’t limit it to Independence Day; it’s a great choice for any casual summer dinner. Slices can be eaten out-of-hand, no forks or plates necessary, and the pizza travels with ease in a cooler, so take it on a picnic, a boat ride or out in the yard to watch the sunset; its appealing taste, good looks, and relaxed style will add to the fun.

No tart or springform pan in your kitchen? No worries; form the dough into a 1/4-inch thick circle, about 10 inches in diameter, on a parchment-lined baking sheet and pop it in the oven. Start checking for doneness a little earlier than stated in the recipe; everything else remains the same. The results, though not quite as perfect in shape, will still be delicious.

Strawberry-blueberry sweet pizza

Serves 8-10

Make in a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom or a 10-inch springform pan

Crust

1 1/2 cups bleached flour (spoon and level)

1/2 cup pecans

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Generous 1/4 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold

Topping

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons strawberry preserves

3 tablespoon Creme de Cassis, orange liqueur or orange juice

8 ounces mascarpone cheese at room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract

14-16 medium-sized strawberries, cleaned, hulled and sliced

1/3 cup blueberries, washed and sorted

Make the crust: This can be done the day before serving. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. (If you’re using a springform pan, open it, flip the bottom over so its rim faces down and close it. This will make the pizza easier to cut after baking. Lightly grease your pan.

Put the flour, pecans, cornstarch, sugar, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined. Cut the butter into 24 pieces and add them to the bowl. Pulse until all dry ingredients are moistened, then process only until the dough forms large, moist curds and almost comes together.

Dump the dough into the prepared pan and gently pat it into a level circle 1/4-inch thick. Wet your hands if the dough sticks to them. If you like the look, flute the edges by pressing the edge of the dough circle at evenly-spaced intervals with your finger or the round handle of a wooden spoon.

Bake until the crust is dry and the edges are firm and begin to darken slightly, 20-25 minutes. It should still be slightly soft to the touch everywhere but along the edges.

The dough will puff while baking and, if you fluted the edges, you may need to repeat the process while the dough is set but still quite soft, after it’s been in the oven for about 15 minutes; either do it while it’s in the oven or remove the pan from the oven, re-do the flutes and return it to baking.

Cool the crust on a rack until completely cool. At this point you can wrap it airtight, still in the pan, and store at room temperature until the following day.

Make the topping: Place the strawberry preserves and Creme de Cassis in the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a small saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring, and keep at a low boil for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour into a bowl large enough to hold the berries and refrigerate until cool, stirring occasionally.

Combine the mascarpone cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl and, using an electric mixer or whisk, beat until light and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Give it a taste; add more vanilla if desired. Don’t overbeat or the mixture will separate.

Remove the bowl of strawberry puree from the processor and add the strawberry slices and blueberries. Toss to thoroughly coat the fruit. Use an offset metal spatula to spread the mascarpone mixture evenly to about 1/2-inch from the crust’s edge. Arrange the berries in a decorative pattern on top. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Remove the sides of the tart or springform pan (I leave the pizza on the pan bottom) and cut into slices with a chef’s knife just before serving.

This is a variation of a recipe from Cuisine at Home magazine.

Vera Dawson, author of the new high-altitude cookbook “Cookies in the Clouds,” (available at The Bookworm in Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco), is a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute. She lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at veradawson1@gmail.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Jun 23, 2014 03:14PM Published Jun 17, 2014 02:39PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.