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Pissaladiere Provencale

by Flo Braker

Everyone loves pizza, at least the people I know. When it comes to which pizza is the best, there are as many opinions as there are types of pizza. Some people prefer a deep-dish pizza with a lot of cheese and tomato sauce, others like one with a thin crust and an assortment of vegetables.

Pissaladiere Provencale, a savory pie, is in my mind a close cousin to the pizza, and I rate it as one of the best. Pissaladiere, which got its name from pissala, a fish paste made from anchovies, is typically served as a French hors d'oeuvre. My version has a generous layer of sweet onions, mingled with the rich flavors of garlic, thyme, Parmesan cheese, black olives and pepper. Strips of flat anchovy fillets decorate the top.

The Pissaladiere's base is customarily a bread dough that's similar to a chewy pizza crust with a crisp bottom. The robust filling, the defining feature of this rustic pie, is quite versatile and tastes delicious with a variety of doughs. Since the filling can be made a day or two in advance and refrigerated, the foundation you choose to make will depend upon how much time you want to spend in the kitchen.

* Thaw a store-bought one-pound frozen white bread dough, in place of making the yeast dough in the recipe. Press it into the oiled pan and continue preparing the recipe as it directs.

* Cut 1/2-inch slices of French or Italian bread. Spread the onion filling over slices, arrange anchovy fillets and olives on top, bake in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Sprinkle with black pepper and serve hot.

* Thaw one sheet from a store-bought package of frozen puff pastry. Roll it out into a rectangle, approximately 10 x 11-inches. Transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Proceed to spread the filling over the dough and bake as the recipe directs.

Pissaladiere Provencale
serves 12, at least

1 package active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F.)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons additional flour for kneading
Onion Filling:
2 pounds (about 5) large yellow onions, peeled,
and very thinly sliced to yield 8 cups
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup water
1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
about 2 dozen flat anchovy fillets, oil drained
3 dozen oil-cured black olives, pitted
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Electric mixer method: In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast over water with the sugar. Let proof and soften for about 5 minutes. With paddle attachment, add oil, and stir to blend. Add 1 cup flour and stir until smooth. With dough hook attachment, add remaining 3/4 cup flour and salt and knead until silky smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

Food processor method: Place flour and salt in food processor bowl; process briefly just to blend. Combine oil and yeast mixture, pour down feed tube and process just until mixture is a lumpy mass. Place this mixture on a lightly floured work surface and knead sticky dough for about 5 minutes until satiny and smooth. Knead in no more than three tablespoons additional flour.

Place dough in large bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place away from drafts until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

While dough is rising, prepare the filling. Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet and over medium-low heat saute the onions, garlic and salt until soft and transparent, about 10 to 15 minutes. Throughout the cooking time, always stir occasionally to prevent onions from browning or scorching. Add the water and thyme, and over high heat cook until the water evaporates. Over low heat, continue sauteing about 20 minutes longer, until onion mixture is similar to a paste (yield at this time is 3 cups). Remove sprig of thyme. Set aside to cool.

Adust the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rub 1 tablespoon olive oil over the bottom of a 10 x 15 jelly roll pan or a 12-inch pizza pan.

Punch dough down. With fingertips, press and stretch the dough to fit the pan. If the dough becomes elastic, rest a couple of minutes, then press again. Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 30 minutes or until puffy.

Spread the onion filling evenly over the dough to the edges. Sprinkle Parmesan over filling. Arrange the anchovy fillets, lattice-fashion, over the filling and dot the olives over the surface. Keep the design close together so that when cut, each portion will include an olive and some anchovy. Bake for about 30 minutes or until edge of crust is light gold. Sprinkle freshly ground pepper over top. Cut rectangles, squares or wedges while warm or at room temperature.

For a nutty flavor, substitute up to 3/4 cup whole wheat flour for the all-purpose flour.

For an extra crisp crust, spread filling over dough, and rather than allow time for the dough to rise and become puffy, bake it right away. For a more bread-like crust, let dough rise in baking pan until puffy, then spread filling on top and bake.

If anchovy fillets taste too salty, rinse them in cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels.

Flo Braker has been teaching baking techniques and her sweet miniatures across the country for twenty years and is the author of several cookbooks.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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