Monday, December 15, 2008

Fennel Pizza

I get my hair cut by student stylists at a salon in New York City 's Soho. Mostly because it's a bargain - but my other excuse to go there is because it's just around the corner from Sullivan Street and the Grandaisy Bakery. It's the previous home of the Sullivan Street Bakery, but the former bakery moved to W. 47th Street and kept the name - even though it is a little counter intuitive to name a place Sullivan Street Bakery if it's not located on Sullivan Street. But their bread is so renowned that the name has cachet for New Yorkers - or for anyone who's eaten it.
Enter Grandaisy Bakery, which makes breads, cakes and pizzas that taste like they're made with the same recipes that the Sullivan Street Bakery uses. Among the offerings are artisanal breads and pizzas topped with seasonal ingredients. In the fall that means atypical toppings you won't find elsewhere, such as cauliflower or fennel.
I adore fennel in all variations so I just had to try to duplicate what I ate there several weeks ago. You'll need to pull out your mandoline to slice the fennel thinly enough. Or you can try using the slicing attachment on your food processor. Either way, it's easy to prepare and the recipe makes enough to fit into a large cookie sheet. It's perfect for a party when you want to serve finger food for lots of people. You can make it ahead of time and reheat later -- that is if you can resist the aroma when it comes out of the oven.

Fennel Pizza

For the dough:

If you don't want to make it from scratch, buy some fresh dough from your local pizzeria

3 cups flour
1 package dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water
1 T sugar
2 t. salt
3 T. olive oil
cornmeal
freshly ground salt
more olive oil for the top

Bring the water temperature to about 105 to 110 degrees. Use a kitchen thermometer to test. This is very important. Otherwise, if the temperature is too hot, you risk killing the active ingredient in the yeast. If the temperature is too low, it will take too long to rise. Add the yeast and sugar to the water. Wait for about 10 minutes to make sure it "blooms," or puffs up. That will ensure the yeast is working and the dough will rise.
Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and add the water, yeast and sugar mixture and the olive oil. Start mixing it together with a wooden spoon or your hands. You may have to add more water, depending on the humidity that day. It should come together in a ball. If it doesn't, add more water if it seems too dry, or more flour, if it seems too sticky. Knead on a flat surface for about five minutes or longer until it starts to feel and look smooth. Let it rest in a greased and covered bowl until it doubles in size. This may take as little as two hours or longer, depending on where you put the bowl. Leave it in a warm spot to make it rise faster, or you can even put it in the refrigerator overnight if you want to make it the next day.
When the dough is ready, grease a large cookie sheet with some olive oil, then sprinkle with cornmeal. Take the dough and stretch it out on a floured board or counter using a rolling pin. When it is nearly the same size as the cookie sheet, transfer it with your hands to the prepared sheet and shape the dough into the cookie sheet. It is a very resistant dough, so you have to keep working it to get it to all the corners. Take a fork and puncture the dough all over. Then grind some salt and sprinkle more olive oil all over the surface. Let the dough rise a second time in the pan for at least one hour.

Top it with the following:

1/2 large fennel bulb, or 1 small fennel bulb, sliced thinly
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
1 T. freshly chopped thyme
1 T. freshly chopped rosemary

Bake in a preheated 475 degree oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until bottom crust looks browned and crispy and top is golden.

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