Friday, June 1, 2007



Pissaladiere, a pizza-like tart of onions, olives, and anchovies, is a popular street food of Nice, a city in the Provence region of France. Some recipes call for a puff pastry crust, which can be too flabby and greasy, or a pate brisee, which can be too dense. This Cook’s Illustrated recipe builds the tart on a thin pizza-like crust that has a crisp, crackery exterior and a chewy interior. Often times, recipes will call for too much anchovies or olives and one ingredient will overpower the rest of the flavors but here, the saltiness of the anchovies, slight bitterness of the olives, and the sweetness of the onions are well balanced.

- Chopping the anchovies really spreads out their flavor and prevents the tart from being too fishy. I like anchovies so I added a few whole fillets on top but getting a bite that contained whole anchovy was overly salty so if you really love anchovies, I would suggest chopping the extra rather than laying them on top.
- Use fresh thyme, since you’re going through all this trouble, don’t bother with the dried stuff.
- The onions can be made a day ahead and refrigerated.
- Bread machine, rapid rise, perfect rise, and quick rise yeast are all instant yeasts.

Pissaladiere/Provencal Pizza
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

2 C bread flour
1 tsp instant or active dry yeast (if using active dry remember to proof the yeast)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 C warm water, about 110ºF

Caramelized onions
2 Tbsp olive oil
Roughly 1 1/2 lbs of yellow onions (about 3 large onions), sliced 1/4 in thick
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp water

1/2 C nicoise olives, pitted and roughly chopped
8 – 10 anchovy fillets, rinsed and roughly chopped (optional: more anchovies for garnish)
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
Black pepper
Olive oil
1 Tbsp minced parsley for garnish

If you are using instant yeast you can skip the proofing, but if you are using active dry yeast, proof the yeast in the warm water for 10 minutes then proceed with making the dough.

The dough is made very quickly in the food processor but you can also use a stand mixer or mix it by hand

Add the flour, yeast, and salt to the food processor and pulse a few times to combine. With the motor running, add the oil then steadily pour in the water and process until the dough comes together in a ball, about 15 seconds. The plastic dough blade works best for the dough, but I only have a mini food processor and a metal blade so I had to make the dough in two batches then combine the two balls together.

Flour your hands and dust a work surface and knead the dough a bit. But since this is a very wet dough, it's more of a slap/push than a gutsy knead. Shape the dough into a ball. The dough will be wet, sticky (it will be pretty sticky and stick to your hands a bit, but not a lot), and very slack. The high water content of the dough creates the crispy exterior.

Place the dough in a lightly oil a bowl or 4 C measuring cup and cover with plastic wrap. The dough will be at around 2 cups before rising. Let it rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.

Onions: While the dough is rising, you can prepare the caramelized onions.
Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the onions, salt, and sugar. It will look like a lot of onions but it will cook down. Cook the onions, stirring frequently for 10 minutes (should see few patches of brown).

Then turn the heat down to medium low and cook for another 20 minutes until the onions are a golden brown. Off heat stir in the water to loosen the onions and scrape up any brown bits from the pan and set aside.

Making the pizzas
Begin preheating the pizza stone 30 minutes before baking. Remember to put the pizza stone into the oven before heating it and let it heat up gradually with the oven. Set the stone on the lowest rack and heat the oven to 500ºF.

When the dough has doubled, gently turn it out of the container. Cut it in half and form each piece into a ball by gently picking the edges of the dough together into a pouch and pinch to close. Roll the dough ball over, seam side down. Cup the dough with both hands and push the dough around to form a taut ball. Repeat for the second piece. Brush each piece lightly with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 10 minutes for the second rise.

To form the tart, coat your hand in oil instead of flour. The extra oil will be pressed into the dough for the crispy crust. Hold the dough up and gently stretch it into an oblong oval (like a slipper), about 10 inches long. Place the dough on a sheet of parchment then dimple the surface of the dough with your fingers (this makes it easier to press the dough out). Then using the palm of your hand, push the dough out into an oval, roughly 14 by 8 inches. The surface should be evenly flat but leave a small lip around the dough for the crust. This sounds really complicated but it’s actually very easy.

Crack some pepper over the surface of the dough. Spread half of the chopped thyme, olives, and anchovies on the surface of the tart, making sure to leave a border around the edge of the tart. Then spread half of the caramelize onion on top, it’s easiest to grab handfuls of the onions and spread them with your hands. The onions will continue to caramelize in the oven and they also hide the other ingredients and prevent them from burning.

Slide the pizza onto the pizza stone using a pizza peel or a large cookie sheet and bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until the tart is an even golden brown. (The tart in the picture is a little underbaked because we were too hungry. :) The crust should be more brown than the blonde you see in the picture.) You can fit both pizzas on the same stone or you can bake them one at a time, preparing the second one as the first one bakes.

Garnish with minced parsley.

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