Making the sponge: Start the sponge the night before. Blend the yeast, 2 tablespoons of the flour, and 1/4 cup of the warm water in a mixing bowl. Let stand 3 to 5 minutes, until the yeast comes alive with small bubbles. Beat in the rest of the flour and water, using a wooden spoon. The batter should be elastic. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and seal it with plastic wrap. Let stand to rise at room temperature 7 to 8 hours.
Make the dough: In an electric standing mixture with a dough hook attachment, blend the 2 cups flour and the salt. Add half the mixture to the sponge, along with the olive oil and lard or butter. Beat about 5 minutes, making a very elastic dough. Gradually mix in the rest of the flour mixture. Knead it by hand about 10 minutes into a soft, but not sticky, dough.
First rising: Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and seal the top with plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temperature 2 hours, or until doubled.
Shaping the dough: Lightly grease a 14 to 16-inch pizza pan. Punch the dough down. Roll and stretch the dough to fit the pan. It should be between 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch thick, and all the way to the pan's edge.
Second rising: Cover the pan with a kitchen towel, and let the dough rise 2 hours. The dough should be doubled in volume, and should not spring back when poked with a finger.
Baking and serving: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Poke indentations in the top of the loaf with your fingers. Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil over the top, and sprinkle with the salt and rosemary. Bake 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees F and bake another 25 minutes. The bread is done when the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Serve warm, or at room temperature, sliced into wedges, with the peel-yourself favas and the pecorino.
Recipe copyright 2000, Mario Batali. All Rights Reserved