Sicilian Style Slab Pizza
Regular readers of Stephencooks know that when I make pizza I favor a California-style pie, with a chewy crust and exotic toppings, but recently I've fallen in love with a different style of pizza. Baker Stephen Lanzalotta, in his little bakery tucked in the back of Micucci's grocery store here in Portland, has opened my eyes to the joy of Sicilian-style pizza. It's made with a light, airy dough and a simple tomato and mozzarella topping and it has taken Portland by storm.
Lanzalotta and his daughter can only produce a few trays at a time, so pretty much every time fresh slices (called "slabs" locally) are put out on their rack in the bakery there's a line of customers waiting eagerly for their not-so-little piece of heaven.
This recipe is not the equal of Lanzalotta's slab but rather is inspired by the slab. For one thing, I'm working with a consumer-style oven capable of maybe 550º – Lanzalotta's pizza oven surely operates at over 800º and this makes a big difference.
That said, I've very pleased with the results of this attempt. While the crust is a bit spongier and not as dry as Lanzalotta's it's reasonably light and has a satisfactorily crunchy bottom. The simple tomato and mozzarella topping is sweet and tasty, and much closer to the original Italian idea of pizza (basically, a flat bread – focaccia – with some olive oil and maybe some herbs smeared on) when compared to most of the pizzas I've made over the years.
Of course, this is a dish I make primarily for the pleasure of friends and family, since I have to control my carbohydrate intake to keep my blood glucose level in check, and unfortunately this pizza has around 40 grams of carbohydrates per serving. That's about twice the amount I usually go for at a single meal. I don't deprive myself entirely, however: a half serving of this pizza plus a nice green salad makes a perfect supper, with a reasonable level of carbs and calories.
Sicilian-Style Slab PizzaMakes a single pie 11" x 17" – yield: 8 pieces, each about 4 1/4" x 5 1/2"
For the crust:
- 2 3/4 cups bread flour + about 1/4 cup for the pan (Steps 6 and 7)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast, such as SAF
- 2 cups + 2 tablespoons warm water (about 110º)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
For the topping:
- 1 can (15 ounces) Italian whole peeled plum tomatoes
- 1 medium fresh tomato, peeled, cut in quarters
- 1 tablespoon Romano cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1. Place 2 3/4 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast in the bowl of a heavy duty mixer and stir with a spoon to combine.
2. Add the warm water, stirring to mix. Dough will be very wet, more like a batter.
3. Knead with the dough hook 8 minutes at medium speed.
4. Add the olive oil and knead 2 more minutes with the hook.
5. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a draft-free location for 90 minutes.
6. Prepare an 11" x 17" jelly roll pan with cooking spray, then flour the pan lightly.
7. Turn the dough out into the pan. The dough will be very wet and sticky. Using the back of a floured wooden spoon, gently pat out the dough to fill the pan evenly. Sprinkle on a little more flour so the dough won't stick to a covering clean cloth. Allow to rise another 90 minutes.
8. Place the canned and fresh tomatoes in the food processor bowl. Pulse briefly to crush. (Do not overprocess!) Transfer tomatoes to a sieve and drain the juice. Set aside juice for another use.
9. Add the cheese, sugar, salt and oregano to the tomatoes and stir to combine. Correct seasoning.
10. Preheat the oven to 400º. Place an ovenproof skillet or baking dish, filled about 1 1/2" deep with water, on a lower shelf in the oven.
11. When the second rising is complete, remove the cloth and gently press deep dimples into the dough with your fingers at intervals of about 2" before placing in the oven. Bake about 10 minutes.
12. Spread the tomato mixture over the pizza and scatter on the sliced mozzarella. Return to the oven and bake another 20 minutes or so, until the crust has turned a light golden brown and the cheese is melted and starting to brown.
Cut into 8 rectanglular portions and serve immediately.
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