Several months ago, as I probably too often do, I bookmarked a recipe. Most of the time these bookmarked recipes slip quickly from my thoughts, only to reappear when I occasionally actually look at my recipe page in Delicious. But this recipe stayed with me: It was (surprise!) a recipe from Smitten Kitchen, for a bacon, onion, and cream pizza. Shortly after taking note of Deb’s recipe, I had dinner at Brasserie Four in Walla Walla, where I noticed a very similar dish on the menu, called a Tarte Flambee. I ate it, it was spectacular, and I became a little obsessed.
One night last week I decided it was the perfect time for tarte flambee, or some variation thereof. Of course, I neglected to actually check the recipe. I remembered it as being simply creme fraiche, bacon, and caramelized onions. We bought some creme fraiche from Cowgirl Creamery, some lovely pancetta from Boccalone, and we were ready to go, or so I thought. Of course, I neglected to notice that the recipe also called for fromage blanc. Alas!
I didn’t let that stop me, though. I already had the pizza dough waiting, and that pancetta, it was calling our names. And as it turns out, this simpler version was pretty freaking delicious, itself.
This was also something of a pizza dough miracle. I decided to wing it and try to make pizza dough from memory, using nothing but my senses to tell me if it was right. And, lo and behold, it was right! And it was great! And my new oven gets up to 550 degrees, which is way better than my last oven, so the dough crisped up extra nicely.
We loved this, and one of my favorite things about it is the very short list of ingredients. It’s simple, and a wee bit decadent, and is perfect with a simple salad of fresh greens and lemon-y vinaigrette.
- about 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 packet of instant yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 12 ounces of lukewarm water
- about 1/4 pound of pancetta
- 1 small onion
- 1 scant tablespoon olive oil (if needed)
- a few tablespoons of creme fraiche
- salt to taste
The pizza dough is pretty easy, and I think it had pretty spectacular flavor considering its short rise time. Stir together the flour, yeast, and salt. Stir in the water, and mix it until it’s fairly well mixed. Then use a stand mixer, or the power of your own two arms, to knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes. You might need to add a little more flour. You want a dough that is smooth and slightly sticky, and can pass the windowpane test.
Shape the dough into a smooth ball, place it in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let the dough rise for about an hour, or until it’s doubled in size. Once it’s doubled, remove it from the bowl and use your hands to press out the air and re-shape it into a smooth ball again (otherwise known as punching down the dough). Put it back in the bowl and let it rise for about another 30 minutes.
While the dough is going through it’s second rise, preheat the oven, preferably with a pizza stone in it, to as hot as your oven can get.
Heat a medium skillet over high heat. Chop the pancetta into bite-size pieces, then add them to the hot skillet. Let them cook until they are crisp, stirring occasionally. Once they’ve crisped up, remove them to a bowl or plate, keeping about a tablespoon of the fat in the skillet.
Slice the onions into thin slices. Re-heat the skillet, and if it seems a little dry, add some olive oil. Add the onion slices and spread them out in a single layer. Let them cook for about five minutes before giving them a stir. Lower the heat if they are browning to fast, and add a small pinch of salt if you want. Cook the onions until they’ve browned to your liking. I usually end up with some burned bits, because I’m not very vigilant and I kind of like them.
Now, on a piece of parchment spread on a pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet. Stretch our dough. This can be tricky, and I’ve found a good technique is to hold the dough in the air by the edge, and let the weight of it stretch it out. Gently turn the dough, holding the edge, until it’s stretched out to the thickness you like. This makes a fair amount of dough, so if you prefer a thin crust, only use half, and keep the other half in the freezer for another day.
Spread the creme fraiche, as much as you want, in a layer on the dough. Top it with the caramelized onions and tasty, crispy bits of pancetta. Then just slide it into the oven to bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges are browned. You can salt it a bit more once it comes out of the oven, if you like.
The crust puffed up quite a bit, because I think I used a little more dough than I should have, but it had a great texture. And the flavors were outstanding. We both ate this meal accompanied by little sighs of happiness, and promises to make it again, and soon. Maybe next time we’ll throw in the fromage blanc, but maybe we’ll decide it’s just perfect the way it is.