When I was a boy, Mom occasionally treated us all to home-made pizza. She’d make standard pepperoni or sausage pizzas for us kids but Dad’s was a special order. His pizza was called spianata and, unlike our kiddie versions, his was topped with only garlic, onion, rosemary, salt and pepper, resembling a rather plain focaccia. Yet, for so few ingredients, it made a very tasty pizza back then, while Zia and I use it today as a perfect accompaniment for any number of dishes.
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The recipe I’m about to share starts with what is called a “sponge.” Fairly common to many Italian/European breads, it’s a mixture of water, yeast, and flour that’s allowed to rise overnight. The mixture, in a sense, ferments and the resultant bread is more flavorful, almost sourdough-like. (In fact, I often add some of my sourdough starter to the sponge instead of yeast.) Of course, you needn’t start with a sponge but the spianata is so much more flavorful if you do. Once the sponge has “spent the night,” the rest of the recipe is pretty straight-forward and you should have no trouble following it.
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For the sponge
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tsp active yeast
For the spianata
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups flour
For the topping
- 1/2 of a small onion, sliced thin
- 1 clove garlic, sliced thin or grated
- 3 tbsp fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
- olive oil
- coarse salt & pepper
- Proof the yeast in warm water, add to the flour to make the sponge, mix well, cover, and set aside. The sponge should be allowed to rise for at least 8 hours but no more than 20. 12 to 16 hours is usually best, in my experience. When you are ready to proceed, the sponge’s surface should be mottled with bubbles and it should have a strong yeast scent.
- To the sponge, add the flour, 1/4 cup olive oil, and salt. Knead dough for 5 minutes. Dough should not be sticky. If it is, sprinkle with flour and continue kneading until absorbed.
- Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled — from 1 to 2 hours. (If using only sourdough starter, it could take longer.)
- Punch the dough down, turn it onto a floured work surface, cover with a towel, and let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, coat a 9″ x 12″ sheet pan with the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil.
- After resting 15 minutes, place dough onto the pan and use your fingers to begin stretching it to fit the pan. When it covers about 2/3 of the pan, flip the dough over and continue stretching the dough until the entire pan is covered and there’s enough dough to create a ridge around the pan’s edge. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled again, about 1 hour.
- Pre-heat oven to 425*. Place garlic and onion into a small bowl and moisten lightly with olive oil.
- Once doubled, remove towel and, with your fingers, poke the surface of the dough repeatedly. Sprinkle surface with garlic, onion, rosemary, coarse salt & pepper.
- Bake on oven’s center rack for about 25 minutes. The spianata should be lightly browned.
- Allow to cool slightly before cutting and serving.
Like most breads, spianata can be frozen easily. Once it is fully cooled, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and place in your freezer. When you are ready to serve it, place it, still wrapped in foil, in a pre-heated 350* oven for about 25 minutes. Enjoy!
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