I made sfincone, which is a type of thick, moist pizza made in Sicily, for a get- together at my friend Alejandra's place this past long weekend. Antonio put together some burgers, since Ale and Nic have a barbeque, using the typical ingredients for meatballs (ground beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, chopped parsley and onions, salt and pepper and some grated pecorino romano) and they turned out great (or so I heard, as some of you might now, I don't eat meat!) We also brought along my home made ice cream, both vanilla bean and rum and raisin flavours, as well as a delicious lentil salad I made with apple and cumin, the recipe for which I found on Chocolate and Zucchini here.
On to the sfincone! I have tried making it twice before, the first time from a recipe I found of the "Palermo" version (which features a double proof, caramalized onions and sauce on top, as well as browned bread crumbs) which turned out very well, and the second time from an improvised recipe that turned out ok but way too thick.
This time I was well prepared: I took the trouble to purchase fresh yeast from Tre Marie Bakery on St. Clair, I had a better pan to use in mind, I had seen my mother- in- law make the dough, and I had her recipe in hand. I implore you to try it since it's even easier and faster to make than pizza, and you can even substitute active dry yeast for the fresh if you don't want to bother.
One more note: for those who think this is some type of 'authentic deep dish pizza' a version of which I tasted in Florida when I was a kid--it's not, but it's much better! Because the dough is so moist, it results in an almost spongy end result, with a very crispy crust nonetheless. The following recipe makes enough for 4 people as a meal, since I actually cut the original recipe in half. If you have enough pans, make double the recipe for amazing leftovers for a few days--it tastes better the day after!
~600 grams of bread flour
~150 grams of semolina flour
~25 grams fresh yeast or just less than 1.5 envelopes of active dry yeast
~750 ml of water at 100 degrees (lukewarm)
~pinch of salt and drizzle of oil
~1 regular sized can of peeled tomotoes, chopped
~fist- sized lump of caciocavallo cheese
~garlic, salt, pepper, chile flakes, oil, oregano, pecorino or other grating cheese
1. In a large bowl, place 1 cup of the lukewarm water, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir to incorporate, add a pinch of sugar and let stand to test it. If there are a few bubbles or other activity, assume the yeast lives...and proceed. (If not, make sure the water wasn't too hot or cold, or that the yeast wasn't old.) Add the flour and mix well, with a wooden spoon then your hands, or with the paddle on a stand mixer. Add the rest of the water (the dough will be wet), and when well mixed, stir in the salt, maybe a teaspoon or two, and about a tablespoon or two of oil. Cover with a cloth and place in a warm place to proof until doubled--less than an hour in a sunny summer window!
2. In a medium saucepan, warm some chile flakes in olive oil and allow some peeled, sliced garlic slices to turn golden, then remove the slices. Add one onion which has been peeled, halved and thinly sliced and saute over medium heat with a pinch of salt until transluscent, then add the tomatoes with their juices and stir well. Cook for about 10 minutes, mashing the pieces with a spoon and adding salt, pepper and oregano to taste. Set aside to cool.
3. Chop the caciocavallo cheese into a small dice and set aside on a plate. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, placing a rack in the lower third with a baking stone or tiles if you have them.
4. Cut parchment paper to the size of your pans, or oil them well and dust with semolina. This recipe made enough for one 13 by 9 inch pan and one round 9 inch. Use your good judgement and whichever pans you have on hand--two smaller rectangular pans would be good, or one huge one. The best material would be dark coloured.
5. Remove the dough from the bowl and place in the pans with your oiled hands, stretching and pushing it to shape. It will shape easily since it is so goopy, and don't be alarmed if it doesn't seem puffy or thick like pizza dough. Cover the top of the sfincone modestly with the sauce (don't overdo it), push the cubes of cheese gently into the top, sprinkle with some oregano and grated cheese and drizzle with oil. Cover and let rest for a few moments before baking. If it doesn't all fit into the oven at once, it's alright to leave one pan out, covered. The sfincone is finished when golden brown and crispy on the sides, between 20 to 50 minutes, depending on pan size. I stick a cake tester or knife in to confirm that the dough is cooked, but it will look slightly moist even when cooked. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before eating--but it is best at room temperature or slightly warmer.
6. Eat with family or friends! Relish the leftovers! E-mail me with questions!