Sicilian pizza = family gatherings. It would not be a family gathering without including the Sicilian pizza, especially through the holidays. My mom would bake sheet after sheet pan of pizza to serve our hungry family, uncles, aunts and cousins. Grabbing squares of pizza, it didn’t matter if they were hot or at room temp or even leftover cold straight from the fridge! Way back then, I never knew there were round pizzas! The round ones came from the pizza restaurants, and we never ordered a pizza!
I rarely bake the thick crust pizza. My favorite is the thin crust, as in my Napoletana Pizza I make every Friday evening. But when I drift back down memory lane as I was this morning, thinking of Christmas past, there was no other pizza in my life than the thick, square cut Sicilian pizza.
Within minutes of this memory, I grabbed my mom’s well worn, handwritten recipe book and gently flipped through the pages, now barely attached, to find her recipe. As I browsed through the pages, each recipe brings forth a memory, a scene from the dining table, gathering of family, comfort and warmth within our home.
Notice the fork marks? That was my job when my mom made the dough, and only could I be allowed to prick the dough if I did not get carried way. As she was always the perfectionist, never too many, never too little, never too deep, just enough. (See Gina, it runs in the family and now you know why I’m always over your shoulder when we cook together!!)
My mom would make the dough, and for holidays when she was expecting a lot of company, she would freeze several right on the baking sheets. Always for my Uncle Joe, she would make one white pizza, no sauce, just mozzarella, for him. We kids all knew not to touch his pizza! For the rest she either used sausage, pepperoni or just plain mozzarella. For this pizza, I topped it with onions which were lightly caramelized in….anchovies! Yep, secret is out, but my son, who never reads my post, will never know or question it. I use the oil from the anchovies and while they cook, the anchovies disappear leaving only their punch of flavor that many people can’t quite figure out.
Sicilian Pizza Dough
from mom, with love
1 envelope quick rise active yeast (she used the cake yeast, which becomes active quicker, therefore I used the quick rise)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 cup warm water, about 110 degrees
3 tablespoon olive oil (I like to use a garlic flavored olive oil)
1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 1/2 – 4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water in a large mixing bowl or stand up mixer with the dough hook. Proof until foamy, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the salt, oil and 2 cups of flour. Mix well and slowly add in the additional flour. Continue in the mixer with the dough hook or knead by hand on a well floured board until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a oiled bowl and cover until doubled about 1 hour for the quick rise yeast, 2 hours for regular. Punch down and form into a 12 x 17 inch pan, that was lightly oiled. Dimple the crust with your fingertips as you form into the pan and carefully prick carefully with a fork. (The fork pricking is to prevent the crust from bubbling up.) If the dough is resistant to reach the corner, allow it to rest a few minutes and try again. Cover pan with a towel and rest for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees during this resting period so the oven is very hot. Add toppings of your choice, always to remember less is better. Place the baking sheet on the lower rack in the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes, until the crust is crispy and lightly browned.
I love being in the kitchen. Early mornings, soft music, a hot espresso. Easing into the preparation of delicious meals. Glancing through cookbooks, gathering inspiration and planning my day. I look forward to the cycles of the seasons, the pleasures of tasting and savoring and sharing this with those dear to me. Weekends are special to me as my week days are often rushed, but still I create the ambiance, light the candles, set the table and uncork the wine.