Pizza bianca is ubiquitous in Rome being the number one snack food that Romans buy and eat. It is also one of the foods that I missed the most when we returned home after 100 days in Italy recently.
In Rome it became a daily ritual for us to stop by our local bakery and pick up a warm piece of just baked pizza bianca to enjoy standing at the counter or outside the store, fingers glistening with the drizzle of olive oil from the just-out-of-the-oven bread.
I don’t think anyone makes pizza bianca at home in Rome. It is readily available and so delizioso that there is no reason to stay home and bake it. Not so here in Canada, where pizza bianca is unheard of, so I had to make it myself.
Really, it is not that hard to make. If you can make pizza, you can make pizza bianca. The secret is in the long slow rise of the dough to allow the flavours to develop, as well as a very hot oven and hopefully a baking stone for a crisp outside and chewy inside bread.
For the slow rise I leave it in the fridge overnight and then take it out to warm up and continue the rise before baking. To simulate a baker’s oven I place a pizza stone inside the oven and then heat it up to 500F for at least an hour. Unless you have a wood burning pizza oven, this, I believe, is the best you can do to achieve proper texture at home.
Before baking shape the dough into two rectangles that would fit on your baking stone. In Rome they bake it in really long rectangles, as you can see in the image above. You don’t roll the dough out but rather poke it with your fingertips to stretch it into shape. The indentations left by your fingers will create an uneven surface where the olive oil can pool, as well as allow as much air to remain in the dough.
Pizza bianca has no toppings other than olive oil and salt.
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup water, arm to the touch
2 cups “00” type flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water or as needed
1 tablespoon olive oil, (and more for brushing over the dough)
Coarse sea salt, perhaps maldon salt for sprinkling over the dough
Stir the yeast in half cup water and let it activate and foam.
Combine flour and salt in a bowl, add the yeast and olive oil.
Begin mixing the dough, adding just enough water as the flour would absorb.
Turn the dough over to the counter and begin kneading until it is elastic.
Brush a little olive oil inside a bowl just large enough to hold the dough and allow it to rise, place the dough in the bowl, cover and let rise at room temperature until doubles in size.
Punch the dough down and reform into a ball. Return to the bowl, cover and place in the fridge to rise overnight. If you really want to bake it now you can, but the dough will develop more flavour if you give it a longer rise.
The next day remove the dough from the fridge and let it warm up and continue to rise at room temperature.
Place a baking stone in the oven and heat it to its maximum temperature (mine heats to 500F). For best results the oven should be hot for at least 30 minutes before you bake the pizza bianca.
When the dough has warmed and doubled turn it over onto a lightly floured counter, (I use a long sheet of baking parchment so it’s easier to transfer to the oven),c ut it in half but do not punch it down. You want to leave as much air in the dough as possible.
Working with half of the dough at a time poke the dough gently with your fingers, stretching it into a rectangle as you go. Repeat with the other piece of dough.
Cover the dough rectangles with plastic and a kitchen towel and let them rest for 10 minutes. This will allow the gluten to relax.
Repeat poking and stretching the dough again, then brush each rectangle with a generous amount of olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
Pick up the dough with the parchment paper and slide it onto the hot baking stone in the oven.
Bake for about 15 minutes until the dough is golden and crisp.
Remove and let cool slightly before diving in.
Pizza bianca is best eaten while still warm.