December 11, 2012
People often ask whether I like baking more than cooking or vice versa. I love both cooking and baking equally! :) Pizza is one of my favorite things to make because it combines baking and cooking. I enjoy learning the art of pizza making and the science behind it. So, it's a good thing that my friends like eating pizza.
Last week end, I had a Christmas Vacation pizza night with some friends. Since Pizza Sfincione is traditionally served on Christmas Eve, it seemed fitting to make it for the Christmas Vacation pizza night.
Pizza Sfincione is a thick, soft Sicilian-style pizza traditionally served on Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, Good Friday, and on the feast of San Giovanni. Sfincione loosely translates as "thick sponge," and probably comes from the latin spongia, meaning sponge.
This pizza crust is more sponge-like, as it is fairly soft and more like a lighter focaccia bread. This is not crusty or chewy like most pizza crusts. Sfincione is traditionally topped with tomatoes, onions, anchovies, cheeses, and a dash of seasoning, with bread crumbs covering the top. The golden brown onions really brought great flavor to the pizza, and the tomatoes helped bring out the flavor. If you can find caciocavallo cheese, definitely substitute it for the mozzarella and provolone.
Yields 1 large pizza
For the crust:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. instant yeast
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup lukewarm water
For the topping:
2 large sweet onions
28-oz. can chopped tomatoes
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
4 oz. provolone cheese, shredded
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups coarse dried bread crumbs
6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
For the crust, combine all of the ingredients and knead to make a smooth, soft dough. (Note: You can use a stand mixer, bread machine, or your good ol' hands!)
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or leave it in the bread machine, and allow it to rise until very puffy (about 90 minutes).
While the dough rises, prepare the toppings. Peel and slice the onions, and fry with olive oil until golden brown, for about 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the onions, along with Italian seasonings. Simmer and stir for a few minutes. Once the sauce becomes slightly firm, turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Note, you do not want to mixture overly liquid, but you also do not want it too dry. Use your judgment to find a good compromise. :)
Stir together the bread crumbs and extra virgin olive oil, and set aside.
Spray a large rimmed baking sheet (13 x 18" half sheet pan) with non-stock spray. Drizzle it with olive oil, and tilt the pan so that the oil spreads.
Gently deflate the risen dough, and stretch it into an oval. Set the oval onto the baking sheet, and press it towards the edges. It will start to "fight back," so leave it to rest for 15 minutes. When you return, you should be able to stretch the dough to cover more of the pan's bottom. Cover the dough, and let it rise until puffy, about another 90 minutes.
Near the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425ºF. Uncover the dough, and sprinkle it with the shredded mozzarella and provolone. Then, add the tomato-onion sauce. Top with the Parmesan, and then sprinkle the bread crumbs.
Bake the pizza for 25 minutes, or until the crust and crumbs are brown. Remove from oven and serve warm, hot, or allow to cool to room temperature.
Note: I made the dough the night before; once it was in the pan, I covered and refrigerated it. The next day, I removed it from the refrigerator about 90 minutes before baking.
Source: Adapted from King Arthur Flour