Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fennel Pizza and My Favorite Pizza Dough

This is a great recipe. But it is not what most people think of as pizza. This pizza would probably disappoint your typical kid. This pizza has not met a tomato. There is a little bit of cheese, but no mozzarella.

It is delicious. When Derek was preparing to leave for Germany I asked him what he would like to have for his last American dinner. His instant response was, "fennel pizza." Now this is not an American recipe, I am not even sure it is an Italian recipe. But, I love the boy so I just smiled and we made pizza.

The dough is pretty delicious and we use it for everything. Sometimes we just have to many leftovers in the fridge and we make a pizza to put them on (this is not a joke). We are really good at pizza. Not to be too egotistical, but sometimes when we are eating pizza at a restaurant, I realize that our pizza is better.

My Pizza Guidelines:
1.)Hot oven. Pretty much as hot as your oven can go. Then let the oven preheat for about 10 minutes after it says it is ready.

2.)Think light. Our home ovens can not handle too thick of a pizza. If the crust or the toppings are too thick they will not cook all of the way and you will have soggy pizza.

3.)Pizza stone, optional. The pizza stone really helps you get that crusty crust and it helps the oven maintain that temperature. But you do not need it. This recipe requires no special kitchen gadgets.

These recipes were published by Jim Lahey in his book My Bread. We love this book, every recipe we have made from it is great, his basic bread is the best. I have written about it here. You would think that this book would just be about bread, but it has a whole chapter on pizza. None of his pizzas are traditionally what we think of as pizza, none have sauce, most don't have cheese, and they usually have only 3 or 4 ingredients.

Basic Pizza Dough
not modified at all from Jim Lahey's My Bread
makes two 9 x 13 pizzas or four personal pizzas

3 1/4 cups (500 grams) Bread Flour
2 1/2 teaspoons (10 grams) Active Dry Yeast
3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) Table Salt
3/4 teaspoon (about 3 grams) plus pinch Sugar
1 1/3 cups (300 grams) Room Temperature (about 72 degrees F) Water
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. In a a medium bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the water and stir using a wooden spoon or your hand for at least 30 seconds or until blended. The dough should be wet and sticky. Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature until it has more than doubled in volume (about 2 hours).

2. Scrap the dough out of the bowl using a rubber spatula onto a well-floured work surface. Gently form into a rough ball (it will be sticky). Cut this ball into two (if you are making two large pizzas) or four (for four small pizzas). Space them 4 inches apart and cover with a moistened kitchen towel and allow to them to rest for 30 minutes.

3. Now you can form the balls into pizzas or freeze them. To freeze, coat the inside of a plastic bag with olive oil and put ball inside. They should keep about a month in the freezer. If you want to wait to use the dough, they will keep for about a day in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. Before use, defrost frozen dough in the refrigerator and let it sit on counter for 30 minutes to warm to room temperature.

4. To form the pizzas, oil a 9 x 13 inch rimmed baking dish (no pizza stone, although I do use a baking stone for a lot of my other pizzas). Use a fair bit of oil on the pan and spread it out evenly. Invert the dough onto the pan (preferably with moist side of the dough down on the pan). Using your hands, gently pull, press, and stretch dough across the pan. It should take up all of the pan evenly. Sometimes I used my oiled rolling pin to spread it really evenly. Try not to let the dough rip, if you do, press the holes together.

5. Now top the pizza with fennel topping (or whatever you want).

Fennel Pizza (Pizza Finocchio)
from the same book as above
Makes enough topping for one 9x13 inch pizza

2 medium (650 grams) Trimmed Fennel Bulbs
1/2 cup loosely packed (40 grams) Freshly Grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano Cheese (see note b)
3/4 teaspoon (4 grams) Table Salt
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) Freshly Ground Black Pepper
about 1/4 cup (about 60 grams) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The pizza dough from above

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F (hot!), with the rack in the center.

2. Use a knife or mandoline to cut the fennel into really thin slices (1/16 of an inch), don't cut your fingers. You want about 7 cups of sliced fennel.

3. Put all of the fennel in a bowl and toss them with cheese, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

4. Spread the fennel mixture over the dough, going all of the way to the edges. No crust on this pizza. In fact, you want the topping to be slightly more thick at the edges, because the outside tends to brown more quickly.

5. Bake for 30 minutes, plus or minus 5 minutes. I find that mine is done at 25 minutes, but my oven is hot.

Note a: I have used this dough for lots of pizza types. When I am making sauce containing pizzas I tend to use the pizza peel and stone. I just like them that way.

Note b: I think this pizza might work without cheese, if you are avoiding it. If you are avoiding cow dairy, I think a hard goat or sheep cheese would work.


  1. Wow. Amazing. I will have to try it if I ever run across fennel in the (super)market. Heck, I don't even know the Russian for 'fennel'!

    Keep up the great food posts, you're making me hungry!

  2. It is really amazing. We are not huge fans of anise/black licorice, but with this pizza you only get the bright almost citrusy flavor of fennel. We tried it when we first got fennel in the CSA and then ran out the following Saturday to get more. Theoretically one could also dust some fennel pollen over it (my brother and sister-in-law who gave us the book say that is very good).

  3. ooooh ahhhh, fennel...pizza! Those two words are music to my ears! I was all set to make a fennel tomato soup for dinner tonight but now I don't feel good : ( You're making me crave pizza instead. Thanks for sharing your crust recipe. I'm always looking for new crusts to try!

  4. I like your unique recipe for this fennel pizza. It’s very easy and simple to prepare. I think it’ll be great to serve this to your family for dinner. But, for me, I prefer cooking a separate flavor for my kids. I don’t think they will like this because they love pizza with lots of cheese toppings. I’d love to try this, though! :)

    >Joseph Carr