Sfincione Palermo Style  

Sfincione alla Palermitana  

 

When I was a teenager living in Palermo and going to senior high school, during the 15-minute morning break, I would often eat a pezzo, a piece of sfincione that I would buy from the street vendor in front of my school, the Liceo Classico Umberto Primo. 

 

For unexplainable reasons, the taste, the smell and the image of that sfincione, sold in front of my school, after over half century remains astoundingly vivid in my mind and just thinking of it makes my mouth water. 

   

  Sfincione Palermitano 

 

 

 

Renato, the sfincione street vendor, bragged about the sfincione he was selling as the best in the city! And perhaps it was; he made sure that his hot plate was not too hot so the crust would not burn and the condiments would not become too dry. When he drizzled the few drops of oil onto the sfincione, he made sure that it was just sufficient enough to enhance the taste of it but not enough to drip oil all over our clothes. 

 

In my family, the sfincione was usually made on the eve of major holidays, especially if we had to go to a midnight  Mass and unfailingly for New Year’s Eve. When living in Palermo, we did not have an oven in our kitchen, and it was my responsibility to take the sfincione to the nearby bakery to cook it. 

As usual, some of my friends would help me to carry the sfincione, and they would later enjoy a piece of it as their reward.

 

 

Serves 4 to 6  

Ingredients

For the Dough 

·        1 ¼ lb flour (all-purpose, or mix ½ semolina and ½ all-purpose) 

·        1 cup flour for dusting 

·        1 cup warm water 

·        2 envelopes active dry yeast 

·        2 tablespoons oil 

·        1 teaspoon salt 

·        1 teaspoon sugar 

 

 For the Condiments 

·        5 tablespoons oil 

·        1 medium onion, sliced 

·        1 ½ cups peeled tomatoes, diced 

·        3 anchovies 

·        6 oz Caciocavallo fresco or provola cheese, diced very small 

·        2 oz breadcrumbs 

·        Some olive oil to sprinkle on top of the sfincione 

 

Preparation 

Making of the Dough 
Pour warm water in a bowl and stir in the yeast, oil, sugar and salt. Add half of the flour and blend it in. Set the mixture aside in a warm place for a few minutes.
 


Put remaining flour on a flat surface, form a well and place the mixture in it. Start to blend the flour from the inside of the well and keep incorporating the flour; add a little more water, if needed, to moisten the flour.
 

Mixture should be soft and very malleable. Should it became too watery, add more flour. 


Using your hands, bring all the flour together to form a ball. Fold and press with the palms of your hands; if dough is sticky, add more flour. When dough forms a single mass, set aside. Clean your hands and working surface and discard scraps. 

Dust the working surface with flour and knead dough by pushing it down firmly towards the center. Then turn dough 90 degrees and press down again. Keep kneading until dough is elastic and has a silky consistency. Knead for 10 minutes, or until gluten develops. 

Form a ball and cut across the top to facilitate the leavening process. Cover and let rest for 25 minutes, in a warm place. 

Punch dough down and place it, covered, in an oiled bowl. Refrigerate for a few hours. 

 

Making of the Condiments
Sauté sliced onion in 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for 6 to 8 minutes, until it is a golden color. Set aside.
 

In a small pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the fried onions. Add tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Cook at medium heat for 2 minutes, lower the heat and then simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Crush and mix anchovies in a dish with 3 tablespoons of oil. Set aside.

 

Individual Portion of Sfincione
    
 

 

Assembling the Sfincione

Dust the working surface with flour. Place dough in the center and, with a rolling pin or by pressing with your hands, flatten it to about ½ inch in thickness. 

 Place dough in an oiled pan (13 x 9 x 2 inches).

Set aside, covered, in a warm place until dough rises. About 20 minutes.

Press dough down and stretch it if necessary.

Sprinkle or use a brush to coat the surface of dough completely with the oil and anchovy mixture.

Spread ½ of the sauce and ½ of the fried onions over it.

Bake it at 425 degrees.

 

After 15 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and cover the sfincione with remaining sauce, onions, diced cheese and the breadcrumbs. Drizzle sparingly with olive oil and continue baking at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until bottom crust is golden and crispy.