When I made this pizza for dinner last week, my text message exchange with The Boyfriend looked like this:
You have to come home
It’s an emergency.
I made bacon and asparagus pizza with homemade ricotta
And the crust is, like, killer
(Radio silence because he was watching The Wiz in the playoffs)
I know, I know, a girl who has a history of setting off every fire alarm in the whole dang apartment building shouldn’t joke about emergencies. The thing was, it was an emergency because ever since I tore through Molly Wizenberg’s Delancey last weekend, I have been craving nothing but pizza and I was just so happy. (Ed. Note: #coafg.)
Delancey tells the story of Molly’s marriage and the pizza restaurant she and her husband opened in Seattle called, you got it, Delancey. She tells about his obsession with pizza crust, how he wanted something like the crunchy-chewy-tender crust he used to love from Di Fara in Brooklyn. How he disabled the internal thermometer on their home oven to get it to heat over 700 degrees before they had a wood-fired oven. (Part of the reason it is so difficult to re-create amazing restaurant pizza at home is the oven temperature. The hotter the oven, the better the crust. It’s the insane temperatures of wood-fired ovens that allow pizza to get that just-blistered-not-burned flavor, and that thin, crunchy outer crust around chewy, not-dry* inner crust.)
I loved the book, and when it was finished, all I wanted was pizza. And I had a milk jug full of whey chillin’ in the fridge, leftover from my homemade ricotta project. I had read that using whey in place of water made for excellent pizza dough, so I gave it a shot (of course, now that I’m looking for a link that says “using whey for pizza dough is a thing” I cannot find anything. Blarg. You’ll just have to take my word for it.) Holy porkbelly, it was delicious.
Something about the whey (maybe the protein?) made the dough more like restaurant pizza dough than I’ve ever made before — it had the thin, crunchy outside, and the soft, chewy inside. And the toppings! Let’s just say you can’t go wrong with whatever-vegetable-happens-to-be-in (in this case, a little springtime asparagus), fresh cheese, bacon, and a layer of fresh-grated truffle cheese.
Truffle cheese is exactly the kind of fancy ingredient that I don’t usually keep on hand, except that last week I had some! I picked up a teensie little corner of it from the tiny-cheese-remnants bowl at Whole Foods. Gosh, I love that bowl. It is the best for trying new cheeses, which is definitely one of my favorite hobbies.
- 2¾ cup lukewarm water (or whey)
- 1½ T. active yeast
- 1½ T. kosher salt
- 1 T. sugar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 6½ cups flour
- 1 bunch of asparagus
- 2-3 slices of bacon
- ½ c. fresh ricotta cheese
- When you're mixing up the dough: In a large bowl, stir together water (or whey), yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil. Stir in the flour.
- Do nothing!
- No kneading here, folks. Just cover lightly and let the dough rest on the counter for about two hours. It should double in size. Punch it down, then cover and put in the fridge.
- (When I say cover, I mean cover. We're not talking about loosely placing a dishtowel over the bowl or putting the dough into a tupperware with a lid-- we're talking about taking a piece of plastic wrap and pressing it onto the dough so there isn't anything exposed to air, which will make a weird crust on your dough. It won't be inedible, just dried out.)
- When you're ready to cook: Preheat your oven as hot as it will go. See above about the magic of a wood-fired oven. Assuming you don't have one and you don't have any interest in disabling your oven's internal thermometer and definitely burning your house down, just turn on the broiler somewhere in the neighborhood of 525 degrees.
- Take your chilled dough out of the refrigerator and divide into 4 pieces. Do this while the dough is cold and fresh out of the fridge -- that's when it's easiest to cut with a knife. Wrap whatever dough you aren't going to use tightly in plastic wrap and return to the fridge. The dough will be good for almost 2 weeks in the fridge, and is best freshly baked.
- Let the dough come to room temperature on the counter. Lightly flour a workspace (I used a wooden cutting board) and pat the dough roll into a flat disk disk on the floured surface. Sprinkle the top of the dough with another pinch of flour so it doesn't stick to your hands.
- Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Stretch the floured dough like you have seen pizza guys do in movies -- let it drape over your fist, and then hold the edges and rotate the pizza around so gravity stretches it out for you. Once it's the size and shape you want, lay the dough on the cookie sheet, brush with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, and layer on your toppings.
- Before the dough is ready to be topped, snap the woody ends off the asparagus. Chop off the spear heads and then slice the rest of the asparagus spears into thin rounds. Slice the raw bacon cross-wise into strips.
- Onto raw pizza dough, glop about the ricotta over the surface of the dough (sorry, but there is really no other verb for what I did to this cheese). Sprinkle the asparagus and bacon evenly over the cheese and dough.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes in the hot oven. Keep a close eye on the pizza, and turn it if it looks like one side is getting brown more quickly than another. Once the dough is golden brown and the bacon is cooked, the pizza is done.
- Top the hot pizza with fresh-grated cheese, preferably some with a little truffle in there.
*I appreciate that basically everyone in the world hate the word “moist” these days, but sometimes it is just the right word. We’re talking about moist and chewy dough here, people. But also, I don’t want to gross anyone out of making this pizza dough so I went with “not dry.” YOU’RE WELCOME.