Over the years, I have heard many raves over pizza bianca. That didn’t mean I knew what it was. White pizza? Pizza crust without any sauce or cheese? Bumpy flatbread baked on a stone? There were so many questions. Now that I’ve made it myself, I can finally explain it for you: an Italian version of naan. Like naan, it’s crispy in the right places but soft inside. Also like naan, it would probably be great by itself, but its flavor is truly heightened with a brushing of delicious fat. In this case, it’s the (relatively healthier) olive oil.
What makes this dough so easy is also what makes is so delicious. It’s a no-knead bread, so all you have to do is mix the ingredients a day before baking. The super-wet dough does all the work for you. An overnight rise at room temperature allows gluten to form, ensuring an airy crumb. It also allows the bread’s flavors to develop. When you’re ready to bake, shaping the dough is just a matter of stretching it out. The only tricky part is getting the bread into the oven. If you’re not comfortable with a pizza peel, you could shape the bread on top of parchment paper or even tinfoil, slide the whole thing into the oven, and then bake on that. Any amateur can make this bread taste professional.
Although the long warm rise imparts lots of flavor, the final taste of your pizza bianca will depend on the olive oil you brush on top before baking. Since I’ve been working with Sciabica olive oils (thanks to 37 Cooks), I made this with jalapeno-infused oil. I was a little nervous about high-heat baking with the cold-pressed oil, but my worries were unfounded. The bread was a little spicy, but so very tasty. This is the only way I’ll make pizza bianca from now on!
Italian naan. What could be wrong?
makes two breads that serve 2-4
400 grams bread flour
300 grams room-temperature water (about 1 1/3 cups)
5 grams instant yeast
8 grams kosher salt
3-4 tablespoons Sciabica Jalapeno olive oil for drizzling (or another high-quality, delicious olive oil)
Coarse salt for sprinkling
In a large bowl, mix the first four ingredients together until they form a cohesive, well-formed ball. You can use your hands, a big heavy spoon, or even a stand mixer. Don’t over-knead, though: you want to stop when the dough forms. Wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and leave it on the counter overnight.
The next move will take place two hours before you plan to bake. Divide the dough into two halves (you could do one big one, but two are easier to manage). Place each half onto a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper. Don’t worry too much about shape; you’re just going to let it spread out and rise. Cover with oiled plastic wrap or a towel and let it hang out for an hour or so.
When it’s rising nicely and looking puffy, preheat your oven as high as it goes, with a pizza stone or overturned baking sheet on the top rack.
Immediately before you want to bake, use your fingers to poke into the surface of the pizza. If they’re even, it will look more attractive, but don’t go too crazy. Drizzle the olive oil on top and scatter a few pinches of sea salt across the surface.
Slide the pizza, parchment and all, onto the baking surface. You can use a pizza peel or a cutting board for this; the secret is to use quick jerking motions to shuffle the dough onto the stone. Let it bake for about 3-5 minutes. Next, carefully slide out the pizza-parchmentt. Peel the pizza off the paper and put it back on the stone. Let it bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown.