This month, our bake is a Sicilian pizza, perfect for those that adore onions. Being a pizza bianco it has no tomato sauce, but it is certainly not lacking in flavor!
There are different versions of Sfincione across Sicily and three are most popular in and around Palermo. Each locality boasts their version is the best. Sfincione Palermitano, a popular street food in Palermo is rectangular in shape. A tomato based sauce and Caciocavallo cheese are used as topping. Sfincione di San Vito has minced meat and spicy salami filling stuffed into the dough. Sfincione Bagharese, made in Bagheria, is round or oval and “bianco” or white with no tomato sauce at all. The topping includes sliced Tuma or Primo Sale and/or Ricotta cheese, Caciocavallo cheese and bread crumbs.
It's basically a focaccia pizza, a regional specialty that changes slightly with locally available ingredients. (Read this as: make it however close you can, with ingredients you can access, and enjoy!)
Notes from the host kitchen:
- The dough uses a mix of all-purpose flour and semolina flour. You can use all all-purpose flour or any choice of your own. Evidently sourdough is not a preferred dough for Sfincione, though an overnight ferment is sometimes used. (I had no semolina, but I did have durum wheat, which is what semolina is ground from... so I ground some up fresh for the semolina portion.)
- The onions are cooked in olive oil till translucent. Sometimes, a little water is added if the onions dry out making it almost like sauce. They are not browned or caramelized, traditionally. They are essentially stewed.
- The breadcrumbs are best made at home from fresh or day old bread, never stale bread. Whether to include the crust is up to you, but traditionally the crumbs are pulled from the interior of a specific type of bread. The amount of bread needed will depend on how large the slices are.
- The amount of cheese used varies widely across the different recipes. Use the recipe below as a guideline and adjust to personal taste and preference.
-Remember that some of the cheeses are salted and season accordingly.
Substitutes for Tuma cheese : PrimoSale, unsalted diced Mozarella, fresh Provoletta (I used a soft and melty fontina, not a strong flavor and not too stringy for my family. It was perfect.)
Substitutes for grated Caciocavallo cheese : grated versions of any of the following - Parmigiano-Reggiano, Provolone, Mozarella or Pecorino. (I used fresh grated parm-reg.)
Substitutes for Ricotta : Cottage cheese or Fresh Goat's cheese. Home-made ricotta is quite easy. Recipe from the host kitchen: I used a mixture of 1 1/2 litres of milk (not full fat) and 200ml of 25% fat cream (it’s what I get here). The cream makes a creamier Ricotta. Bring it almost a boil and add lemon juice (lime in my case). Stir and you can see it curdling. Turn off the heat and keep stirring on and off for about 10 minutes. Pour into a cheesecloth lined strainer. Let it drain for a couple of hours. More and it will become too dry for this bread. You can make this the day before and refrigerate it. (My purchased ricotta was a little bit too creamy and could have used a bit of a drain, or a switch to part skim instead of the whole that I used. I liked it, but the fam prefers less creamy.)
I noticed different orders in the layering of ingredients as well as different shaping. I chose to go with a free form loaf and would recommend shorter times or reduced temp for a baking stone so as to not over bake. As for the order of ingredients, as long as the bread crumbs are on top, it really shouldn't make a whole lot of difference!
I particularly liked this video and modeled my sfincione after what I saw here:
This flavorful specialty is a versatile delight, easily adapted to taste and vegetarian if desired. We would love to see your variations this month and share how it turned
out! New recipes are posted every month on the 16th. Check out our Facebook group
to see the participants' baking results during that time.
makes 2 "pizzas", recipe may be halved
For the Poolish :
150 g plain flour
150 ml water
1 tsp dry active yeast
½ tsp sugar
For the Dough :
All the Poolish from above
150 g all-purpose flour
250 g semolina flour (I used fresh ground durum wheat, sifted)
300 ml water (more or less) (less would have been better for my fresh ground flour, and an overnight rest in the fridge was necessary to have a timely dinner)
30 ml olive oil
15 g salt
For the Onion Layer :
4 to 5 medium sized onions
20 to 30 ml olive oil
Salt to taste
For the Cheese Layer :
10-12 anchovies or sardines in oil (I would use sardines next time, feel free to omit for vegetarian)
300 gm Tuma or Primo Sale cheese, sliced
400 gm Ricotta, sliced
For the Breadcrumbs Layer :
Some chopped scallions/green onions or green shallots (if you can find them)
4-6 slices of fresh bread
100 gm grated Caciocavallo cheese
Salt to taste
Red chilli flakes or crushed pepper to taste
1 tsp dried oregano
20-30 ml olive oil
Also two very well oiled round 23cm trays (or parchment if making free form)
HOW TO MAKE IT :
Mix together the ingredients for the poolish in a medium sized bowl until a sticky dough is obtained. Add more water if necessary to achieve this. Cover loosely and leave to rise for about 2 hours. The poolish should be somewhat bubbly and should have doubled in size.
Make the dough by hand or use a mixer. Mix together the flours, water (more or less as required), oil and the poolish. The dough will be sticky. Add the salt and knead until it is soft, and very pliable and smooth. Shape into a round and place in a bowl greased with olive oil. Cover the bowl loosely and leave to rise until double in volume. Time will vary with kitchen temperature, 1.5-3 hours. (Since I made my dough the night before, I stuck it out to warm up in the morning and it happily sat out all day and still behaved beautifully when I went to use it for dinner!)
Cook the onions. While the dough is rising, get the toppings ready. Heat the oil in a pan and add the sliced onions. Sprinkle a little salt and cook the onions on low to medium heat until they turn translucent and soft. Do not brown or caramelize them. If the onions are too dry, sprinkle a little water while cooking them. Take the pan off heat and let them cool to room temperature.
|These were done after about 15 minutes longer.|
Prepare the breadcrumb mixture. Pulse the bread slices (with or without crusts) in a food processor to make the crumbs. Put the breadcrumbs in a bowl. Mix together with the oil, salt, red chili flakes (or crushed pepper) chopped scallions/ spring onions, oregano and grated cheese. The texture should be that of loose but moist crumbs.
Once the dough has risen, gently deflate it and divide into two equal portions. Press out each portion into a roughly 9-inch circle (or oval) using your fingers. If the dough feels sticky, oil your fingers lightly. Place in the oiled trays. I used parchment for my free form variation. Let the dough rise again, for about an hour till almost double in thickness and quite puffy.
|Beautifully light and airy dough|
Top with anchovy, (make a paste/slurry with the anchovies or sardines and a little olive oil and spread it on the dough), then the cooked onions. Next comes the Ricotta and Tuma/ Primo Sale cheeses. Make sure to cover the surface of the dough evenly. Finish layering by spreading the breadcrumb mixture on the top. (Some recipes call for the cheese before the onions. Whichever you prefer.)
|Fair warning, super creamy ricotta is hard to spread.|
Cut and serve. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.
The rest of the Bread Baking Babes
- Blog from OUR Kitchen – Elizabeth
- Judy’s Gross Eats – Judy
- My Diverse Kitchen - Aparna
- Bread Experience - Cathy
- Thyme for Cooking - Katie
- My Kitchen in Half Cups - Tanna
- Feeding My Enthusiasms - Elle
- Karen's Kitchen Stories - Karen