Apr 28

Middle Eastern Inspired Aged Cheddar Pizza

in Bread, Main Course, Middle Eastern, Product Reviews, Recipes By Region, Recipes by Type, Side Dish

Middle Eastern Inspired Aged Cheddar Pizza

In 2004, during a trip to Europe, Mr. Fuji and I visited Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, England, a spectacular gorge with jagged cliffs and lush greenery.  It was here that I learned about the long history of cheddar cheese, the cheese that takes its name from the region.  Cheddar has been produced in the region as far back as the early 12th century.  Icons of England explains, “Cows grazing on the Somerset pasturage provided the raw material for the cheese, which was a way of using up excess milk, and the Cheddar Caves (caves located in Cheddar Gorge)—with their constant temperature and humidity—made a perfect place in which to store and mature it.”

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, England

Despite its long history in the region, the cheese was a luxury item until the mid 1800s when cheese production was simplified by a man named Joseph Harding who improved dairy hygiene and standardized the methods used for making cheddar.  Harding is also purported to have invented the cheese mill, a machine that mad it easier to drain the curds of as much of their moisture as possible.  In the intervening years cheddar has spread in popularity around the world, and according to the most recent statistics published by the International Dairy Foods Association, cheddar ranks as the leader in supermarket sales in the United States.

Cabot Creamery 3 Year Aged Cheddar

I was recently contacted by Cabot Creamery, a 1,200 farm family dairy cooperative with members in New England and upstate New York, about trying their 3-year Aged Cheddar.  This cheddar is being made exclusively for Costco and was just introduced in the LA market.  It’s a white cheddar that has been aged for 3 years, giving it a stronger sharp rich flavor and crumblier texture.  In short, it’s delicious.

Cabot Creamery 3 Year Cheddar

We’ve eaten it shredded on top of spaghetti with a meaty ragu, and on homemade pizza.  Then I had the thought that it might pair beautifully with the flavors in za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice mixture made of sumac, sesame seeds, and dried herbs), so I decided to make some Middle Eastern inspired pizzas.  I made a dough use part whole wheat and part bread flour, then formed the dough into 4 small pizzas.  I topped the pizzas with a mixture of za’atar, olive oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest, then some chopped tomatoes, and a nice dose of shredded Cabot 3 Year Cheddar.

Assembling the pizzas

The pizzas were fabulous.  The cheddar melted perfectly over the other toppings, and the sharp creaminess was a perfect compliment to the tangy earthy flavors from the za’atar and lemon, and the juicy tomatoes.  The chewy crust made the perfect vehicle to deliver everything into the hungry waiting mouths of my family!

Middle Eastern Inspired Cheddar Cheese Pizza

Middle Eastern Inspired Cheese Pizzas

4 to 6 servings

For the pizza dough:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast (SAF instant yeast is my favorite)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup warm water

For the topping:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons za’atar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 large roma tomato, finely chopped
1 cup shredded aged white cheddar cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Make the pizza dough: Whisk the flours, yeast, sugar, and salt together in a large mixing bowl.

3. Add the oil and water and mix for one minute using the paddle attachment on your mixer. Switch to the dough hook and continue mixing for 5 minutes.

4. Prepare the topping: While the dough is mixing, mix together the olive oil, za’atar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl.

5. Divide the dough into 4 pieces (or 6 if you want to make slightly smaller pizzas). Spray a smooth clean surface with cooking spray and use your hands to form each piece of dough into a oval shaped crust that is approximately 1/2-inch thick.

6. Spread the za’atar mixture over the top of each crust. Top with tomatoes and then sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top of all the toppings.

7. Put the pizzas on lightly greased baking sheet (or preheated pizza stone if you have one) and bake until the pizzas are puffed and golden brown (about 5 to 10 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the crusts). To check if the pizzas are ready, use a thin spatula to gently lift one of the pizzas up—if the bottom is a nice golden brown, the pizzas are done!

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather (Heather's Dish) April 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm

The sharper and more aged the cheddar the more I like it! This is such a cool pairing…I think I’m in love ;)


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 3, 2011 at 12:53 pm

@Heather (Heather’s Dish), Thanks Heather!! You have great taste! ;)


Averie (LoveVeggiesandYoga) April 28, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Rachael, the pizza looks spectacular! Makes me have a craving for pizza all of a sudden :)


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 3, 2011 at 12:54 pm

@Averie (LoveVeggiesandYoga), Yeah, unfortunately it makes me crave pizza all over again too! LOL


merry jennifer April 28, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I’m not normally a fan of cheddar – especially the yellow kind. Or maybe it’s just yellow cheeses that I don’t like. I never seem to mind white cheddar. Love the pizza idea. I happen to have a Cabot coupon handy, too — but sadly, I’m in north Florida, with no Costco near me.


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 3, 2011 at 12:54 pm

@merry jennifer, I’m so bummed that you don’t have a Costco nearby! Now I’m pouting for you . . .


Paula - bell'alimento April 28, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Aged cheddar is just wonderful and now I’m craving pizza!


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 3, 2011 at 12:55 pm
Katrina April 28, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Great recipe! I’ve never seen anything like this before :)


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 3, 2011 at 12:55 pm

@Katrina, Thanks Katrina! I love hearing stuff like that!


The Food Hound April 29, 2011 at 5:54 am

Cabot makes a great cheddar, and their Hunter’s Sharp is also lovely! I would never think to combine cheddar with Middle Eastern seasonings, but this pizza looks awesome! I could eat my body weight in sharp English cheddar :)


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 3, 2011 at 12:56 pm

@The Food Hound, Ooooh, I’ll have to try their Hunger’s Sharp, thanks for the tip!!


Lori @ RecipeGirl April 29, 2011 at 6:25 am

Love Cabot cheeses- wish they were easier to find out here in SOCal. Your pizza reeks of deliciousness!


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 3, 2011 at 12:56 pm

@Lori @ RecipeGirl, Muwah! Thank you! Get yourself to Costco girl!! :)


Darla @ Bakingdom April 29, 2011 at 6:32 am

Love the background info on cheddar…so interesting. Also love Cabot! After living in Vermont for almost 3 years, we became avid Cabot devotees. And hubs is the pizza master, so this recipe is getting pushed to the top of our pizza list! Thanks! :)


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 3, 2011 at 12:57 pm

@Darla @ Bakingdom, Darla, lucky you! I need to get a pizza master . . . :)


Fête Foreign April 29, 2011 at 6:39 am

I love za’atar!!


The Newlywed Chefs April 29, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Yum! This looks great- we’ll have to try it soon!


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 3, 2011 at 12:58 pm

@The Newlywed Chefs, Can’t wait to hear what you think if you do!


John April 30, 2011 at 10:39 am

Did you let the dough rise once, twice, or really not at all?


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 3, 2011 at 1:00 pm

@John, Hi John, There’s really no rise with this particular recipe! You’ll get a teeny tiny bit of rising time after you shape the crusts while you’re topping them, but the dough will puff up plenty in the oven! You can add a rise before shaping the crusts if you want, but I’ve played around with it and haven’t found it to make a big enough difference to get me to do it!


Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks May 1, 2011 at 8:37 pm

What’s your favorite brand of za’atar spice (provider)?


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 3, 2011 at 1:01 pm

@Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks, I don’t know if I have a favorite. I was using some from Penzey’s, but for the past year I’ve been using za’atar that my mom bought for me in Istanbul last year! Now I WISH I could order that! It’s amazing! Do you have a favorite?


Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks May 3, 2011 at 7:27 pm

@Fuji Mama (Rachael), I’ll try Savory Spice here in Denver and let you know. Hope all was great at Camp. Sorry I wasn’t able to attend this year.


HeatherChristo May 2, 2011 at 8:05 am

I LOVE (that doesn’t seem strong enough of a term!) cheddar. I have never tried Cabot- but I will give it a whirl. The pizza is beckoning me :)


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm

@HeatherChristo, Yes, you have GOT to try Cabot! I’m in love!


Kimberli's Kitchen May 2, 2011 at 10:19 am

Yum! With the chill in the May air here this sounds perfect!! Thanks for sharing!


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 3, 2011 at 1:03 pm

@Kimberli’s Kitchen, Let me know if you try it!


averagebetty May 2, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Za’atar and Cheddar… how dare you. I must try this. We ordered pizza last night as I had gotten far too used to being cooked for all weekend at Camp Blogaway… If only this could have been delivered to my door instead of the grease pit that was.

Every now and then you meet someone you feel like you’ve known forever. You are one of ’em. (insert stupid face and gurgling noises) I’m so glad to know you.


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 3, 2011 at 1:04 pm

@averagebetty, Hahahaha, I live to torture you!! :)

I hear ya, now that I think about it, within about 5 minutes of meeting you IRL it felt strange to think that I had only known you for 5 minutes!


Helene May 3, 2011 at 9:03 am

I love Cabot cheese a lot. When we stop at Costco in the States we always buy some. I am making your pizza soon. That looks too good :)


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 3, 2011 at 1:12 pm

@Helene, Aaaw, thanks so much Helene!


Valentina May 3, 2011 at 11:04 pm

love Cabot and this looks amazing! again, it was great meeting you over the weekend! :-)


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