There is something of a mythology around the art and craft of baking. Consider this gorgeous video about Chad Robertson and his wildly successful Tartine, for instance. Or this piece on the relationship between bread and craft written by my former advisor at CCA, maker and bon vivant Donald Fortescue. Or consider Tucson’s legendary pizzaiolo Chris Bianco. People are dedicated.
For this pizza, I followed Nate Appleman’s long rise method, leaving the dough to rest overnight in the fridge, then bringing it out the following morning to let it grow and stretch over the course of another four hours. I divided the dough, shaped it into four balls, cranked the oven to its maximum, and let the dough rest and rise again. It’s so easy to opt for the shortest or the fastest method, but the beauty of this dough is that it won’t let you. It demands patience.
As for the toppings on the pie, they live in that indeterminate zone between late winter and early spring – lighter than a winter dish but employing the best of the season. Don’t be put off by the Meyer lemon – it’s mellowed by the heat of the oven and provides a bright citrus note that works well with the Fontina and ricotta cheeses. The broccoli rabe is sauteed first in some olive oil with chile flakes, so that once every few bites you get a tingle of heat. It’s finished with a sprinkle of fresh thyme. (And if you want to throw some pancetta on there, I doubt anybody will mind.)
This Pizza with Broccoli Rabe, Fontina and Meyer Lemon recipe is part of The February Seasonal Food Guide.
4 cups 00 flour (this is the quintessential pizza flour)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (105-115)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 bunch broccoli rabe, tough stems discarded, chopped
12 ounces ricotta, drained
8 ounces Fontina, grated
1 Meyer lemon, thinly sliced and then quartered
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
To prepare the dough:
In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast over the warm water and let sit for 10 minutes. Add the olive oil and salt. Slowly add the flour to the yeast mixture, in 1/2-1 cup increments, stirring constantly to combine. (You can also use a stand mixer if you have one.)
Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for 10 minutes, using a pushing and pulling motion. (Again, if you have a stand mixer, use that.)
Lightly oil a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, remove the dough from the fridge. Punch it down, re-shape into a ball and let stand, covered, for at least 4 hours.
When dough is ready, divide into four. Shape into rounds. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for at least 1/2 hour more.
One hour before you are ready to bake the pizza, turn your oven to its highest temperature, which is generally between 500-550 degrees. Place oven rack at lowest position, and slide pizza stone onto rack.
At this time, you can prepare your toppings.
To prepare the topping:
Drain the ricotta by placing in a cheesecloth or dish towel in strainer over a bowl. Let it drain until you are ready to use it.
Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and chili flakes and stir. When the oil is hot, add the broccoli rabe and stir again. Keep covered and saute for about 4-6 minutes, until the greens are wilted and tender. Set aside.
Grate the Fontina cheese. Mince the thyme, thinly slice the lemons. Have all of your toppings ready and at hand.
Take one ball of dough and place it on a well-floured surface. Press into the center of the round with your palm to flatten. Using a rolling pin, roll from the center of the dough outward in all directions, working to maintain a circular shape. When the dough is between 10 and 12 inches, transfer to a pizza peel or a rimless baking sheet.
Apply your toppings like so: begin with 1/3 cup ricotta, smoothing it over the dough with a spatula. Next, sprinkle 1 teaspoon thyme over the ricotta. Follow with 1/4 of the lemon, 1/2 cup of grated Fontina, and finish with 1/4 of the broccoli rabe.
Open the oven and gently slide the pizza off the peel and onto the baking stone with a jerk of the arm.
Bake pizza for 6-8 minutes, depending on the temperature of the oven, until pizza is golden and cheese is bubbling. Enjoy hot!