Mon, 23 September, 2019
Sicilian-style pizza with thicker, airy base and topping of caramelised onions and tomato sauce. That was the first pizza that came to North America with Sicilian immigrants and gave rise to ‘deep pan’ pizzas.
A new pizza recipe! How much better does it get? Except – what can be new about pizza?
Pizza is a flat crust of bread dough topped with toppings, baked in a very hot oven. To be fair, there are different specimens all over the world featuring the crust swollen to resemble a cushion, or – horrors – folded edges stuffed with whatnots, more cheese, mainly.
The toppings vary and can get controversial: personally, my answer to the Hawaiian variety is a NO. There are only a few Italian classics but the world seems dead set on throwing everything and his wife onto poor pizza: from full English breakfast pizza, avocado (of course) to banana curry. Where is the authenticity? There’s not much to speak of as far as pizza outside Italy is concerned.
Since I’m a freak for caramelised onions, I was pleased to see the Great British Chefs' Sicilian pizza recipe – note however, BRITISH chefs. Thus I don’t take any responsibility for authenticity, but decide to trust Helen Graves’ recipe. At the end of the day, once you’re a ‘great chef’, no matter where from, you can play a bit faster with ethnic foods without being accused of imposition. Unless you’re really unlucky #JollofWars.
I ditched the salami from the recipe, which apparently has no place on pizza in Palermo, I emphasised the onions as that was the starting point for my pizza, instead of just cooking them into the tomato sauce, and cooked it in a round dish. Sicilian or not, thicker or thinner, you still (well, I do) want your pizza crust to be lovely and crisp underneath, and at home conditions a preheated cast iron skillet carrying the pizza into red-hot oven or grill does the trick of the wood burning oven.
It is so good that Naples might have a reason to worry. The onions, the bit of spiciness, cheese perversely sat underneath the sauce, a whiff of oregano from the dough base, all makes it supremely satisfactory. You might think the topping is scant but the universal truth is that with pizza, less is more. Unless you’re a Hawaiian.
sicilian-style pizzaServings: makes 2 large pizzasTime: 3 hours 30 minutes
- For the pizza dough:
- 5g fresh or ½ tsp instant yeast
- 200g warm water
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 150g Italian 00 flour
- 150g strong bread flour
- 1 tsp fine salt
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- (or use 500g your own recipe pizza dough or even shop-bought dough)
- For the pizza topping:
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 large red onions, sliced thinly
- a pinch of salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp vinegar
- 100g cooking mozzarella, sliced
- a few torn basil leaves (optional)
- 250ml homemade or good quality tomato sauce
- ½ tsp chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp. capers, drained
- 1-2 olives, sliced thinly
- grated Parmesan (optional)
To make the dough, stir the yeast into the water in a large bowl, add the olive oil, the flours, salt and oregano and stir with a spatula until it comes together. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 3 minutes. You can do it in a standing mixer but you’ll miss out on the pleasure of handling the dough – and a mini upper arm workout. Let it rest for 15 minutes, then knead for another 3 minutes; by then it will be smooth and silky.
1. Divide the dough in two and shape each piece into a ball. Place them on a floured tray, well-spaced apart, cover with a damp tea towel and leave at room temperature for 3-4 hours or in the fridge overnight.
2. To make the onion topping, sweat the onion with the olive oil and a pinch of salt for about 30 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. At the end add the sugar and vinegar and cook them for couple of minutes more until they darken slightly. Set aside to cool.
3. To make the pizza, preheat the oven/grill to the maximum setting with a rack on second position from top. Place a large cast iron pan or flat griddle on the hob to heat up until smoking.
4. On a generously floured surface stretch one ball of dough at a time to a disc roughly the size of the pan (if you chilled the dough, take it out at least 40 minutes before shaping). Place it on a pizza peel or a small rimless baking sheet, with a disc of parchment underneath the dough if you’re worried about sliding it off the peel.
5. Arrange half the mozzarella slices on the dough, scatter basil leaves if using, spoon half the tomato sauce in blotches and sprinkle the sauce with chilli flakes. Spoon half the amount of onions over the sauce, scatter half the capers and olives and finish with parmesan, if using.
6. Transfer the pizza onto the pan or griddle using the peel or the baking sheet, fold the edges gently if the dough is larger than the pan, and immediately transfer to the preheated oven/under the grill.
7. Bake for 5-7 minutes until scorched, bubbly and looking good. Carefully slide it off the pan onto a wooden board and slice.
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