Wild Sfincione Bagherese(ish) (BBB February 2022)

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BBB: Let's Keep Baking summary: recipe for Wild Sfincione Bagherese; more rabbit holes; making substitutions; a great use for day-old bread; BBBabes’ 14th anniversary (!); information about Bread Baking Babes;

When the Romans took over [from 211 BCE to 440 CE], they brought wheat, corn, and other grains, and turned Sicily’s fertile soil into “the Granary of the Roman Empire.” Soon after, the Sicilians started baking bread, and the island still produces some of the best bread in Italy.

BBB February 2022

Bread Baking Babes (BBB): Sfincione Bagherese

Whoohoooo!! It’s a miracle. Not only am I present this month, but I’m on time!

To celebrate the BBBabes’ 14th anniversary, Aparna (My Diverse Kitchen) chose this month’s project. That’s right; we’ve been baking together for fourteen years!

She decided that we would virtually travel to Sicily to make the pizza-like recipe for sfincione that doesn’t contain tomatoes.

I looked through the cookbooks in our kitchen to see if any of them mentioned sfincione. “Savoring Italy”, filled with Robert Freson’s gorgeous photographs, didn’t – even though there is a chapter on Sicily/Sardinia. But two of the other cookbooks did!

For more than 2,500 years, contrast and diversity have found an enduring home in Sicily. In its strategic position between Europe and Africa, Sicily was one of the great melting pots of the ancient world, home at one time to every great civilization in the Mediterranean: Greek and Roman, Arab and Norman, and finally French, Spanish, and Italian. […] Something of all of these peoples has been absorbed in the rich tapestry that makes up Sicilian life: its customs, its language, and its food. […] Sicily attracted Greek pirates as early as the fifth century B.C., and they brought with them the olive tree and the grapevine. When the Romans took over [from 211 BCE to 440 CE], they brought wheat, corn, and other grains, and turned Sicily’s fertile soil into “the Granary of the Roman Empire.” Soon after, the Sicilians started baking bread, and the island still produces some of the best bread in Italy.

– Louis Inturrisi, ‘IX. Sicily/Sardinia’, Savoring Italy, p.223
Sfinciuni is the quintessential pizza of Palermo. […] People pick up a slice or two at bakeries or fast-food shops to eat as they walk around the city, and sometimes there are even vendors in the side squares selling sfinciuni right off their carts.

– Carol Field, ‘Sfinciuni alla Palermitana’, The Italian Baker, p.285
Sfincione is a specialty from Palermo, not unlike a regular focaccia but thicker and possibly lighter. It is found at varous stalls in the city

– Anissa Helou, ‘Sicilian Focaccia – Sfincione‘, Mediterranean Street Food, p.79

But both of those recipes call for tomatoes, because both are for Sfincione from Palermo. But this month, the BBBabes are making Sfincione from Bagheria….

      The sfincione is simple food. Originally, it was bread dough with olive oil, salt and sometimes cheese. It goes back in time to before the Greeks controlled Sicily. The sfincione was plain bread that working people would take to work for lunch. […] In the province of Palermo, there are three popular types of sfincione: Palermo Style, Bagheria style and Sfincione Saint Vito.
Because of the few and simple ingredients used, the Bagheria Style is considered the sfincione most similar to the original recipe. […] The basic ingredients of the original sfincione were sautéed onions, Caciocavallo cheese, anchovies, oregano and breadcrumbs. Tomato was added when, in the late XVI century, it was introduced from America.

– Sicilian Cooking Plus | Sicilian Cooking Plus | Introduction to Sfincione Sfincione Palermitano, Bagheria Style, San Vito Sfinciuni
Nowadays, [sfincione is] topped with tomato sauce, but the original version was complete with anchovies, sliced tuma (Sicilian cheese made from raw sheep’s milk), breadcrumbs with grated pecorino cheese, onions, salt, and extra-virgin olive oil. It originated in Bagheria, a town in the commune of Palermo that’s around six miles from the city center. […] Bagheria holds an annual Sfincione Festival for two days during the third week of November

– Salvatore Spatafora, La Cucina Italiana | Sfincione – The Original Sicilian-Style Pizza
[Sfincione Bagherese] is dressed simply with olive oil, anchovies, and fresh pecorino or primosale, which is a fresh cheese in a basket. What makes it different is that it does not have tomato and because of the special type of breadcrumbs that are used.

– Sicilian Cooking Plus | Sfincione Bagheria Style Sfincione Bagherese

Here’s what I did to make the BBBabes’ February 2022 recipe:

BBB Sfincione Bagherese diary:

12 January 2022, 13:16 How cool to have a recipe using breadcrumbs!

6 February 2022, 11:21 There are so many new things (for me) in this recipe. Ah!! But this is a good thing: Adoro le tane del coniglio! I started with Carol Field, simply because my first serious bread book was her wonderful cookbook, “The Italian Baker”.

In her recipe for sfinciune, she calls for using “plain, fresh bread crumbs”. In her equally wonderful cookbook, “Mediterranean Street Food”, Anissa Helou calls for “fine bread crumbs” in her recipe for sfincione. Surprisingly, there isn’t even mention of sfincione in Robert Freson’s beautifully photographed book, “Savoring Italy” (but there is a very intriguing recipe for Sardinian Carta Musica in the Sicily/Sardinia chapter… but no no no no, I mustn’t allow myself to go down that rabbit hole today). Which brought me to the end of the books in our house.

Although… is it possible that our many back issues of SAVEUR talk about sfincione? Maybe. (What a shame that the SAVEUR website has a less than friendly search engine.)

Anyway, still on the breadcrumb theme, onto the internet I went, starting first at the Internet Archive Library to find Carol Field’s cookbook, “In Nonna’s Kitchen”. The recipe for sfincione is Palermo style and calls for “soft bread crumbs”:

People in Partinico love this sfincione, the Sicilian version of a fat focaccia in which a topping of cheese and crunchy bread crumbs plays against tangy anchovies and a sweet tomato sauce. […] In making the sfincione, Giovanna Passannanti is careful to use soft bread crumbs made with bread from which the crust has been removed, not fine dry crumbs grated from stale bread. […]
TIP: Giovanna Passannanti washes salted anchovies and sardines with vinegar to rid them of their smell.
– Carol Field, ‘Sfincione’, In Nonna’s Kitchen, p.112, 113

And then I wandered into the warrens that had information about the cheese for making sfincione….

What is Caciocavallo?
An Italian cheese with a straw-colored smooth rind is hand molded into gourd shapes. The cheese is ripened for at least 3 month. Caciocavallo dates back to Roman times. The cheeses are traditionally hung in pairs which resembles saddlebags. The name, translated means “Cheese on horseback”.
Substitute for Caciocavallo: Parmigiano Reggiano
– Gourmet Sleuth | Caciovavallo
Caciocavallo originates from Southern Italy and is a traditional, stretched curd cheese made from cow or ewes milk and currently even buffalo milk. It is stretched into a natural gourd or teardrop shape with a knot at the top so that it can be tied at the thin end with a cord to hang.
– New England Cheese Making Supply Co. | Caciocavallo Recipe
Provolone is one of the best substitutes for caciocavallo
– Viccie, Miss Vickie | 5 Best Caciocavallo Substitutes (Alternatives To Caciocavallo)

While still deep in an underground tunnels, I came across a blog post about Stanley Tucci’s TV series “Searching for Italy”. (We are in the middle of watching it now; it is excellent.)

[W]hen I saw the promotional spot for Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy show that premiers in February, I said, “Wait, that’s the Mother Church in Bagheria!” […] My guess is, Tucci visited town to taste its outstanding sfincione
– Allison Scola, Experience Sicily | Recognizing Sicily
Stanley Tucci recently closed his CNN series “Searching for Italy” with an episode on Sicily where he proclaimed that the scrumptious arancini sold on that ferry are a “cannot-miss local specialty.” However, arancini are just one of the many scrumptious Sicilian delights sold in cafes, push carts, bakeries, bars and food stalls all across the island […] A food tour of Palermo cannot be complete without the sfincione. […] There is also a variant typical of the town of Bagheria called “Sfincione bianco” (white sfincione) because it is made with tuma (or fresh ricotta cheese) and breadcrumbs instead of tomato sauce.
– Dr. Alberto Lunetta, issuu: The Signature | A Street Food Tour of Palermo

7 February 2022, 16:30 Continuing the search through the internet for what exactly is “tuma”…

Aha!! Apparently it is a young pasteurized sheep’s milk cheese. So. We will use mozzarella. And to add the sheepy taste, the hard cheese will be peccorino.

11 February 2022, 11:19 We decided we would have Sfincione with lentil soup for tomorrow’s dinner. Then I asked if we had enough milk to make ricotta.

Oh oh. Independently (when I was deep underground in the rabbit holes), T had looked at several internet recipes for Sfincione – without realizing we are make Sfincione Bagherese! He said that NONE of the recipes he looked at used ricotta! He had even made sure we had a tin of tomatoes to make the tomato sauce….

Happily, after some cajoling and a promise to make Sfinciuni alla Palermitana next time (along with the argument that it would be cool to follow a topping recipe so ancient that it doesn’t include tomatoes – which, of course, were not introduced to Italy until the 16th century), T got really excited and raced into the kitchen to make ricotta. To be in keeping with Cucina Povera and “using everything”, he is going to use the squeezed out whey in the soup.

23:29 Yikes!!! I just remembered that I have to build up our Jane Mason starter!

I understand that sourdough is not a preferred dough for Sfincione
– Aparna, in message to BBBabes

I know. Apparently sourdough is NOT preferred. But really, did 16th century (or indeed 17th, 18th, and 19th century) people in Bagheria have access to commercial yeast? Doubt it, Ralph.

11 February 2022, 09:55 The starter looks lovely, but I’m going to feed it anyway. We have been making the most wonderful bread-stamped naan in the past week or so, and have found that re-feeding the starter in the morning and then mixing the dough at around noon makes for perfect bread.

This dough uses a mix of all-purpose flour and semolina flour. You can use all all-purpose flour or any choice of your own.
– Aparna, in message to BBBabes

After some more discussion, T and I nixed the use of semolina flour. We know that our wild dough for pizza – using 100% whole wheat and unbleached all-purpose flours – turns out beautifully. Maybe T won’t mind if I steal a little of the whey from making the ricotta.

12:47 T nixed me using the whey from the ricotta. He is worried that it might mean the dough won’t rise properly. And considering how badly both of us act if “dinner. is. wrong.”, it makes sense to let him use that whey in the soup.

Because I am a disobedient BBBabe, and refusing to use commercial yeast, I am following our wild pizza dough recipe. (I’m so surprised that I’ve never actually posted the recipe that I scrawled down in a little folder on the counter.)

19:20 Putting everything together was fun. We really liked that the ricotta was not only sliceable but that the slices held together!

BBB Sfincione Toppings
BBB Sfincione Breadcrumb Topping
BBB Sfincione Bagherese

And at the last minute, we decided NOT to use a pan and to bake the sfincione directly on our pre-heated bread stone.

20:03 It looks beautiful! It smells wonderful!! I cannot wait.

We were certain that the sfincione was cooked through, with some of the cheese beautifully caramelized (that red colour is NOT tomato sauce), but when we cut it open, we could see that the center of the crust was still a little gummy. :stomp: :stomp:

BBB February 2022

It was delicious though, with just a hint of anchovy from time to time. (I’m really glad we decided to use fewer anchovies….)

BBB February 2022

We had plenty of lentil soup left over, so that’s what we had for breakfast the next day. To re-heat the sfincione slices, we cut the tips off and started them sooner in the toaster oven.

Sfincione Bagherese

Perfection!!

Therefore, next time we will be sure not to put too much topping in the center.

Also, we have decided that as fun as the addition of anchovy is, we will probably omit it from now on. (Please don’t tell the Sfincione Bagheria Police!)

Thank you, Aparna! This recipe is a keeper!
(But maybe without the anchovies.)
:stomp: :stomp:

Here is the February 2022 14th anniversary BBB recipe that we were given. And here is what I did to it:

Wild Sfincione Bagherese(ish)
loosely based on Aparna’s BBB February 2022 recipe for Sfincione Bagherese

[Sfincione] is an ancient recipe that sees as a key ingredient the pizza bread (soft and leavened, similar to a sponge) with a sauce based on tomato, onion, anchovies, oregano and pieces of typical Sicilian cheese (called Ragusano caciocavallo). […] There is also a white variant, typical of the town of Bagheria (PA), and which takes the name of Sfincione bianco as it provides, in place of the tomato sauce, the addition of tuma (or fresh ricotta) and breadcrumbs. – Guido Bissanti, Un Mondo Ecosostenibile | Sfincione

makes one round flatbread

Topping:

  • ricotta, made from 1 litre milk (drained and sliced)
  • good splash extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 anchovies, from a jar of oil-cured anchovies (more or less; or to taste)
  • 1 large onion, cut in half-moons and sliced thinly
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • good shot of fresh bread crumbs
  • good shot of pecorino, grated
  • oregano, to taste (optional) [ooops! We forgot.]
  • chile flakes, to taste (optional) [ooops! We forgot.]

(The following ingredients are also used to make our wild pizza dough.)

Leavener

  • 50 grams 100% whole wheat “no additives” flour, divided
  • 50 grams water, divided
  • ~15 grams Jane Mason whole wheat starter from the fridge

Dough

  • flour
    » 245 grams unbleached (no additives) all purpose flour
    » 5 grams wheat germ
  • 146 grams water
  • 10 grams whey from drained yoghurt
  • good splash (c. 1 Tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil
  • all of the leavener
  • 5 grams seasalt + 5 grams water

Final Topping:

  • grated pecorino
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Ricotta On the day before making sfincione, make the ricotta. Place it in several layers of cheesecloth and tie it at the top to hang and drain above a bowl. (Reserve the whey for cooking lentils.) Once the ricotta is firm, place it in a bowl and refrigerate it overnight.
  2. Leavener Late in the evening on the day before you will be making sfincione, put a spoonful (about 15 grams) of culture from the fridge into a small bowl. Stir in 50 grams water and 50 grams whole wheat flour. Cover with a plate and put into the oven turn the oven light on (if the night temperatures are warm, put into the cold oven) to leave overnight.
  3. Leavener, continued In the morning of the day you will be making sfincione, particularly if the weather is warm, stir 10 grams water and 10 grams whole wheat flour into the bowl from the previous night. Cover with a plate and leave until about noon.
  4. Actual Dough Around noon on the day you will be making sfincione, check to see if the leavener floats in a small bowl of cool water. If the leavener is domed but it doesn’t float, wait for 30 minutes or so and try again. If the leavener is bubbly but flat or concave on the surface, stir in about 5 grams each of whole wheat flour and water. Cover with a plate and leave it on the counter out of draughts. Check again again for floating about 20-30 minutes later. It will probably float. Proceed with making the actual dough.
    • Using a bowl that is large enough for the dough to triple, sift the all-purpose flour into the bowl (why sift?? The bag that the flour comes in is sealed with an inferior glue. Sometimes bits of hardened glue slip into the flour). Whisk in wheat germ.
    • Add 146 grams water, 10 grams whey from drained yoghurt, all of the leavener, and the olive oil. Using a dough whisk or wooden spoon, stir just enough to mix it together. Cover with a plate and leave on counter for about 30 minutes.
  5. Adding the salt and kneading: Use one of your hands to squoosh the salt and 5 grams of water (whisk the salt and water together first) into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl – this way you always have a clean hand. At first the dough might be a bit messy and seem like it’s coming apart. Persevere. Suddenly, it will seem more like dough than separated glop. Keep folding it over onto itself until it is relatively smooth.
  6. Stretching and folding Turn the bowl as fold and re-fold the dough into the center until the dough is smooth. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave in the oven with only the light turned on for about 30 minutes.
  7. Stretching and folding again: Repeat the folding step at least one more time after 30 minutes or so.
  8. Prepare the toppings: While the dough is rising,
    • Cheese: Thinly slice the ricotta and mozzarella and place on a plate; set aside. Grate the hard cheeses into a bowl and set aside.
    • Onions and Anchovies: Put a stainless steel frying pan over medium heat and pour in a splash of olive oil. When the oil is heated, add the anchovies, stirring them with a wooden spoon to break them up. When they have pretty much dissolved, add the sliced onions and slow-cook them until they are translucent and soft. It’s okay if they take on a tiny bit of colour, but the goal is to refrain from browning or caramelising. You want the onions to retain their sweetness. Aparna adds: “If they turn too dry, sprinkle a little water while cooking them“. When the onions are done, remove from the heat and set aside to allow to cool to room temperature.
    • Breadcrumbs: Put fresh bread into a food processor (we use our Magic Bullet) to make crumbs. The BBB recipe says to cut of the crusts. We didn’t bother…. Once the bread is crumbs, put them into a bowl. Mix together with olive oil, salt, the grated cheese, green onions, and if you are smarter than the average bear, remember to add the dried oregano and chili flakes. Aparna adds: “The texture should be of loose but moist crumbs”.
  9. Preheat the oven: When the dough has almost doubled, turn the oven to 450F, making sure the bread stone is on the center rack. It takes our oven about 30 minutes to preheat fully….
  10. Shaping and Topping:
    • When the oven has almost finished preheating, turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured board. Using your fingertips, flatten and stretch the dough into a disc that is 40cm or so in diameter.
    • Lightly flour a pizza peel (use semolina or rice flour if you’re really worried about sticking. Alternatively, you can lay a piece of parchment paper onto the peel). Transfer the dough disc to the peel.
    • Arrange the sliced ricotta in a single layer on the dough disc. Add sliced mozzarella. Try to keep the center of the disc from being overloaded with topping.
    • Spoon the onion mixture on top of the cheeses, again keeping the topping thinner in the area near the center of the dough.
    • Evenly spread the bread crumb mixture over the onions. You might want to use your hands to gently spread the crumbs.
  11. Baking: Make sure the oven is thoroughly preheated before proceeding.
    • Using the pizza peel, transfer the fully loaded sfincione onto the hot stone in the oven.
    • Bake for about 30 minutes until the outer crust is golden brown and the onions are gently bubbling up through the bread crumbs. Err on the side of caution. If the top looks really done, turn the heat down a little to make sure the bottom crust is fully baked.
  12. Final Topping and Cooling: Use the pizza peel to remove from the oven. Scatter grated pecorino overtop. Drizzle a small amount of good quality olive oil on the outer crust. Then allow the sfincione to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing with a pizza wheel.

Apparently, in Sicily, sfincione is sold by street vendors as a snack. But, sfincione is also delicious served with lentil soup and a watercress salad for dinner.

Apparently sfincione can be served at room temperature. But it is doubtful that room temperature in Sicicly is 15C…. After reheating leftover sfincione, add a little more grated pecorino and a little more drizzled olive oil on the crust.

Notes:

:: Onions: Many of the Italian language recipes for sfincione called for “Cipolla ramata di Montoro” or “Cipolla dorate”. These are translated as “copper onions” or “golden onions” and are apparently very sweet. One recipe called for “cipolle bianche” (white onions). We guessed that the white Spanish onion might be closest in flavour. But because of the cold and too much snow on the road for bicycling to various markets, we ended up use plain old cooking onions.

:: Cheese: Virtually all of the Italian sfincione online recipes, as well as several English ones, call for Tuma or Primo Sale, and Caciocavallo cheeses. Many also call for sliced Ricotta; almost all of them specify that the cheeses are made from sheep’s milk. Largely because of winter AND Covid-19 restrictions, we used what was in our fridge: freshly made ricotta made from cow’s milk, mozarella (cow’s milk), and a mixture of grated Portuguese São Jorge cheese (cow’s milk) and Italian pecorino (sheep’s milk). Apparently, provolone is a good substitute for Caciocavallo. (If we had had provolone in the fridge, we may have used it.)

Substitutes for Tuma cheese : Primo Sale, unsalted diced Mozarella, fresh Provoletta
Substitutes for grated Caciocavallo cheese : grated versions of any of the following – Parmigiano-
Reggiano, Provolone, Mozarella or Pecorino.
Substitutes for Ricotta : Cottage cheese or Fresh Goat’s cheese.
– Aparna, in message to BBBabes

:: Breadcrumbs: Please note that all the recipes we looked at called for fresh breadcrumbs – NEVER dried or toasted.
The breadcrumbs are not made from dry bread but of the inside of a particular bread called pane for sfincione. This bread has to be purchased a few days ahead of time in order to be able to hand-break it into crumbs that, when mixed with grated pecorino, oregano, chopped scallions and oil, give this delicious finger food an unusual look and a special taste.
– Sicilian Cooking Plus | Sfincione Bagheria Style

:: Anchovies: The BBB recipe calls for “10 to 12 anchovies in oil”. We made executive decision to use fewer anchovies. We were glad. Next time we will likely use even less. If any at all….

:: Oregano and chile flakes: The BBB recipe calls for “Red chilli flakes or crushed pepper to taste”
and “1 tsp dried oregano”. We simply forgot to add them. Next time we will include them, but frankly, even without their addition, the sfincione was delicious.

:: Leavener: The BBB recipe, as well as virtually all the recipes we saw in various cookbooks and on the internet, calls for commercial yeast. But, of course, wild yeast works just as well. Our wild starter is a 100% hydration, liquid levain. It takes about 5 days to create. (Please see our take on Jane Mason’s Natural Starter made with Wheat Flour.)

:: leavener and the float test: In the summer, our leavener can be quite active. We find that with the extra warmth in the kitchen, dough made with it tends to rise very quickly. Therefore, we feed it late at night and again in the morning.

Many people state categorically that the float test is unreliable, useless, and/or “bogus”. I have been tricked when merely looking at our starter – it appears to have doubled and be quite aerated. But it does NOT float. I feed it with a small amount of flour and check it about an hour or so later. The starter then has a slightly domed shape and DOES pass the float test, indicating that it is at its peak.

Here are three reasons that I am a diehard float tester:
1.) “[It] might be the case that your starter is rising, but you’re not there to see it. If you feed at night, it might be rising up while you’re asleep, and by morning it has fallen again, so it looks the same.” [– Donna Currie, Serious Eats | Sourdough Starter Frequently Asked Questions]
2.) “The best time to mix your starter into your dough is when it’s achieved its maximum rise and is just starting to fall, because that’s when the yeast activity is going to be at its maximum.” [– the Regular Chef, YouTube: 5 Ways To Get A Better Oven Spring | Sourdough Bread Tips]
3.) “The most reliable indication that your leaven is ready is if it floats in water, a result of the carbon dioxide gas produced by wild yeast activity. To test the readiness of your leaven, drop a spoonful of it into a bowl of moderate room-temperature water. If it sinks, it is not ready to use and needs more time to ferment and ripen. You can expedite the fermentation by putting the leaven in a warm place and checking again after half an hour. Or you can [feed] the leaven […] [to give] it fresh resources to ferment and ripen. Let the new mixture ferment until it passes the float test.” [- Chad Robertson, Tartine Bread, p45-47]

Of course, I am in complete awe of all the intuitive sourdough bakers out there who are producing brilliant bread after brilliant bread without doing the float test. But for me, it is an important step to ensure that our bread rises rather than becoming a doorstop destined for immediately becoming bread crumbs. Or worse, compost.

:: Pan or Baking Stone: The BBB recipe calls for baking the sfincione in an oiled rimmed pan, but Aparna also mentioned that it is typically “baked free form or in something similar to a pizza pan with a raised side”. We decided to bake our sfincione free form on a pre-heated stone.
Bake the Sfincione at 250C (480F) on the nbottom shelf of the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes. The
underneath of the bread should become golden and crisp. Then move the pan to the middle shelf of the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or so, until it is crisp and golden brown on the top as well.
-BBB February 2022 recipe

:: Baking Temperature and Time: Please remember that our oven is different from yours, so the baking time and temperature may need to be different. Also, be careful to dress the center of the sfincione more lightly than the outer edges so that the center part of the crust bakes through fully.
Most domestic ovens, whether gas, electric, fan assisted or solid fuel, will bake bread quite adequately. But, not surprisingly, some are better than others. […] [T]he temperature in the oven may have to fall by as much as 30°C before the thermostat calls for renewed heat, so the item being baked is subjected to a constantly oscillating temperature. […] The knobs and dials on domestic ovens are notoriously unreliable. Even where they indicate a precipe temperature rather than a rough guide or a regulo number, you should regard the setting as approximate. […] [A]ll that is really required is to know what setting gives a cool, moderate or hot oven. […] [I]f you understand roughly what heat a loaf requires (e.g. pretty hot for a big, wet, rye sourdough, moderate for an enriched sweet bread), you won’t go far wrong
– Andrew Whitley, Bread Matters, Chapter three: Taking Control

 

» Tasting Table: Flour Guide – Everything you need to know about types of flour

BBB February 2022

Bread Baking Babes BBB: Let's Keep BakingSfincione Bagherese

Aparna is hosting February 2022’s Bread Baking Babes’ 14th anniversary project. She wrote:

      Let me start by wishing us all “A very happy bread-anniversary to you all. Here’s to many more years of baking bread and discovering exciting new recipes.
That said, it’s not easy coming up with something different to bake here, especially after 14 years! After much searching I settled on a simple savoury and delicious bread from Sicily called Sfincione Bagarese or Sfincione Bianco di Bagheria (also Spinchiuni Bianco). A lot of people refer to Sfinchione as a Sicilian pizza, but it is less pizza and more focaccia but thicker. I hope you all enjoy making and eating it. […] Sfincione Bagarese, 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.

– Aparna, in message to BBBabes

We know you’ll want to make Sfincione Bagherese too!

To receive a Bread Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make the topped flatbread in the next couple of weeks and post about them (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 28 February 2022. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to contact the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.

Please note that it’s not enough to post about your bread in the Facebook group. Because of the ephemeral nature of Facebook’s posts, your FB post may be lost in the shuffle. Please make sure to directly contact the kitchen of the month if you want to be included in the BBBuddy roundup.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ February 2022 sfincione:

 

Lo sfincione bagherese è una variante del classico sfincione palermitano: più Alto, più Croccante, rigorosamente in Bianco e condito con Cipolle, Acciughe, Tuma e Ricotta. Viene preparato in Teglie Rotonde (a differenza di quello palermitano che è di forma Rettangolare) ed esiste nella Variante con Ricotta e Senza. Per chi non lo sapesse, Bagheria è un comune a pochi chilometri da Palermo e questo ha forse alimentato la rivalità tra queste 2 specialità gastronomiche. Negli ultimi anni, comunque, questi dissapori sembrano essersi appianati e le 2 varianti coesistono in tutta la loro tracotante bontà!
La Ricetta dello Sfincione bagherese è abbastanza Facile […] e anche voi preparerete uno sfincione bagherese Strepitoso, già dalla prima volta! Vi assicuro che non riuscirete a credere ai vostri occhi, anzi alle vostre papille! [Sfincione bagherese is a variant of the classic Palermo sfincione: higher, more crunchy, strictly White and seasoned with Onions, Anchovies, Tuma and Ricotta. It is prepared in round trays (unlike the Palermo one which is rectangular in shape) and exists in the variant with ricotta and without. For the uninitiated, Bagheria is a town a few kilometers from Palermo and this has perhaps fueled the rivalry between these 2 gastronomic specialties. In recent years, however, these disagreements seem to have smoothed out and the 2 variants coexist in all their arrogant goodness! The Bagherese Sfincione Recipe is quite easy […] and you too will prepare an amazing bagherese sfincione, right from the first time! I assure you that you will not be able to believe your eyes, indeed your taste buds!]

– Maria Bonaccorso, Il Cuore in Pentola, Sfincione bagherese

7 responses to “Wild Sfincione Bagherese(ish) (BBB February 2022)

  1. Karen (Karen's Kitchen Stories)

    Looks amazing. I’m definitely going “free form” next time! I think leaving out the semolina also produces an airier crust.

    edit 16 February 2022, 17:08: We’re so glad we baked it free-form. As for the semolina, I wonder if Sicilians add it because their flour is milled from soft rather than hard wheat (at least that’s what I think I read when I was deep down in the rabbit holes). So perhaps the semolina would add that extra protein (gluten) content. I could be wrong wrong wrong though. It’s happened a couple of times before. :-) – Elizabeth

    Reply
  2. Kelly (A Messy Kitchen)

    I wish my ricotta had been sliceable! I think I might try the original sardines rather than the anchovies. I remember liking sardines as a child but the brand of anchovies I got were tough as leather which I think is very wrong. And STRONGLY fishy. I should have just gotten anchovy paste. I definitely was looking at that caramelized cheese and thinking it was tomato! With you pizza dough, ours look very similar. :D

    edit 16 February 2022, 17:02: Were your anchovies oil-cured, Kelly? The ones we have come in a jar, rather than a tin. The jarred ones are generally WAY less fishy than the tinned ones, and nice and soft. Having said that, they were still a bit fishy. But not nearly as fishy as sardines! We might (“might”, mind you…) try using sardines in the summer when we’re baking outdoors. The last time we cooked sardines indoors, the kitchen reeked of unpleasantly fishy sardines for hours.
     
    You’re right! Our sfincione DO look similar! I think it must have been the free-form baking, because our pizza dough is not at all far off from our focaccia dough.
     
    – Elizabeth

    Reply
  3. Cathy (Bread Experience)

    Your freeform loaf looks so good! And sourdough to boot! How clever. I didn’t know sliced ricotta was a thing. Definitely need to try that and the freeform style next time.

    edit 17 February 2022, 09:31: Thank you, Cathy! Until I saw T slicing it, I had no idea that ricotta was sliceable either! Then, when it was sliced, we were surprised that the slices held together. Apparently if the ricotta is left to dry too much, the slices break apart. But ours didn’t. Yay. I don’t know if it would be possible to do the same thing with commercially made ricotta though. But maybe, if it was wrapped in a cheesecloth and left to hang for several hours to drain, it would work. – Elizabeth

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  4. barbara

    Oh my, that looks/sounds fab. Although “ricotta” gives me a bit of pause.

    edit 17 February 2022, 09:25: It was fab, Barbara. It was. And because the ricotta is completely squeezed out – ie: no mushiness at all, I think even you wouldn’t notice it. – Elizabeth

    Reply
  5. Tanna (MyKitchenInHalfCups.com)

    Sliced ricotta – never heard or seen such a thing. Live and learn.
    I realize now I’ve got to try one with sardines and one with anchovy!
    AND I must do the next free form. I’m surprised the free form didn’t quite get done in the middle. I though mine could have bake longer in the middle. Since we really like the toppings so much I’m going to make each loaf thinner next time which will require more topping.

    edit 19 February 2022, 13:29: The sliced ricotta was brand new to me too, Tanna! And it is delicious, baked on top of the sfincione underneath the onions and breadcrumbs. How interesting that your pan-baked sfincione could have been baked more in the middle too. But even so, after comparing the pan-baked and freeform sfinciones, I think freeform is definitely the way to go. Easier and less clean up too. – Elizabeth

    Reply
  6. Katie Zeller (Thyme for Cooking)

    I’m not sure I would have done the anchovies for breakfast….. Sardines, thoough….
    Sliced ricotta? Must try to make that. Have to find fresh milk.

    edit 19 February 2022, 13:24: Sardines for breakfast! For me, those are even fishier than anchovies, and really not suited for any time before sundown….
     
    Yes, Katie, you must find fresh milk. You neeeeeeed to make ricotta, drain it in cheese cloth, so you can slice it.
     
    – Elizabeth

    Reply
  7. Aparna (My Diverse Kitchen)

    I’m happy you enjoyed making the Sfincione. Yours looks lovely. I certainly liked the breadcrumb layer the best.
    And you’re right. The first Sfincione must have used a starter. :D

    edit 24 February 2022, 14:11: Thank you, Aparna! We really like the breadcrumb layer the best too, and really can’t thank you enough for introducing sfincione to us! – Elizabeth

    Reply

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