Yesterday was my first foray into the world of making pizza crust from scratch.
You see, I found this recipe that requires no kneading, no complicated rising conditions, no punching down. And no kneading.
Did I mention it doesn’t require any kneading?
You begin by sprinkling some yeast over warm water. Not too hot, you don’t want to kill all those little funguses.
I’m learning that fungus can be good.
While the yeast reanimates and gets happy in its warm bath, dump some flour and salt into the bowl of your mixer. Or any bowl. You could do this by hand too.
With the mixer on low, drizzle in some olive oil. Continue to mix on low, just until the oil is incorporated.
Then give your yeast mixture a gentle stir, and pour that in slowly too.
When the mixture forms a ball around the dough hook (or has all come together if you are mixing by hand)…
….put some oil in a bowl, then put the dough ball in and turn it to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and set in a warm place for a couple of hours, or stick it in the fridge and leave it for a few days. I hear this recipe only gets better with age (a theory I am testing as I write…)
While your dough is relaxing in its oil bath, begin the toppings. You can put whatever you want on this pizza. Yesterday I went with bacon and caramelized onion. Because I love bacon. And I love caramelized onion. And I love pizza. And I had bacon in the house and I couldn’t rest until every last bit of it had been devoured. It kept waking me in the middle of the night and begging me to cook it up and eat it. I ask you. What’s a girl to do?
Here’s what I like to do with bacon: Buy it when it’s cheap and keep it in the freezer. Then, when you have a recipe that calls for just a little bacon, shear an inch or so off the end of the whole chunk and put the rest of it back into the freezer. What you have are perfect little bacon bits (if we were French or professional cooks we’d call them lardons. I am not French or professional, so in my world we call them Little Crunchy Bits of Heaven. Fancy, I know. I can’t help myself!)
This accomplishes a couple of things, mainly that I don’t bring home the bacon, cook it up, and eat the entire package of it by myself. It also allows you to use only what you need. And you will always have bacon on hand, even if you aren’t always eating it. And it makes it very difficult to separate the slices, which makes it a little more difficult to cook up the strips, which keeps me from eating it all up while my husband is away all day.
I have a serious problem, this I know.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.
Begin preheating a large skillet to just shy of medium heat. Dice some bacon up into 1/2″ pieces.
Put the bacon in the skillet.
Let the bacon cook slowly and render out all its fat. When the bacon is completely crispy and all the fat is in the pan, pull the bacon out.
Don’t eat the bacon. Yet. I know you want to, and I know I told you yesterday that you could, but today don’t eat the bacon!
There’s only this much of it, and we need it.
Next, take a large onion. Peel it and cut off the ends. Then cut it in half from root to tip. Then lay half of it on its side and make 1″ slices from the tip almost to the root end, but leave the root end intact if you know what’s good for ya.
Then turn the onion in the other direction and thinly slice it up. Repeat with the other half.
You could just slice each half into very thin half moons, but if you do it this way the onion won’t turn into long strings when you cook them. Then, when you take a bite of the finished product all the tangled up bits of onion don’t all come out at once, leaving you with a mouthful that is all onion and a slice of empty pizza crust in your hand.
Now, dump the onion into the skillet you just cooked the bacon up in. Right on top of all that grease. And add in a little salt. Then stand over the skillet and breathe that scent in deeply until you pass out.
Then wake up and add in a bay leaf. Herby, piney, earthy, and wonderful.
I also sneaked in a little nutmeg while you weren’t looking. Nutmeg is lovely. I’m obsessed with it. And it gives the onions a deep, rich, warm flavor and sweetness that is divine.
Now let the onions cook very slowly over medium low heat until they are deep amber and completely soft.
This will take about 45 minutes.
Don’t rush it. It’s worth it.
Now, some people would feel compelled to add some sugar or honey or other form of sweetener to “help things along” but believe me, these onions don’t need any help. I mean, look at ’em! Do they look like they need any help?
They don’t, but I do.
This is what they will look like after you add about 3 tablespoons of water to the pan and stir the onions around until everything is absorbed. It’s almost like an onion marmalade, and unbelievably sweet! You will be glad you didn’t add any sweetener to this!
Now go ahead and grate up a pile of fresh mozzarella. Why not just slice it, you ask? I just wanted to spread things out a little more evenly. But you go ahead and slice it if you want.
Here is what your dough will look like after a few hours of resting.
See how relaxed and lovely? That mixing bowl, and oil, and the nice warm spot next to the stove were like a spa for pizza dough balls.
You only need half of what we made, so stick the rest in a plastic bag and leave it in the fridge to use later. The roll or stretch the rest out into any shape you want. Rectangles are nice, perfectly round is traditionally American, square is just flat-out unnatural…
Personally, I like the roughly ovoid, rectangular, oblongish amoeba shape. You know, the one that doesn’t require any experience or talent at all.
If you have some smoked fontina on hand, tear it up and spread it evenly over the pizza dough. It will melt and be creamy and turn into sort of a sauce.
If you don’t have smoked fontina, go get some. Hurry! Hurry! Before it’s too late!
Now spread your caramelized onions, and the grated parmesan, and the crispy bacon bits over the dough.
See? Aren’t you glad you saved the bacon?!? I don’t want to say I told ya so, but…
If you like a little edge to your crust that you can dip in honey and sprinkle with parmesan later, go ahead and give the edges a twist.
Now bake in an extremely hot oven until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden brown and crispy.
And remember my favorite Arugula Salad with simple lemon vinaigrette I showed you a couple of weeks ago (if you don’t, check out my post “just something quick…”)? Well, if you top a couple of slices of pizza with that…
…words just can’t describe…
…with the salty, and the smokey, and the sweet, and the creamy, and the tangy and the crunchy….
And then sprinkle on a little of this.
That’s freshly grated parm, baby. My hubby did that for me.
Bacon and Onion and Cheese and Pizza. It just doesn’t get much better than this.
Here ya go!
Bacon and Caramelized Onion Pizza
1/2 recipe pizza crust (get the recipe here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/tasty-kitchen/recipes/main-courses/basic-pizza-crust/ …thanks Tasty-Kitchen!)
1/3 pound thick cut, smokey bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 large onion, sliced thinly
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
3 slices smoked fontina
8 oz grated fresh mozzarella
Arugula salad if desired (http://phobicfoodie.com/2011/05/05/just-something-quick-oh-and-buffalo/)
Preheat oven to 500º
Heat a large skillet over medium low to medium (you want it just shy of actually being medium…does that make sense? I found that medium burned the bacon *sob* but medium low didn’t quite cook it). Put the bacon pieces in the skillet and slowly render out all the fat and let the bacon get crispy ( about 15 minutes).
While the bacon is cooking, very thinly slice a large onion. Remove the bacon and all but 3 tablespoons of fat from the skillet, then add the onions, bay leaf, nutmeg and salt to taste. Cook very slowly over medium low heat until the onions are deep amber in color and very sweet (about 45 minutes). Add in about 3 tablespoons of water and simmer onions until the pan is dry again and the onions are very tender… almost the consistency of marmalade or chutney.
Stretch or roll the pizza dough out to desired size and shape and place on a cookie sheet. The thinner you make it, the crispier the crust will be. Tear the fontina into pieces and spread evenly over the crust, then top with the caramelized onions, the mozzarella and the bacon (I like to put the bacon on last so it stays crunchy).
Bake in a very hot oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is completely melted. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.
Unless you are convinced you might actually die if you don’t cut and devour that pizza right now! If that is the case then you go ahead and go to town!
But you will badly burn the roof of your mouth.
Drust be on dis. I dearned id da hard way. Ouch.
Top with Arugula Salad (if desired) and parmesan cheese.
Eat and be happy!