Fennel Fontina Pizza
Several months ago, I decided to conquer my fear of making bread products at home. This fear has been passed on from my mother who, despite creating many wholesome, delicious meals and conquering other culinary challenges, seems terrified of yeast. I’ve tried and failed at counseling her through this because she insists she doesn’t have the time. Hopefully the below recipe will help change her mind about this. Not only is homemade dough more delicious and customizable than plain dough purchased at the pizzeria or supermarket, it can be brought together in under ten minutes, stored in the refrigerator for three to five days, and frozen for months! Yes, store bought doughs have the same staying power, but this dough is just better. Try this pizza if you don’t believe me. It is actually one of my mom’s favorite recipes to make herself (with store-bought dough), but I add some subtle flavor underneath the strong toppings with some special additions to the crust.
"You can have my heart and we can share it like the last slice"
Fennel Fontina Pizza
Serves 4 for dinner with a side salad, or 8-10 as an appetizer
For the toppings:
1 fennel bulb, sliced into 1/4-1/2 in. pieces
1/2 large onion, sliced into 1/4 in. pieces
4 cloves garlic, skinned and chopped
1.5 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 pound fontina, grated (yields about 1.5 c.)
1/4 c. pecorino romano, grated (or another hard, salty cheese)
For the crust (an adaptation of Mark Bittman’s recipe):
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. pecorino romano (or another hard, salty cheese)
1/2 tbsp. each of rosemary leaves, red chili flakes, garlic powder, oregano, or anything you prefer
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1-1 1/4 c. water
For the crust:
Mix the flour with the active dry yeast, salt, pepper, cheese and spices in a large mixing bowl.
Make a well in the dry ingredients, and pour in the extra virgin olive oil and 1 c. water. Stir together, until the dry and wet ingredients start to come together into a dough. Add up to 1/4 c. more water to incorporate any stubborn dry ingredients.
Pour mixture onto a floured surface and knead for about one minute. Form into a cohesive ball and place in an oiled bowl.
Cover with a layer of plastic wrap and a towel. Allow to rise at least 1 hour before you begin forming it into a pizza. I typically wait about 1.5 hours.
Notes: The dough can also be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen. I usually refrigerate or freeze the pizza before it begins to rise, but this time around, I let it rise first and then realized that I wanted to make the pizza the next evening. I put it in a large enough plastic container with some oil and a layer of plastic wrap, and it was perfect the next day. Always let your dough come down to room temperature before forming it into pizza. It will make the process much easier.
Variations: For extra fiber and a denser crust, add up to 1/4 cup wheat bran. For a lighter crust, replace the whole wheat flour with all-purpose.
For the toppings:
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add fennel and onion to the pan and sauté for about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic. Sauté until all ingredients are slightly carmelized.
For the final product:
Preheat the oven to 500°F.
Oil a sheet pan. Transfer the dough to the pan, and begin to work it into the shape of your crust. Keep the thickness as uniform as possible. Pinch up the sides a bit so when it bakes, a nice crust forms.
Layer the fennel, onion and garlic mixture onto the crust. Top with the fontina and peccorino romano cheese. Bake for 10 minutes.
Enjoy, with a salad and friend(s), like I am below. Friend #1 (David) is pointing at Friend #2 (Connor), and Friend #3 (Scott) is my co-conspirator behind the camera.