Onion pizza relies on mustard for tangy zip

On St. Patrick's Day this year, my good friend Richard cooked my lunch, Corned Beef and Cabbage Pizza.

It sounds crazy, I know, but it was delicious. He used a layer of mustard as his sauce, which he topped with sliced waxy potatoes, cabbage, onions (I think), chunks of salty corned beef and lots of cheese, perhaps a cheddar blend, all atop a thin, crispy crust. Yum.

It was the mustard that really struck a chord with me, reminding me of a recipe my husband and I used to make all the time, Onion and Cheese Pizza, from Jane Brody's "Good Food Book."

I have never been a bread baker. I just don't have the patience for it, I guess. Thankfully, my husband does, so he has always been in charge of the pizza-making in our house. He has mastered a truly delicious focaccia dough, upon which he has built some tasty pies over the years. I like to think of the whole wheat dough in this recipe as the one that lured him in, making possible all the pizza crusts that followed.

It's an ornery dough. It's very wheaty and coarse and as such, when you are forming and flattening the crust, you may have to pause several times to let the dough relax before you can tease it out into the shape and thickness you prefer.

In the topping, the sweetness of the onions, the creamy richness of the Fontina (no other cheese will do), the bite of the mustard and the woodsy flavor of the thyme provide layers of robust flavor in each bite.

Enjoy!

Onion and Cheese Pizza

Crust:

1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)

1 package active dry yeast (1 scant tablespoon)

1 teaspoon honey or sugar

1 tablespoon oil

½ teaspoon salt

1½ cups whole wheat flour

About 1 to 1½ cups all-purpose flour

Topping:

1 tablespoon butter

3 large onions, thinly sliced (3 cups)

2 tablespoons grainy mustard

8-12 ounces Fontina cheese, coarsely shredded

½ teaspoon dried thyme

For the crust:

In a large bowl, add the warm water, yeast and honey or sugar, and stir to dissolve. Set the bowl aside and let the mixture stand until it is bubbly, 5 to 15 minutes.

Add the oil, salt, wheat flour and about 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Mix, adding more white flour as needed, until the dough forms a ball that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead the dough for about 5 minutes, adding just enough white flour to make a firm, smooth dough that is not sticky.

Place the ball of dough in a greased bowl, then turn it to grease all sides. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set it aside it a warm, draft free place to rise until it has doubled in bulk.

For the topping:

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet and add the onions and the thyme. Cover the skillet and let cook over low heat for about 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Uncover the skillet and turn up the heat to medium, continuing to cook and stir for about 10 minutes or until the onions become a golden color. Remove from heat.

Assembling pizza:

Adjust one of your oven racks to the lowest rung and preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

Lightly oil your pizza pan (either a traditional round pan or a cookie sheet will do). Gently remove your well risen dough from the bowl and place it onto your pan of choice. Work the down outward into the pan, starting from the center and working out toward the edges. This is a course, resilient dough, so you may not be able to stretch it out fully without pausing for 10-15 minutes a couple of times to let the dough relax. You don't have to fully line your pans with the dough, but leave a thicker edge to help keep the topping in place.

Once your dough is formed, spread the mustard all over the top, scatter the onions evenly over the mustard. Sprinkle the cheese over the onions. Put the pie in the preheated oven on the lowest possible rack and check your pizza after 10 minutes of baking. You want the bottom of the crust to be brown and the cheese to be melted and sizzling all over the pie. Continue baking and checking until it's perfect.

Recipe adapted from Jane Brody's "Good Food Book." Share comments and recipes with Jill at j.blanchette@theday.com.

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