Pizza bianca

We're nearly at the end of September which means its 1.) time for your monthly dose of Cucina Conversations and 2.) Cucina Conversations is celebrating its 1st birthday. That's right, at this time a year ago our blogging group was posting its very first recipes for the grape harvest, la vendemmia. I couldn't be happier to be part of this group, and have so enjoyed getting to know my fellow bloggers -- thank you Rosemarie for getting all of this started and being our unofficial group leader! 

So! Our theme for this month is merende, or snacks, and my selection is pizza bianca alla romana, one of my very favorite snacks ever, neck-in-neck even with my beloved taralliPizza bianca, if you're not familiar, isn't exactly pizza as you might imagine it -- its not round, for starters, and there's no sauce, no cheese, and no toppings. It's more of a cross between focaccia and a thick pizza crust, crunchy and golden brown on the bottom and fluffy on the inside, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt before being baked, the very definition of less is more. Its a staple of Roman panifici or forni (shops that sell bread, pizza, and pastries,) a classic mid-morning or afternoon snack for Italian children (a friend of mine once recounted his morning ritual of taking his son to buy pizza bianca for snack at school) and for us adults too. Its superb eaten warm, a few slices wrapped in paper and taken to go, or made a little more substantial filled with a slice or two of mortadella. If you want your pizza bianca for dessert instead of snack, I've also sampled sweet versions filled with Nutella. (Swoon). 

Two things I feel I must address before going further: 

1. Heads up, if you're making pizza bianca at home instead of buying it, its not a short process. The dough has to rise overnight in the fridge, meaning you have to start prepping this a day in advance. Having said that, making your own pizza bianca is not at all complicated. Bread making is more about wait than work -- rising isn't a fast process -- and as long as you don't let yourself be intimidated by the lengthy preparation time, there's nothing to it. This recipe is no exception.

2. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, here's the next thing you're probably thinking. Why should you bother to make your own pizza bianca, anyway?! Well, if you're outside Italy you'll be hard-pressed to find it any bakery, so this recipe is a handy dandy way to bring your Italian snack experience to your own kitchen, especially if you've tasted this in Rome and are looking to recreate it (prego). If you're living in Italy and can easily go and buy your pizza bianca, by all means do, but I must say that making your own is a pretty cool experience, from start to finish -- what starts as a bowl of flour and a little yeast magically transforms in to this utterly perfect, utterly addictive pizza bianca. I couldn't have been happier with this recipe -- perfectly crunchy golden bottom contrasting with a cloud-like interior, redolent of olive oil with just enough salt to keep you going back for another piece!-- and suspect you'll feel the same.

A couple of notes: If you have a standing mixer with a dough hook, that makes the preparation of this pizza bianca a bit easier, but if you don't, I have provided the instructions below to make it all by hand -- this is what I did, and it worked just fine (after all, people were making bread long before there were Kitchen-Aids). If you want to be super traditional here, you can eat your pizza bianca with a few slices of mortadella, but I prefer to eat this with prosciutto crudo. This is generally best eaten the day its baked, and warm, but I found the few pieces we had left tasted pretty good the next day too. 

With no further ado, here are the merende recipes from my fellow bloggers this month:

Daniela of La Dani Gourmet has shared her recipe for pan meino, a sweet bread from the north of Italy;

Carmen of The Heirloom Chronicles has made pizzette montanare, or little fried pizzas from Naples;

Lisa aka Italian Kiwi will be making pasticciotti, a sweet from Puglia;


Flavia of Flavia's Flavors will be making tramezzini (sandwiches) with various fillings;


Marialuisa of Marmellata di Cipolle has made sandwich al carbone vegetate, or sandwiches on bread made with charcoal (intriguing, no?!);

Last but not least, Rosemarie over at Turin Mamma will be preparing amaretti morbidi, or almond cookies. 

PIZZA BIANCA ALLA ROMANA

Ingredients:
3 cups (460 grams) all-purpose flour (Farina 0 if you're in Italy)
1 1/3 cup (300 grams) warm water
1 1/8 teaspoons (2 grams) dry yeast
4 tablespoons (50 grams) extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons (5 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 grams) salt

More olive oil for greasing the pan
Coarse salt for sprinkling

Directions:
If you are making the pizza bianca by hand, without a standing mixer: in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and yeast. Add the water a little at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon as you go, being sure that the water is absorbed before adding more. 
If you have a standing mixer: After whisking together the dry ingredients as mentioned above, replace the mixing attachment with the dough hook, and add the water a little at a time, again, making sure that the water you've added is fully absorbed before adding more. 
Next, add the oil, a little at a time, just like you did with the water. If you're doing this by hand, just stir in and incorporate the oil as best you can with a wooden spoon -- it won't be too easy but once you start kneading the dough everything will come together. If you're doing this with a standing mixer, just let the dough hook do its thing until all the olive oil is combined. Add the salt and incorporate as best you can with a wooden spoon, or again with the dough hook.
Time to knead the dough -- if you're doing this by hand, turn the dough out on to a clean work surface dusted with a little flour and knead the dough for 15 minutes (sounds like a lot but its not so bad). If you have a standing mixer, use these 15 minutes of kneading to go do something else while your machine does the work. The dough will start out looking like the first photo, and by the end should like shiny and smooth -- half way in you'll notice this start to happen.
Next, stretch out the dough into a sort of round rectangle shape. Fold the dough over once, then again, so it looks almost like a wrap. Tuck the sides under themselves and roll the dough in to a ball.
Place the dough in a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the oven -- turned off, of course! -- and let the dough rise, undisturbed, for three hours. The dough will rise and double in its volume in this time. Magical!
When the three hours are up, place the dough in the fridge, still covered, and let it rise further over night. The next day, the dough should look something like this:
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celsius). Grease a 30x35cm baking sheet with a bit of olive oil. Stretch the dough out onto the baking sheet (this will be easy to do - the dough is very stretchy at this point and holds its shape). Let rise at room temperature for another hour. When the hour is up, drizzle another two or so tablespoons on the pizza bianca, and sprinkle with coarse salt. 
Bake your pizza bianca for 20 minutes in your preheated oven on the lowest rack of the oven for the first 8 or so minutes (to achieve a crunchy, golden brown bottom) and then move to the middle rack.  Keep an eye on your pizza bianca during this time as every oven is different, and its likely yours isn't like mine (lucky you!) Let cool slightly and serve warm. Makes one large pizza, to be eaten probably by only a few people (its very addictive).
       
Recipe from www.giallozafferano.com
































1 comment :

  1. I just love Pizza bianca! I'm so happy that you posted the recipe! I'll be trying it myself very soon now!

    ReplyDelete